We often hear about the way someone’s body will change during pregnancy, but we don’t really talk much about how bodies change after pregnancy. For example, Chrissy Teigen’s Twitter page taught me that she had to wash herself with a little syringe after peeing when she first gave birth because patting herself dry with toilet paper would be too irritating. And apparently, that’s a common thing people do after giving birth. My limited knowledge on how someone’s body changes after birth made me wonder: between breastfeeding and fluctuating hormones, what happens to a person’s post-baby period after giving birth?

Breastfeeding Hormones Can Affect Your Post-Baby Period

The short answer is it depends — each person’s body is different. I was surprised to find that whether you have a C-Section or vaginal delivery does not affect your periods after giving birth. The biggest thing that affects your periods is whether or not you breastfeed. Breastfeeding produces high levels of the hormone prolactin, which will suppress reproductive hormones. If these hormones are suppressed, you won’t have a period. Although you won’t have a period if you are exclusively breastfeeding, this is not an effective birth control method and you could still get pregnant. If you don’t want to get pregnant again immediately after giving birth, talk to your doctor about birth control methods.

Once you stop breastfeeding, your period can return anywhere from six to nine months after giving birth. Experts recommend you see your doctor if your period hasn’t returned within this window of time after weaning off breastfeeding. If you do not breastfeed after giving birth, your period can return anywhere from four to eight weeks after giving birth. If you get your period very shortly after giving birth, it is recommended to avoid using tampons so your body can fully heal.

Post-Baby Vaginal Discharge

Before your period returns, you will have a vaginal discharge called lochia. Lochia will accompany a vaginal birth or a c-section. This discharge will likely be lighter and not last as long with a c-section. Lochia generally occurs for about four to six weeks after delivery and changes color with time. Initially, the discharge is dark red accompanied by small blood clots. After the first few days, it can be watery and pinkish-brown in color. After the first week, it will likely be yellowish in color. The amount of your discharge can change throughout the day and with physical activity as well. This comes before your period even returns.

Your First Post-Baby Period

Your first period after birth will likely be different than pre-pregnancy because your body is readjusting to menstruation. Unfortunately, there is no way to know what your period will be like after pregnancy until you start menstruating again. Your first period after giving birth might be heavier than usual, and you might experience more cramping due to the uterus clearing everything out.

 After the initial first period, some people’s periods will be lighter after giving birth, some might be heavier, some have less severe cramps than before getting pregnant, while some have more severe cramps. The uterine cavity can get larger after giving birth, causing it to have more lining to shed each month, leading to heavier periods. However, this is not the case for everyone. There is truly no sure way to predict how your period specifically might change after giving birth. Most periods should return to how they were before you got pregnant, although some changes can occur due to other factors.

It’s impossible to predict how someone’s period will be after giving birth, so it is important to pay attention to your body. Your first menstrual cycle after giving birth might be different than you period before pregnancy, but if you notice continuous, painful changes, severe increase in bleeding, or other complications, contact your doctor. You know your body best so trust yourself and speak up if something feels off.

As you and I have discussed before, getting regular STD tests is SO important! If you are sexually active, you should ideally get tested after each new partner. Yes, even if you use condoms! You can still get STDs from oral sex. If you and your new partner both know your STD status prior to hooking up, then you’re probably okay without a new test, that is if you trust this partner is being truthful with you. All this to say, it’s important and normal to get regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections. It should be part of your sexual health routine. You can, of course, get tested at your doctor’s office or a sexual health clinic, but now there are options to get tested for at-home STD testing!

Much like how we can now have our food delivered from our favorite grocery stores and restaurants, have beer and wine show up on our doorstep, we can now order an STD testing kit right to our house. What a dream!

Why types of at-home STD tests are out there?

There are many at-home STD testing kits available, ranging in price from $50-$150 depending on how many STDs you are testing for. The most commonly advertised kits are from Everlywell and LetsGetChecked. There are others available of course, but these two popped up most when I was doing my research. These brands also both have a wide variety of testing. Both brands have tests for all the commonly tested STDs – chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. The Everlywell test also includes a test for Hepatitis C. These are all the STDs you would be tested for at the doctor’s office as well, so an at-home test can be just as thorough. 

How will I complete the testing?

Once you receive your test in the mail, you have to collect your sample. Read the directions on how to safely and thoroughly collect your sample so you make sure not to contaminate anything or get a false result. Everlywell uses a blood sample and a vaginal swab, while LetsGetChecked uses a blood sample and urine sample. This is nearly identical to getting tested at the doctor as well. Most sexual health clinics will collect a urine sample, usually for chlamydia and gonorrhea, and a blood sample for the others. 

