Indiana made headlines recently becoming the first state to vote on abortion legislation since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June. Many conservative states already had legislation, or “trigger laws” in place in the event Roe would be overturned, but Indiana is the first state to call a special session specifically to discuss reproductive rights for the state. 

What was the federal ruling on abortion?

Roe v. Wade overturned the federal right to abortion on June 24, leaving abortion legislation up to individual states. Before Roe was overturned, abortion was legal in Indiana up to 22 weeks gestation. Once Roe was overturned, Indiana lawmakers called a special session in which they determined a near-total ban on abortion in Indiana. It should be noted that the majority of Hoosiers, nearly 78%, are against these harsh bans.

What does the new abortion ruling in Indiana look like?

The special session lasted two weeks. The proposed abortion ban went through several iterations before determining that all abortion is illegal in the state of Indiana except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies, and when the life of the pregnant person is in danger. In cases of these exceptions, however, the abortion can only be performed up to 10 weeks gestation.

Earlier cases of this bill proposed a ban with these exceptions, saying that people 15 and under who fit the category of these exceptions had 12 weeks to seek an abortion, while people 16 and older only had 8. This earlier version also said that rape and incest survivors had to obtain an affidavit proving they had been harmed before receiving this medical care. That version was changed when the bill reached the House, however, leaving the 10-week exception, and no need for an affidavit. 

The final bill, known as SB1, despite being extremely restrictive, left the majority of Republicans wanting a stricter bill with absolutely no exceptions for rape or incest, no matter the age of the victim. No Democrats voted in favor of SB1.

What is the punishment for breaking this bill?

The bill also moved to terminate the licensing of abortion clinics in the state. Survivors of rape or incest, or pregnant people whose life is in danger must now seek an abortion before 10 weeks at either a hospital or outpatient surgery center. Practitioners who perform an illegal abortion can be charged with a Class 5 Felony, earning 1-6 years in prison, or up to a $10,000 fine. The person seeking the abortion would have any penalties, however. The bill goes into effect on September 15.

What are the expectations for this ruling?

Although the Republican lawmakers who voted for SB1 to pass all said this is a pro-life choice that will help women and babies, this bill will harm many people. The decision and reasoning behind seeking an abortion are incredibly nuanced and individual, something a single bill as restrictive as this cannot take into account. This bill says that if a child is abused and becomes pregnant, they only have 10 weeks to seek an abortion. Most people do not know they are pregnant until five or six weeks, and for others, it takes longer. If the pregnant person has irregular periods, for example, it can take longer to know you are pregnant. Or if you are a child who is being abused and doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation or how reproduction works, it could take longer to know you are pregnant. 

This law could potentially force a child who has been a victim of abuse to carry a child. If the child is young enough, their body likely would not be able to carry a pregnancy to full term, so being pregnant would put their life at risk. Could they still legally get an abortion in Indiana if they realize they are pregnant after 10 weeks even though staying pregnant and giving birth would likely kill them? It’s unclear at this point. 

Are there any exceptions?

The language in the bill making exceptions for when the life of the pregnant person is at risk is far too vague to allow abortion providers to act quickly in a life-threatening situation. Who decides when the pregnant person’s life is at risk? How close to death do they need to be “at risk” enough? Is the pregnant person’s mental health considered a factor? What if they experience suicidal ideation while pregnant? Is that “at risk” enough to seek a legal abortion in our state?

For example, the only way to treat an ectopic pregnancy is abortion, otherwise, the pregnant person will hemorrhage and die. This is a time-sensitive issue. What if someone shows up to the hospital, already bleeding, and has to wait for my doctor to call their lawyer to make sure them providing life-saving medical care is okay if it’s past the 10-week window? Indiana’s maternal mortality rate is the third highest in the country. It is alarming and dangerous that this restrictive bill lives in a state with such a high maternal mortality rate.

Can you travel to another state for an abortion?

