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Birth Control And Depression

There are so many things that impact our mood externally, such as diet and environment. However, our brain chemicals and hormones play a massive role as well. So, for women, anything that affects our reproductive hormones, like the menstrual cycle and contraception are very significant.

If you think your pill is messing with your emotions, you are not alone. There is a lot of women online who question whether certain forms of birth control worsens or triggers depression. Methods like the the pill, IUD, patches and rings also involve hormonal changes, so there’s a high possibility of them interfering with your mood. In fact, almost half of women give up on the pill within the first year because of the unwanted side effects on their mental health.

In this article, we will see how hormonal birth control could affect depression and how strong the evidence is.

 

How Birth Control Works

In our normal menstrual cycle, there are two female hormones at work-progestin and estrogen. They alternatively rise and fall, which triggers the process of ovulation and menstruation. Birth control also contains these two hormones (though they’re made in a lab). It combines with our own hormonal changes to stop the process of ovulation.

In a normal 28-day menstrual cycle, estrogen levels reach their highest around the half-way mark. This is when most women feel the best emotionally. Hormonal contraceptives tries to flatten out this curve for the first three weeks, and then progestin and estrogen levels both take a nose dive in the final week.

 

Links Between Birth Control And Depression

It is true that women on birth control do report worsened anxiety and depression than those who are not taking hormonal birth control. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence linking birth control to worsening depression, the research on this is still limited and doctors can not officially make a definitive conclusion. However, there have been some research studies carried out that hints a possible link.

One study in Denmark followed healthy young women (who had no history of mental illness) in the 15-34 age group to see whether there is a link between being on birth control and antidepressant prescriptions. The duration of the study spanned 14 years.

The results found that women who went on birth control had a 50% higher chance of being diagnosed within the first 6 months than those who weren’t on birth control. They also found that the risk is greater for teenagers (15-19) whose brains were still forming, and for non-oral methods of hormonal birth control (IUD, ring, patch).

In a more recent version of the study, they also looked at any links between hormonal birth control and attempted suicides. They found that women on birth control were twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who aren’t taking it. It sounds pretty grim, so why haven’t doctors made a definitive conclusion?

Truth is that there are too many variables affecting our mental health and it’s impossible to account for all. Like most scientific studies, it is stressed that just because there is a link between birth control and depression, it doesn’t mean that birth control is the cause of depression. Correlation does not equal causation.

So, should you worry about taking birth control if you are depressed? The only way to know for sure is to talk to your doctor because they may have a deeper understanding of the issue. There may be variables specific to you, that weren’t included in these research studies, and can affect your reaction to hormonal birth control. On the flip side, some women have even reported birth control improving their mood by tackling PMS symptoms.

 

https://ideas.ted.com/how-the-birth-control-pill-affects-your-mood/

https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-mood-link

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-hormonal-birth-control-trigger-depression-2016101710514

 

 

 

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Best Scents for Intimacy

Our experience of intimacy goes beyond the physical, it involves all of our senses, particularly sight, taste, sound and smell. People often underestimate the power of scent in improving intimacy, however it goes a long way. Pleasant and welcoming scents make it easier to relax and relieve tension in the body, vastly improving performance and pleasure.

Just like how there are foods and drinks that improve drive, there are also scents that do the same. There’s a reason why scented candles, essential oils and diffusers are very popular. In fact, some studies show that a heightened sense of smell (pleasant of course) correlates to better sexual experiences [1].

So, what are some of the best scented products for improving intimacy? Most of these products that improve intimacy do so by reducing stress and anxiety levels. There are hormones in our body that cause stress, and some scents can reduce those hormone levels.

Here’s a list of some of the best types of scent for improving intimacy:

 

Lavender

No stranger to scented products, lavender is one of the best scents for intimacy. Studies show that the smell of lavender significantly reduced anxiety and stress levels. You can find it in the form of scented candles and essential oil, which is great for intimacy.

Clary Sage

Clary sage is an aromatic flowering herb that is endemic to Mediterranean regions. A study done in 2014 by Lee et al showed that the smell of clary sage reduced cortisol levels in blood plasma [2]. Cortisol is a hormone responsible for feelings of stress and anxiety. It causes all kinds of secondary health problems like inflammation as well. Obviously, you can’t have good intimacy with high levels of cortisol, so clary sage is a great remedy. Clary sage is commonly found as an essential oil, or incorporated into various bath products.

Vanilla

Vanilla is a scent and flavor that almost everyone knows. Its familiarity is what it makes its scent warm and welcoming. When you smell vanilla, you think of the most luxurious desserts and scented products. So, it’s no surprise that it wound up on this list of best scents for intimacy. You can find it in oils, bath bombs, soaps and a host of other toiletries. For an added twist, you can look for products that incorporate both vanilla and cinnamon.