Once you have safely collected your sample, you seal them up and put them in the pre-addressed box provided. Both tests also provide a box that already has the postage paid for. Once the box is sealed, you mail off your samples and wait for your results. You should get your results within 3-5 days, and for both brands, if you are positive on anything or have irregular results, a physician in your state will contact you to discuss treatment options. If you are negative on all of your results, then that’s it! 

What are the pros and cons to at-home STD testing?

At-home STD testing is a great option for someone who wants to stay on top of their sexual health but maybe feels intimidated making an appointment in person. It’s also a great option if you live with your parents and want to discreetly know your status without them knowing you are sexually active. Especially during the COVID pandemic, at-home testing is also a safe way to stay on top of your sexual health without leaving your home. 

Although at-home STD testing can be a great option, it doesn’t appear that any of the at-home tests are yet covered by insurance. Getting STD testing done at a doctor’s office can be free with insurance, or incredibly affordable without insurance at a low-cost sexual health clinic such as Planned Parenthood. Although you get more privacy and convenience testing from home, it’s ultimately more expensive than going to a doctor for these tests. There is also a greater risk for user error resulting in inaccurate results. If you read the directions thoroughly and collect your samples regularly, you should be fine, but there is of course a small risk for user error.

Also if the idea of collecting your own blood freaks you out, maybe the at-home test isn’t for you. Finally, you’re able to ask questions and describe symptoms and your sexual activity at the doctor’s office, which can help best assess what tests you need, while at home you couldn’t do that. The turnaround time for test results is similar to the at-home tests as well as if you went to a sexual health provider, and the protocol for treatment options is the same as well. 

Don’t let the idea of getting an STD test intimidate you and stop you from staying on top of your sexual health. At home STD tests make it easy and convenient to know your status from home within a matter of days!

January is cervical health awareness month. Hooray! Although it’s great to be aware, what even are we being aware of? What is a cervix and how can it be healthy? All good questions with answers!

What is the cervix?

The cervix is essentially a small area of your body that connects your vagina to your uterus. The cervix sits at the top of the vaginal canal and has very small openings on either end. The cervix is about 1 to 2 inches long, and the openings open and close just to let out discharge, menstrual blood, or to let sperm pass through. The cervix opens super-wide during childbirth, and acts as a barrier to keep bacteria out of the womb all the time, but especially during pregnancy. 

The cervix is super important for your reproductive health because it does so much to keep your vagina and uterus clean and healthy. Just like any other part of your body, the cervix can be unhealthy. The main concern with cervical health is cervical cancer. When someone with a cervix turns 21 or becomes sexually active, regardless of their age, they should start having regular Pap smears. 

What happens during a cervical Pap smear?

A Pap smear is a procedure done by your gynecologist in their office to test the cells of your cervix. Your doctor will take a small sample of cervical cells by using a little brush to gently scrape your cervix and collect the cells. You might be thinking, “Uhh how can a scrape be GENTLE?!” It is uncomfortable, but the actual test takes literal seconds. Your doctor will have you undress from the waist down, put your feet in some stirrups so your legs are spread easily, and takes a look. Your gynecologist will prop open your vagina using a speculum, which kind of looks like a long beak made out of metal or plastic. The speculum holds your vaginal walls open so your doctor can reach your cervix. They’ll reach in with their brush, scrape the cervix really quickly, then take the speculum out and you’re done. Some doctors will also use their fingers to reach inside and feel around your vagina and feel the cervix to make sure nothing feels off. The whole exam is uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful. If you experience pain during any part of the exam, tell your doctor immediately! You might bleed a little bit after the exam. Mild bleeding is normal, but if you bleed excessively, call your doctor immediately.

How often should I have my Pap smear?

If you are 21-25ish and have never had an abnormal result from a smear, it’s recommended to get a Pap test done every three years. Women in their thirties through menopause should get one every three years along with an HPV test. Women over the age of 65 who have never had an abnormal result might be able to stop getting Pap smears done altogether. If you’ve had an abnormal result before, have a history of cervical cancer, or have any conditions that weaken your immune system, you should get one done every year, regardless of your age. Talk to your doctor and they’ll be able to tell you how often you should get a smear done to maximize your health. 

What are possible cervical health risks?