Some people might question why abortion needs to be legal in a red state if it is legal in other places. Couldn’t a pregnant person travel outside the state to receive medical care if needed? Technically yes, but most people do not have the resources for that. In the example I mentioned above, a lot of the time, abortion can be extremely time-sensitive life-saving medical care. Someone would need medical attention immediately if there is an infection or hemorrhaging at risk. 

Most people do not have the expendable income to take time off work and travel to another state for a medical procedure. If the person seeking abortion already has children at home, it is unlikely that they can take time off work, pay for childcare, drive their car or take a bus across state lines, pay for a hotel room, and have the procedure, then make their way home. Because of these barriers, it is very likely that unsafe abortions will happen. You cannot outlaw abortion, you can only outlaw safe abortions. 

Reproductive rights affect everyone

Although this law is incredibly restrictive and does indeed affect all people with the capacity to get pregnant, it will disproportionally affect low-income people. The reality is, that reproductive rights affect everyone. Whether you have the capacity to get pregnant or not, reproductive rights affect your access to birth control and medical care. This law will likely have a ripple effect, affecting people’s healthcare, and affecting corporations’ involvement in Indiana. Indianapolis is known for hosting a lot of conferences, and people are predicting an adverse effect on Indiana’s economy. People predict that it will be hard to recruit businesses and corporations to invest in Indiana when reproductive healthcare here is unsafe. 

This bill goes into effect on September 15. Until then, abortions are still safe and legal in Indiana.

Everyone is always asking how to “spice up their sex life,” right? Or maybe it just appears that way. Whether you are looking to add a little spice to your sex life, or just want to explore your or your partner’s desires, filling out a “want, will, won’t” list is a great idea.

What is a “want, will, won’t list” you ask? 

It’s essentially a list of a bunch of romantic, emotional, and sexual activities that you respond to saying, I want to do this, I will do this, or I won’t do this. You can fill this out on your own just to gauge your romantic and sexual interests, or you can fill it out with a partner and spark some great conversation. You can just google a want, will, won’t list and find one with questions that you like. You can fill it out by hand, or there are some that you and your partner fill out online.

What does each term mean to you?

When filling out the list, decide what the terms mean to you. For me, when I mark something as “want,” this means I definitely desire this and want this to happen. For example, passionate kissing and touching. I want that with a partner! For me, a “will” is something that I will do under certain circumstances or if my partner is into it. For example, a will for me would be foot stuff. I’m not really into it, but if my partner wanted to try it, I’d be down to explore. 

To be very clear, a “will” is something I am choosing to decide to do—a “will” should never be coerced out of you. You are still fully consenting to this activity! And finally, for me a “won’t,” would be something I definitely do not want to do under any circumstance. For example, I won’t do anything sexual in full public view, like I won’t intensely make out with someone on a bench in a public park in broad daylight. So before you begin, decide what these terms mean for you and your partner, so you can answer with the same gauge. 

How to write up your list

Next, fill out your list! When selecting the list of questions you want to fill out, see which questions resonate with you and your partner(s). I’ve filled out lists that are strictly sexual before, and I’ve also filled out lists that included romantic and emotional intimacy acts as well. For example, a question about romance or emotional intimacy could be, “I like holding hands in public,” or something like “I don’t mind solving the conflict in public, for example over dinner”. As I mentioned, you can fill these out by hand, or virtually. Then after taking the time to fill out your list, you and your partner(s) can compare. Some virtual lists only show answers where you both answered at least “will” or “want,” while some show everything. It’s up to you!

This is a great exercise to get to know your own desires and boundaries and to get familiar with communicating those with your partner(s) as well. Also, your want, will, won’t list is allowed to change at any time. Just because last week you filled out your list and said you will hold hands in public, but today you aren’t feeling it, that’s okay! This is a helpful list to give you and your lover(s) some ideas about what you both are interested in. It can also be fun to fill out after some time has passed to see if your desires have changed. 

Have fun!

Pregnancy tests are available at drug stores, pharmacies, and groceries stores and are relatively inexpensive. This makes at-home pregnancy tests the likely first sign you’ll have that you are pregnant.