Jasmine

Jasmine has a strong, floral scent that is highly popular in Eastern cultures like India and South East Asia. It is a popular scent not just in perfumes, but also for intimacy. Jasmine flowers contain a compound called indole, which is ironically quite pungent on its own. However, indole is found in our intimate areas too. With jasmine, it produces a scent that invokes feelings of confidence and pleasure.

Sandalwood

Sandalwood is another fragrant plant that has been around for over 4,000 years. It has the benefit of appealing to both men and women. In fact, a study among women showed that when they inhaled the scent of sandalwood, they experienced a major improvement in mood and arousal. [3]

 

[1]- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29721723

[2]- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24802524

[3]- https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-2006-941544

 

 

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Kegel Exercises

You’ve probably casually read the term ‘Kegel exercises’ on a women’s health magazine before. Kegel exercises aren’t actually as complicated as the term sounds. They are one of the easiest ways to improve your vaginal and sexual health. They are a simple set of muscle clenching exercises that target your pelvic floor and lasts only around 30 seconds to 1 minute. You also don’t need any equipment for it.

Should I Do Kegel Exercises..

The primary goal of Kegel exercises is to strengthen the pelvic floor. So, what is this pelvic floor and why is it important? The pelvic floor is basically a wall of tissue between your hips that keep your organs (such as intestines, bladder, uterus, etc.) in place. When this tissue isn’t tight or is weak, there are several inconvenient health problems that could arise. The stronger the pelvic floor is, the better it will be at performing its structural role, keeping the organs in place.

It is also important to put effort into strengthening your pelvic floor muscles because it gets weaker over time, especially in women. The pelvic floor muscles become weaker after events like childbirth and weight gain. Even little things like coughing or sneezing too hard can push the pelvic floor down. It is also surprising to note that men can also suffer from weak pelvic floor muscles (though the issue isn’t as prevalent as in women). So, men can also benefit from Kegel exercises.

It’s not just embarrassing issues like incontinence that could result from weak pelvic floor muscles. If they become too weak, it can lead to a more serious issue called pelvic organ prolapse (POP). The pelvic or vaginal tissues will start to droop, and in extreme cases, will fall out of the vagina. This is especially risky after a procedure like a hysterectomy.

How To Perform Kegel Exercises..

Like stomach vacuums, Kegel exercises consist of squeezing in your pelvic floor muscles for as long as possible and then releasing it. As with most exercises, the idea is that repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles will help to strengthen them. To start, you can try holding in the muscles for around 5 seconds and releasing, then gradually increase the duration.

If you have trouble finding your pelvic floor muscles, you can try consciously stopping your urine flow halfway through. You can feel certain muscles ‘contracting’ or squeezing when you do this. These are your pelvic floor muscles that are needed to do this. Also, before doing any Kegels, you need to ensure that your bladder is empty. The exercises don’t work as well with a full bladder.

To perform Kegel exercises:

Find a position that’s comfortable for you, this could seated or standing. Ensure that you breathe normally while contracting your pelvic floor muscles. You also shouldn’t need to contract other muscles, such as glutes or inner thighs for this exercise. It should just be the pelvic floor muscles.

Hold on for a few seconds then release. Repeat as many times as you feel comfortable (say 5 sets with 3 seconds of contraction). You can also split this routine into morning and night while your brush your teeth, for example.

 

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Feminine Hygiene Tips

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When it comes to vaginal health, there is so much contradictory information floating around the internet. Some of it is marketing from companies that want you to buy their products, but they are not necessarily healthy or necessary to use in your intimate area. Some of the other bad information is due to advice that is counterintuitive (e.g. cleaning or douching vaginas seems necessary but is actually bad).
Here we break down the top tips to keep your intimate area healthy, and other information you may not have known.

Do Not Douche

Believe it or not, the vagina is a self-cleaning organ. It doesn’t need extra cleaning, particularly with cleansing products that have potentially harmful ingredients. Douching is not only unnecessary, but it can also do more harm than good.
The vagina maintains a delicate pH thanks to ‘good’ bacteria living there. The good bacteria that’s already living here keep external bacterial infections in check. They compete with harmful bacteria and prevent their distribution. When you douche, you take away the good bacteria, paving the way for more harmful bacteria from the environment to take over. If you do need to clean, ensure that you limit it to the external part of the vagina (the vulva).

Change Sanitary Pads and Tampons After a Few Hours

This may come as a no-brainer for some women, but it is a point that should be reiterated. Ideally, you should aim to change sanitary pads after 4-6 hours. For tampons, change them every six hours. Not only will it start to smell really bad, but they can also lead to infections. Ensure you clean the area thoroughly before inserting another sanitary pad or tampon.

Clean the Vaginal Area After Intercourse

It is really important that you clean the vagina after sex. Otherwise chemicals from condoms and other products, as well as bacteria can linger around to cause infections. Often times, women feel the need to pee after sex and this is natural. It helps to wash away any harmful bacteria that could have accumulated due to sex.