Unhealthy cervical cells are most commonly caused by HPV or human papillomavirus. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. If you are sexually active, you will almost certainly have HPV at some point in your life. There are about 200 types of HPV, and most types are harmless, show no symptoms, and go away on their own. It’s possible you’ll never know you’ve had HPV. HPV is so common because its spread sexually, but also through skin-to-skin contact. If you do show symptoms, you will likely get warts, genital or otherwise. They can easily be treated. In most cases, HPV is harmless and will go away on its own before you ever have symptoms. Think of it kind of like the common cold. You can get a cold through contact with other people and their germs. Most of the time your cold will go away on its own, but in some cases, it can turn into something more serious. About 12 types of HPV can cause cancer, including types 16 and 18, which are the main culprits. 

There is no cure for HPV, which is why getting regular Pap smears done is so important so abnormal cervical cells can be detected and removed right away. You can also get an HPV vaccine, which is recommended for kids of all genders when they’re about 11 or 12. The HPV vaccine is given in three rounds and helps protect against most types of HPV that cause cancer. Just because you’ve had the vaccine, however, doesn’t mean you won’t have another type of HPV at some point–just hopefully not the cancer-causing kind. If you’re an adult and haven’t had the HPV vaccine, it’s never too late! The HPV vaccine used to only be given to girls in middle school, but since it first hit the scene research has been done that boys should also get the vaccine. Although boys and men don’t typically have cervixes, they can still carry and spread HPV, which could lead to cervical cancer in a partner with a cervix. Now people up to age 45 can get the vaccine if they didn’t get it as a kid. 

Your cervix is an easy part of your body to forget about because it’s tucked away inside of you, working away without much notice. Because you can’t see your cervix, it’s important to stay on top of your cervical health. Get regular Pap smears done once you become sexually active or once you turn 21. After your first smear, your doctor will tell you how often you should get your Pap smear done going forward. Check and see if you’ve had the HPV vaccine, and if you have kids, make sure they get the vaccine as well. You can also ask your doctor to do an HPV test to check your cervical health that way as well. Now go schedule your annual, or semi-annual Pap test!

Jenn here back with another post about another new type of birth control! It’s exciting to be living in a time where new birth control options are being created regularly, giving people more agency over their fertility and more options to find something that suits them. What a time to be alive!!

What is Annovera?

I’m here today to tell you about Annovera. Annovera is a hormonal birth control ring that prevents pregnancy for up to one year. Annovera is a birth control ring that contains the hormones ethinyl estradiol and segesterone (a new type of progestin for birth control). The ring is inserted into the vagina by the wearer, kept in place for three weeks, then removed for one week. After the ring is out for seven days, you put the same ring back in place, and wear for twenty-one days, then repeat the cycle next month. This one ring can be used for one year.

Annovera does need to be prescribed by a healthcare provider, but because you insert and take it out at home, once you have the prescription you can start or stop taking it at any point, although your first insertion when you begin should be between days two and five of your period so it can sync up with your body. Annovera is covered by most insurance companies. Annovera is different from other birth control rings such as NuvaRing because you use one ring for a whole year, or 13 menstrual cycles. NuvaRing and other rings in the past provide a new ring each month. 

How does insertion work?

Using Annovera sounds simple enough. Once you get the ring, wash it with warm water and antibacterial soap. Dry it off, then you’re ready to insert! Annovera is made from silicone, which is body-safe, and the website continuously describes it as “soft and squishy,” so like, it must be comfortable. To insert, pinch the ring together with your thumb and pointer finger (it is the size of a tampon in this position), lie on your back, squat, or stand with one leg up, then slowly push the ring into your vagina as far up as possible.

Once inserted, you shouldn’t be able to feel it. Leave it in place for 21 days, then remove it for seven. To take it out, assume the position you did to insert it, put your pointer finger in your vagina until you feel the ring, then gently pull it out. Wash it, dry it, and store it in the provided case for seven days while you have your period. Reinsert for your next cycle. 

Annovera is designed to be kept in at all times for those 21 days, including during sex. Because it’s fairly small and flexible, you shouldn’t feel it during sex, and neither should your partner. If Annovera falls out for any reason, be sure to reinsert it within two hours of it being out, otherwise it is no longer effective. You’d have to wear it for seven days for your body to readjust to it.  Similarly, if you have Annovera out for a total of two hours throughout a day, you would need to use another method of birth control because it wouldn’t be effective. To be quiiiite honest, it’s made of super flexible silicone, and most sex toys are also made of silicone, so I’m guessing you won’t even notice it’s in there during intercourse. 

What is the failure rate of Annovera?

The ring is 97% effective with a perfect use failure rate, which is almost identical to the hormonal birth control pill. Because you leave the ring in for three weeks once it’s inserted, it would be quite easy to have a perfect use rate because you kind of set it and forget it. Annovera also has an app that accompanies it for you to track your cycle and help remind you to put it back in after seven days, which I think is a fabulous idea.

People often complain that with the pill you have to be on top of taking it regularly, but a plus side of that is you get in the habit of taking it every single day. With something like a ring that you only remove every three weeks and must remember to put back in place, it might be easy to forget when it was removed or put it back in late. The app is a perfect way to keep you on top of your birth control ring so there’s no forgetting.

Are there any side effects?

So now the not so fun part – side effects. Like many hormonal birth control methods, Annovera does not protect against STDs, so you would either want to make sure you and your partner(s) have all been tested and know their status, or you could use the ring with a barrier method such as a penile condom. The Annovera website warns in big, bold print on the front page of their site to not use this birth control if you smoke cigarettes and are over 35 years old because you are at a greater risk of heart or blood problems, which is a common warning for nearly every hormonal birth control method.

Similar to other hormonal contraceptives, Annovera could increase risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and is dangerous for users with high blood pressure, diabetes for more than 20 years, suffers from serious migraines, and some other specific conditions. Check out the full list of risks on their website. Although these risks sound intense, and they certainly can be, these are all common for hormonal birth control options, so it is essential you discuss with your healthcare provider your interest in this or any other hormonal birth control before you begin. More mild side effects are also typical of hormonal birth control and can include nausea, headache, yeast infections, painful periods, UTIs, and genital itching. 

How do I start Annovera?

There’s also info on their site about how you can get a prescription for Annovera through some online health care providers who will just write you a prescription for it, then have it delivered to your door. Sounds cute and convenient, right? I would strongly encourage you to resist this urge for convenience and schedule an in-person visit with your gynecologist before starting this or any other type of hormonal birth control.

Although it is fabulous you are in control of inserting it and taking it out each month, giving you full agency and control, you should still talk with your doctor to fully assess if it is safe for you to use, see if there aren’t any other birth control options that might work better for your body, and to get the low down on how to use this product so you get that sweet, sweet 97% perfect use rate each month.

Plus each ring lasts a year, so you’d only have to visit once in person. After the year is up, you would get a prescription for a new ring. If you think Annovera and the convenience of having birth control set for a year sounds right for you, contact your doctor! Check out more info on the Annovera website

There are many options for birth control. From hormonal options like the pill, the ring, or the shot, to non-hormonal options like condoms or the copper IUD. Having multiple types of birth control helps put women in control of their bodies, reproductive health, and sexual pleasure. A new non-hormonal birth control gel called Phexxi just hit the market, and lucky for you, I’ll give you the scoop. 

Jenn Explores Phexxi Birth Control

Phexxi is a prescription only, hormone free gel that is inserted into the vagina right before penis in vagina sex. Once inserted, Phexxi lasts up to an hour to prevent pregnancy. It works by keeping the vaginal pH at a level that does not encourage sperm movement. Your vaginal pH changes when aroused, making it a pH that is welcoming to sperm, encouraging the sperm to meet up with an egg once inside of the vagina and uterus. Phexxi maintains a pH of 3.5 to 4.5, which is a neutral level that does not encourage sperm movement. Phexxi is designed just to prevent pregnancy and does not protect against any STDs. It should also not be used if you use a vaginal ring birth control method. Because it lasts up to an hour, you should ideally insert it right before you have vaginal sex, but as long as you have sex within that hour window, it will be effective. If you have vaginal sex again after the hour is up, you should insert another dose. 

Using Phexxi seems very simple, and there is even a really informative video on their website demonstrating how to use it. If you’ve ever had to use yeast infection medicine, it’s honestly quite similar to inserting that. Although birth control gel is more fun that yeast infection medicine, but I digress. Phexxi comes in a prepackaged dose in a little applicator. You insert the applicator into your vagina, push the end of the applicator until the gel all comes out, pull out the applicator, and voila. You’re good to go for one hour. It’s also very similar to inserting a tampon, only gel comes out rather than cotton. 

Possible side effects include yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, uncomfortability at the insertion sight, burning or stinging, and in extreme cases UTI or kidney infection.

Phexxi could be a great option for someone who has a monogamous partner and doesn’t want to use hormonal birth control. I say someone who is monogamous, because remember, Phexxi doesn’t protect against STDs. Although Phexxi seems like a great non-hormonal option to add to the mix of birth controls, I do have some questions that aren’t answered on their website.