Keep Your Underwear Dry

You should aim to keep your underwear as dry as possible. Otherwise, the warm and moist conditions are the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria. It is also better to use underwear made from breathable materials like cotton rather than synthetics.

Avoid Scented Products and Harsh Detergents

Some scented products can have harsh chemicals that cause irritation or affect the delicate pH balance of the vagina. Detergents with harsh cleaning agents (like some soaps) can also take away the ‘good’ bacteria of the vagina, leaving you more prone to infections.
If you do decide to use things like essential oils (that can have antibacterial properties), ensure you limit the use to the area around the vagina (inner thighs, lower abs). Never put them inside the vaginal canal or near the labia.

 

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Tighten That Vagina

intimate scents

As women, we’re constantly surrounded by products that promise youth or restoring our body how it used to be when we were 18. This is no different to vaginas. Unsurprisingly, vaginas change over time and after events like childbirth. The tissues stretch out, lose elasticity and the muscles may separate. This can make women feel self-conscious and cause problems when dealing with tampons or feminine products.  So, some women certainly have reasons besides cosmetic reasons for pursuing tightening surgery.

What is vaginal tightening surgery?

Vaginal tightening surgery, also known as vaginoplasty or vaginal rejuvenation surgery, aims to restore the tightness and elasticity of the vaginal tissue. The surgical procedure isn’t as scary as it sounds, and in fact, only lasts about an hour. You will be put under general anesthesia and incisions are made to tighten the muscles or tissue.

Generally, vaginal tightening surgery is not covered by most health insurance plans. The cost will vary depending on where you live. In the UK, for example, the procedure can cost about $ 7,800.

The ideal candidates for the procedure are women who have trouble with loose tissues. For example, if you have difficulty inserting tampons or incontinence due to loose vaginal tissue. It is not ideal for women who are currently or have recently been pregnant. If you have other health issues, you need to address these concerns with your doctor or gynecologist before choosing tightening surgery.

Preparing for tightening surgery

Your doctor will tell you how you should prepare for the procedure specifically. They will normally ask patients to stop drinking, smoking or taking pain medications before surgery. They will also ask patients to do a bowel prep.

What happens after surgery

After the surgery, it’s common to experience slight bruising or pain for up to 2 weeks after the procedure. Patients should also refrain from inserting things like tampons into their vagina for about 6 weeks after the operation. If you feel a lot of tension and pain in your lower body, you could consider applying soothing essential oils around that area. Just make sure you don’t apply it inside the vaginal tissue or the areas affected by the surgery.

They are also advised to avoid intense, strenuous exercise. In general, however, vaginal tightening surgery is not a very painful procedure, so recovery is quite fast. It’s also important to note that not all surgical procedures can restore your body’s tissue exactly the way it used to be. So, it’s good to be realistic about your expectations as well.

What are the risks involved?

Vaginal tightening surgery is not the riskiest surgical procedure out there. However, this doesn’t mean risks don’t exist, they are just rare. Some potential risks could include infection, bleeding, scarring or pain. You should discuss with the clinic how they will treat these issues if they occur.

Also, to see if you really need tightening surgery, you can try other non-surgical procedures first. For example, Kegel exercises can tone weak or loose muscles. There are also laser treatments for vaginal rejuvenation that are easier to recover from. If you’ve exhausted these options, then you can consider tightening surgery.

 

https://www.theplasticsurgeryclinic.ca/surgical-procedures/body/vaginal-tightening/

https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/vaginoplasty-and-labiaplasty-procedures

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What Causes Vaginal Odor

With all the scented feminine hygiene products out there, we’ve been conditioned to believe that our vaginas smell. However, our vaginas are supposed to have a slight odor. The natural ‘smell’ mostly comes from the makeup of bacteria that inhabits the tissue, and this is perfectly normal.

In fact, upsetting this balance actually does more harm than good in the long run. The natural bacteria would compete with and prevent foreign bacteria from entering and causing infections. This is why things like ‘douching’ and harsh detergents are discouraged from medical professionals. It kills the natural bacteria that forms a protective barrier (while also upsetting the vagina’s natural pH).

This being said, there are certain things that cause the vagina to deviate from its natural odor. Here we discuss different kinds of odor and what causes them:

Fishy Odor

This is probably the most common type of the unusual vaginal smells. The reason for the ‘fishy’ smell is actually related to fish. Both rotting fish and abnormal odors release the chemical trimethylamine.

The most commonly cited reason for the fishy smell is bacterial vaginosis, which is a condition caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria. This is why douching can actually backfire and cause your nether regions to smell even worse. Removing the good, protective bacteria with washing paves the way for ‘bad’ bacteria to come in.