How is Phexxi any different than spermicide? Is it in fact a spermicide that’s been rebranded to be trendy and appealing? Spermicide basically works the exact same way Phexxi does, only you can buy it over the counter. Spermicide isn’t typically effective enough on its own to use as your only birth control option, so is Phexxi more effective? Which brings me to my next question…

There’s also no information on how effective Phexxi is. All birth control methods are tested for a perfect use failure rate (someone using the birth control perfectly, every time) and a typical use failure rate (a more typical use of the birth control) For example, the hormonal birth control pill perfect use failure rate, someone taking the pill at the exact same time every day, is 98%. The typical use rate is about 92%. There is no info on failure rates for Phexxi on their site. Additionally, I wonder what happens to the sperm once it’s in the vagina? It is immobile because of Phexxi doing it’s thing, but Phexxi only lasts for one hour and sperm can live in the vagina for up to five days. Phexxi was effective in clinical trials and is approved by the FDA, so it seems to be effective, but I need more information.

Besides saying not to use Phexxi with a vaginal ring, there is no information on if it is safe to use with other birth controls, such as condoms. Since Phexxi is non-hormonal, it would be safe to use with hormonal forms of birth control as a second method. I would assume it is safe to use with condoms because spermicides are safe to use with condoms, but there is no info on the website that supports this. 

If you’re interested in a hormone free, use when needed, type of birth control, Phexxi could be a great option for you. It is prescription only, which I actually thing is good so you have the opportunity to ask your doctor questions about the effectiveness and using it with condoms to prevent STDs. If you think Phexxi is a good fit for you and your birth control, schedule a consultation with your doctor. There is a lot of important information to consider that is currently not on the Phexxi website. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get all the info before choosing a birth control method that’s right for you, whether that be Phexxi or something else. 

For more info and helpful videos, visit their website. But don’t forget my lingering questions. No birth control is perfect, so get all the info to make your choice. 

Have you seen the Truvada for PrEP commercials? Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is not something I ever learned about in sexual education in school. I also lived most of my life thinking HIV and AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) were the same thing. 

HIV is a virus that takes over cells in the body of an infected person and weakens the immune system, making it impossible for the virus to get cleared out of the infected person. HIV can be spread through certain bodily fluids such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid or pre-cum, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. People can become infected with HIV by sharing a needle or having unprotected sex with someone who is infected with HIV.

AIDS is the final stage of HIV. A person is diagnosed with AIDS if or when their immune system is no longer working the way it should. HIV turns into AIDS if the virus is untreated and weakens the immune system over time.

Thanks to awareness of HIV and AIDS and advances in modern medicine, there is now a daily pill available to help prevent the spread of HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is an effective way to prevent HIV. When used correctly, PrEP can reduce the risk of infection through sex by 90%, and reduce the risk of infection through injecting drugs by 70%.

What is Truvada?

Truvada is the daily pill prescribed for preventing the spread of HIV. If the pill is taken every day as directed, it is highly effective. Truvada’s website states that when the pill is used as directed, combined with safe sex practices such as condoms and dental dams, a person’s risk of getting HIV from a partner or partners decreases significantly.

People wanting to take Truvada need to start taking the pill before they are infected with HIV. You cannot take the pill if you already have HIV. For example if you have a new partner that you know has HIV, you’ll want to get tested to ensure you aren’t infected, then begin taking the pill before you have sexual contact involving any of the bodily fluids mentioned above. You must be tested before you start to make sure you don’t have HIV, and once you start the pill, you should be tested once every three months to ensure you haven’t contracted HIV, and to check for other sexually transmitted infections. People with other sexually transmitted infections are more likely to contract HIV, so regularly getting tested is essential for Truvada to be most effective.

Like with any medicine, there are side effects to Truvada such as a worsened case of Hepatitis B, kidney problems, liver problems, and bone problems. A full list of side effects can be found here on Truvada’s website.

Truvada for PrEP is a game changer. Not only does this pill help prevent people from contracting HIV, but it also helps destigmatize the virus. I’ve seen countless billboards and commercials for Truvada since the pill has been on the market, and hopefully this exposure will start important conversations so that more people are educated, and help people live happy and healthy lives.

Beauty trends come and go so quickly sometimes it’s hard to know which ones are worth it. Beeswax facial for example? No thank you. One beauty and self care trend that is relatively affordable, accessible, and has stuck around for the last few years is face masks. No, not Pandemic Cover Your Mouth and Nose Face Masks, but Soak in the Bathtub, Drink a Glass of Wine and Moisturize kind of face mask. 