The fishy smell could also be down to a STD called trichomoniasis. With antibiotics, it should disappear.

Metallic Odor

This sounds a bit odd, but sometimes vaginal odor can be metallic in nature (think smell of pennies). This is because blood contains iron (it’s what makes your red blood cells red), which gives off a metallic odor. This kind of odor is common during menstruation or due to tearing of tissue during sex. The latter is mostly due to friction during intercourse.

In your period, the uterus sheds blood and tissue which travels through your vagina, causing it to take on this smell. This is obviously common and shouldn’t last too long after your period. If you do experience unusual bleeding along with this smell, there may be a more serious underlying issue, and you should consult a doctor.

Detergent Odor

In certain instances, you may have encountered a chemical, detergent-like odor from the vagina. The culprit of this is a compound called urea found in urine, which is related to ammonia. Urine left in your underwear can cause this. Long periods of dehydration can give off a stronger ammonia smell in the urine.

Decaying Odor

This is mostly due to blood that’s been lingering for too long after menstruation. So, things like wearing tampons or pads for too long during menstruation can contribute to this odor.

Beer Odor

If you’ve encountered a ‘beer’ smell, that’s because the culprit for the smell and beer production is yeast. A yeast overgrowth can cause a ‘beery’ or ‘sugary’ smell. You can tell it’s a yeast infection because you’ll get a lot of itching or burning sensations to go with it.

Again, this is where douching can backfire. Because douching gets rid of the ‘good’ bacteria, it leaves room for yeast to grow and cause infections. Fortunately, there are OTC medications to treat yeast infections. You can also try using some essential oils (externally of course) that have anti-fungal properties, like lavender and lemongrass.

References:

 

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Is Vaginal Steaming Worth The Hype

Vaginal Steaming

Vaginal steaming goes by many aliases, including V-steaming, Yoni steaming, Chai Yok (Korean spas). It seems all the rage in the holistic health world these days. So, what is the big fuss over vaginal steaming?

The practice has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years in places like ancient China and Korea. However, it was recently popularized in our media thanks to celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chrissy Teigen who give it raving reviews. It is purported to have numerous health benefits such as:

Vaginal Steaming
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                  • Relieving pain in the uterine tissues
                  • Relieving hemorrhoids
                  • Helps with hormonal imbalances
                  • Improves infertility issues
                  • Helps with menstrual issues like cramps, fatigue and heavy bleeding
                  • Healing tissues after labor
                  • Relieves headache

 

What exactly is V-Steaming?

V-steaming was creating for the purpose of ‘cleansing’ and ‘rejuvenating’ your vaginal tissue, the same way a facial would to your face. Think of it as a detoxing self-care treatment for your intimate area. In traditional Korean spas, V-steaming consists of sitting above a pot of boiling water that is infused with selected herbs. Spas have a special ‘throne’ or seat for this treatment. Some common herbs used for V-steaming include:

  • Mugwort

    Vaginal Steaming
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  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Wormwood
  • Chamomile
  • Calendula

The steam from the boiling water and herbs would rise up an ‘cleanse’ your vagina. The purpose of steaming is quite similar to douching in this regard. A typical session lasts for about 30-45 minutes.

What the experts say

Apart from the celebrities who are singing its praises, V-steaming has been met with quite a bit of skepticism from medical professionals. Much like the criticism of douching, the general consensus among them is that the vagina does not need internal cleaning. It’s a ‘self-cleaning’ organ that is capable of cleansing and balancing its pH on its own. Vaginal and uterine tissue is very delicate, so ‘cleaning agents’ can disrupt its pH balance. The only cleaning necessary is external cleaning with gentle soap and water. Studies done on V-steaming treatments report no specific health benefits to V-steaming. It may offer temporary calming and relaxing sensations, but it doesn’t really do much to improve your vaginal health.

Some gynecologists have even gone so far as to label it dangerous. In fact, if you google V-steaming, you’ll find most of the results turn out negative, with headlines like ‘Things Not to Do to Your Vagina- Vaginal Steaming’.  This is because there have been reported cases of second-degree burns from V-steaming.

The Bottom Line

So, should you do it? If you enjoy regular aromatherapy sessions and spa treatments, then V-steaming is relatively harmless (as long as you’re doing it properly and being cautious). Despite the lack of scientific evidence, plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests that V-steaming, when done correctly, is a very relaxing and calming treatment. It’s a cool new treatment that you can try out on your spa days. You can also try out treatments like ‘womb’ massaging, where you massage the ‘womb’ area (externally of course) with essential oils. Oils like tea tree oil can be very rejuvenating and calming, perfect for relieving tension in the area.

 

References:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322657.php#considerations

https://thewomenswellnesscollective.com/journal/2018/9/24/guide-to-yoni-steaming

https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/vagina-steaming/

https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/vaginal-steaming#how-it’s-done

 

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