Facial masks can be found at nearly every drug store, grocery store, or Target. They usually range from about $5 to $10, depending on the size and intent of the product. There are sheet masks which contain the product on a thin sheet made of paper or cloth, shaped like your face with little cut outs for your nose and mouth. Sheet face masks oftentimes have a lot of product on them and are very wet when you apply them. These masks often have you rub in the excess product afterwards rather than rinsing it off. Because sheet masks are so wet with product and can be rubbed right into the skin, these oftentimes contain vitamin C, rose water, or other ingredients that will brighten or moisturize your face. They are generally fairly gentle on your skin since they don’t need to be rinsed off.

There are also clay face masks. These usually come in a little pouch or a jar with a lid. These masks are spread onto the face with your fingers or a little brush. You’ll feel this type of mask tighten and harden on your face over the period of time you have it on, and it will need to be rinsed off when you’re done. Clay face masks often times contain charcoal, focus on acne prone skin and refining pores, and are usually a little more heavy duty on your face. There are some moisturizing clay masks though, so not all of them are heavy. 

Although these quick at home facial treatments are widely available and easy to do, are they really that good for our skin? The short answer is yes!

Facemasks certainly aren’t bad for your skin, and unless you have an allergic reaction to an ingredient, they won’t make your skin worse. Since face masks are left on for such a short period of time, usually no more than 10 or 15 minutes, the effects of the face mask are likely short lived. I’ve certainly used a face mask and had a little extra glow the next day, but my charcoal mask isn’t going to keep my pores clean for a week or anything like that. Masks that have product that can be rubbed into the skin likely have a more lasting effect because your skin is soaking the product up even after the mask has been removed. Harsher masks that need to be rinsed off don’t really keep working their magic long after the mask has been removed because it’s only on your face for a short period of time. 

Face masks are a quick and inexpensive way to give yourself a little TLC and spend some time on self care. They smell good, make you feel good, and help your skin glow even if it’s only for a little while. If you’re wanting to use a face mask and have very dry skin, I recommend a cream based mask. If you want to unclog your pores, a charcoal or clay mask might be nice. Vitamin C masks are great for brightening, but can also irritate super sensitive skin. Before you purchase a mask, read the fine print and see what the mask is intended to do, then consider how your skin might react to it. The ingredients in face masks are quite mild, so a severe reaction isn’t likely, but it isn’t impossible. Read before you buy!

Now stop by Target on your way home and pick up some ice cream and a few masks and relax tonight!

Raise your hand if you regularly use lube during sexy time activities! Raise your hand if you only sometimes use lube during penis in vagina sex. Raise your hand if you’re used lube during masturbation. My dream is for everyone to raise their hand for using lube all the time! Lube is your friend and will make all sorts of sexual activity more pleasurable and fun. 

You Should Be Using Lube

Lubricant or lube can be water based, oil based, or silicone based, and can be put on your genitals, fingers, or sex toys during sexual activity to increase wetness and make penetration more comfortable and enjoyable. Sex should never hurt. Lube can help it feel even better! There are different types of lube with pros and cons for different types of activity.

Water based lube is what is most commonly sold at the store, and probably the kind of lube you’ve used if you’re ever used some. Water based lube is safe to use with latex and non latex condoms, and is most commonly sold in the condom aisle. It’s also safe to use on all materials of sex toys, and safe for masturbation. Water based lube is gentle on sensitive skin, fairly mess free, and won’t leave sticky or stain-filled residue behind. Since it isn’t sticky, you could use it for a sexy massage as well. One downside to water based lube is that they don’t last super long during sexy activities, so you might have to reapply a few times if you’re enjoying a particularly long session.

Oil based lube can be purchased from the store, or you can probably find an oil based lube in your kitchen. Coconut oil is a great oil based lube that you might already have at home. Oil based lubes are great for hand play activities, masturbation, or even a sexy massage. Oil based lubes will break down latex condoms, so do NOT used oil based lube with condoms. Even if the condom doesn’t full on break, it could have been compromised. Keep the oil for making all of your touching activities a little sexier, or for using on a monogamous, STD free partner.

Silicone based lubes are extra slick and long lasting. If you’ve ever been to the gynecologist for a pelvic exam, the lube they use there is silicone based. Silicone based lube is safe to use with latex and non latex condoms. Yay! I once heard silicone lube described as the “silk sheets” of lube. Amazing! Silicone lube is also great for shower sex because it stays in place a little easier and doesn’t wash away like water based lube would. A downside, however, is that silicone based lube cannot be used on silicone sex toys. Silicone lube on a silicone toy will break down the toy and ruin it. 

Experimenting Using Lube

Even if you are someone who can easily naturally lubricate during sex, you should still have lube handy at all times. Maybe you apply a little lube halfway through to get things extra slippery and fun! Even if you are naturally lubricated, experiment using some lube as well to see if that creates any ease or new sensations. Use lube with your sex toys! Use lube to give your partner a massage! Using lube doesn’t mean your vagina isn’t good enough or you’re not turned on. Think of it like another toy or element to make your sex life even better. Everyone should be using lube!

A lot of people exercise to benefit the health of their bodies and minds. People lift weights to slowly strengthen their muscles and help them maintain good health. Did you know that you can also strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to increase your pelvic floor health?

Your pelvic floor muscles are a series of muscles that extend from the pubic bone to the tailbone. These muscles support the bladder, bowel, and uterus in women, and the bladder and bowel in men. These muscles help you control when you have to go to the bathroom, and they help women in childbirth as well. In people with vaginas, these muscles are on the outside of the vagina, and can also help increase sexual pleasure. 

Just like any other muscle, pelvic floor muscles can become weak over time. Pregnancy, childbirth, old age, obesity, chronic constipation, or surgery can weaken these muscles. People can strengthen these muscles to help with incontinence, childbirth, and sexual satisfaction. You should definitely consider pelvic floor exercises if you leak a bit of urine when you laugh, cough or sneeze. Pelvic floor exercises can help. Men can benefit from strengthening their pelvic floor muscles as well.

Ways To Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles

You can do a series of fairly simple exercises to strengthen these muscles, and you can also use kegel or Ben Wa balls, which I’ll get to in a minute. But first, the exercises!

Kegel exercises are a simple way to strengthen your pelvic floor. Kegel exercises simply consist of you tightening and releasing your pelvic floor muscles. To figure out what contracting these muscles feels like, you can stop mid-pee next time you’re in the bathroom, and you’ll feel the pelvic muscles tightening. Another source also recommended imagining you’re sitting on a marble and need to lift it for a few seconds at a time. Boom, baby, there are your pelvic floor muscles! Now that you know what they feel like, tighten and release these muscles for about five seconds at a time for a set of ten up to three times a day.

Squats are also a good way to strengthen these muscles. You can also do hip thrusts where you lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and thrust your pelvis upward. A few other simple pelvic floor exercises can be found here. If you do kegel exercises daily, you should notice a difference pretty quickly. Your ability to control when you have to go to the bathroom should improve pretty soon after regularly flexing these muscles. 

If you have a vagina, another popular way to train these muscles is kegel balls or Ben Wa balls. Kegel balls are small balls made from silicone that you put inside of your vagina. These balls come in different sizes with different weights, and essentially weight train your pelvic floor muscles by supporting the ball in your vagina while you go about your daily life. Many of these balls come with two or three balls attached to one another in a line with a string or handle on the end. There are some balls that don’t have a string on the end, but you should only use those once you’ve gotten comfortable using kegel balls. 

Kegel balls can be used to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles for all of the reasons mentioned above, but a lot of people will use these to strengthen these muscles for increased sexual satisfaction. The stronger your pelvic floor muscles, the stronger your orgasms can be! Orgasm is the contracting of your vaginal muscles, and if your pelvic floor muscles are strong, this contraction will be strong and more pleasurable. You can also tighten and release your pelvic floor muscles during sexual activity for increased pleasure, and the stronger they are, the more you’ll feel it.

To use kegel balls, first clean them using warm water and antibacterial soap. You should always clean them before and after use and towel dry them once they’ve been washed. To insert them, lie on your back and slowly push the balls inside of your vagina, one at a time. It might be helpful to use lubricant on the balls and the vaginal opening to help slide them in. After you insert the kegel balls, pay attention to how it feels in your body. If it’s uncomfortable or painful, you might have inserted them too high. Give the handle a little tug and see if that feels more comfortable. If you have any intense pain, take them out right away. After they’re in, you can just carry about your daily life without much thought. Kegel balls can be left in for four to six hours. Your pelvic floor muscles will naturally tighten to keep the weighted balls in place, working them out while you carry on with your day. It’s like weight training for your vagina. You can also tighten and release your kegel muscles while they’re in in. Make sure you don’t do the kegel exercises for too long with the balls inserted so you don’t strain the muscles. You can also put the balls in just for kegel exercises and take them out afterwards. Although they can be left in for up to six hours doesn’t mean you have to leave them in that long.

When you’re ready to take them out, lie on your back again and slowly and carefully pull on the string to take them out. Again, lubricant around the vaginal opening can help slide the balls out. Once you’ve used kegel balls several times and feel comfortable, you could try balls without the string on them. They are inserted similarly, but when it’s time to take them out you’ll have to bear down and squat or push them out. Once they’re out, wash them thoroughly with warm water and antibacterial soap, towel dry them, then store them in a safe place. Wash them the next time you’re ready to use them. 

If you’re interested in using kegel balls, talk with your doctor about it. People that experience pelvic pain might have a hard time using them comfortably so ask your doctor if they recommend you try it. Regular old kegel exercises without the balls are safe for everyone though. 

Some people keep kegel balls in their vagina during sexual activity for increased sensation. You can even keep the balls in during penetrative or anal sex, but I would recommend doing some research before trying this, and make sure you are super comfortable using kegel balls for exercise purposes first. Although they could be kept in the vagina during anal sex, NEVER put kegel balls in your anus. They are not designed to strengthen any muscles in the anus, so don’t put them in there. 

Pelvic floor exercises are designed to help strengthen your pelvic floor for childbirth, controlling your urine, or increased sexual pleasure. When I first heard about kegel balls and kegel exercises, I heard that these exercises will tighten your vagina. This is untrue and a lie told to women so we feel like our bodies need fixing! Your vagina is incredibly strong and does not get “stretched” out from frequent sex like you may have been told growing up. Your vagina will definitely change after childbirth, but it doesn’t get “stretched out” to a point that it needs fixing! These pelvic floor muscles are around your vagina, so they help make this area of your body stronger. Your vagina is resilient and will bounce back to it’s natural shape. It is not stretched out and does not need to be tightened or fixed. Pelvic floor exercises will help you in childbirth by making you stronger to push out your baby. These exercises will help you control when you have to pee. These exercises can help make your orgasms stronger! They won’t “fix” your vagina because it doesn’t need fixing. Pelvic floor exercises, just like other exercises, will help increase the strength and health of your pelvic floor, which is a beautiful thing.

Once several years ago I was prescribed an antibiotic to treat an ear infection. I was also taking the hormonal birth control pill, and ’d heard rumblings of antibiotics making the pill less effective, so I asked the doctor at the walk in clinic I was at why that was. The doctor literally said, “Oh yeah, that’s what they say. I’m not sure. Use a second method of birth control just in case.” First of all, who is “they”? Isn’t the medical professional working with me the “they” she was talking about?! Clearly I wasn’t going to get the answers I was looking for, so I’ve taken it upon myself to do a little research.

Antibiotics work by killing bacteria in your body. This means that when you take antibiotics, some of the good bacteria in your body could also be killed. This includes good bacteria in your gut or in your vagina. That’s why digestive issues and yeast infections are more likely when you’re taking antibiotics. 

Birth Control Pills and Antibiotics

Turns out, there is only one antibiotic that has been proven to decrease the effectiveness of hormonal birth control and that is rifampin. Rifampin is an antibiotic commonly used to treat tuberculosis. More common antibiotics such as penicillins do not decrease the effectiveness of the pill. 

The hormonal birth control pill works by giving your body doses of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones work to stop ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus, thus preventing implantation and preventing pregnancy. Rifampin can mess with the levels of these hormones, and even causes irregular periods as a side effect if you’re not on the pill. Because rifampin messes with hormone levels, that means this drug makes other forms of hormonal birth control, a.k.a the vaginal ring, patch, or shot, less effective as well. Although you won’t likely be prescribed this antibiotic unless you’re being treated for tuberculosis, it’s still important to tell your doctor or whoever is prescribing your medicine that you’re on the pill or hormonal birth control. 

It is possible for other antibiotics to decrease the effectiveness of the pill if it causes you to vomit up your pill within two hours of taking it. For some peace of mind, it might be a good idea to use a secondary form of birth control, such as condoms, for the time you’re on antibiotics.

Although only rifampin decreases the effectiveness of the pill when it comes to antibiotics, other medications can mess with how well the pill or hormonal birth control is working. Some anti-HIV medications, some anti-seizure medications, and some oral antifungal medications can decrease how well hormonal birth control works. That’s why it’s ultra important to tell your doctor or whoever is prescribing you medicine that you’re on the pill. You can also explicitly ask if it will affect your birth control so you get a clear answer no matter the prescription you’re given. Antibiotics and other medications aside, the birth control pill will be most effective if you take it at the same time every day. Missing even just one day can decrease its effectiveness and lead to unwanted pregnancy.