Why do we pee on a stick?

When used properly, they are 99% effective at confirming pregnancy. They are just as effective as pregnancy tests used at doctor’s offices. So how do these tests work exactly? Pregnancy tests analyze your urine for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG. This hormone is only present in the body when a fertilized egg has attached to your uterine lining. Pretty cool if you ask me. In order for the test to analyze your urine, you have to pee on the test. Most people refer to this part as peeing on a stick because the pregnancy test is shaped kind of like a stick. 

How to check your results

New tests work best, as an expired test or one in a box that has been opened and sitting for a while might not be as accurate. After you purchase the test, read the directions. You’ll pee on the test paper at the end of the stick, wait the amount of time the test advises, then read your result on a small screen on the test. Depending on the test, it will display the results differently, so again, make sure you read the directions for the specific test you bought. A positive result might be indicated by a plus sign, the word “pregnant,” or two vertical lines next to each other. You can take multiple tests to confirm your result if needed. 

When should you take a pregnancy test?

It’s recommended that you take the pregnancy test after your last missed period for the most accurate result. If you have irregular periods and that isn’t a good indication of your cycle, then you can take the test three weeks after unprotected sex for a similar accurate result. It’s also recommended to not drink excess fluids right before taking the test, as this can dilute the amount of HCG in your system. Taking the test first thing in the morning provides a more accurate result as well. 

What if you get a positive result?

If you take the test and receive a positive result, make an appointment with your doctor so they can confirm the pregnancy, and talk about your health and options moving forward. Your doctor may also do a blood test to confirm your result. Blood tests are slightly more accurate, as they can detect HCG a little earlier than the urine test can. The urine test at home is very accurate though, so this is a great option whenever you need a test. Whether you need to take a pregnancy test before a surgery or procedure, if you suspect you’re pregnant, or if you are actively trying to conceive, the at-home pregnancy test is simple, very effective, and inexpensive. It’s a great option for monitoring your reproductive health. 

As I mentioned, if you do test positive, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss your next steps. If you do not have a healthcare provider, Planned Parenthood is a great place for reproductive care as well. 

Pilates has been around for nearly 100 years, but it seems to have picked up popularity recently, showing up online and on Instagram constantly. Pilates is a form of exercise done on a mat or a special machine called a reformer that uses low-impact movements to increase flexibility, tone muscles, and build strength. It was originally developed by Joseph Pilates as a form of recovery exercise for dancers. Even if you’re not a professional dancer, pilates can be beneficial to any person. It essentially aligns your body in postures that help counteract all of the repetitive movements we find ourselves in every day through walking, sitting, and hunching over our phones. 

Different types of pilates

Pilates is so effective mostly because it is a low-impact exercise, meaning a class can be tailored to be accessible for a lot of different ages and fitness levels. If you are practicing mat-based pilates, the movements are a little harder because you are using the weight of only your body and a few props like exercise bands or hand weights. If you are practicing on a reformer, which is essentially a small machine with springs that help align your movements, you can practice at an even lower impact with the support of the machine. With the guidance of a trained instructor, you are led through movements on the mat or machine that target different muscle groups at a time, toning the muscle while focusing on breathing. 

Pilates also largely targets the core and the low back. The core is attached to all of our other muscle groups, and our low back can’t be strong if our core isn’t strong, and vice versa. Pilates also helps to relax the muscles as they are being strengthened, which can help improve overall mobility and posture. A win-win!

Doing pilates with an instructor

If you are interested in mat-based pilates, you can practice at home with videos online, however, I would recommend starting with an instructor in a studio so they can make sure you don’t hurt or overexert yourself. Once you get the hang of the alignment of the movements, then practicing with a virtual instructor could work well. If you are practicing reformer pilates, you certainly would have to visit a studio, as the machines would be there. Your instructor will guide you through your workout, using the reformer machine in different ways to create a low-impact workout. Because reformer pilates specifically is so low impact, a lot of people can do this exercise and feel the benefits. You don’t need to be super strong or physically fit to start. The reformer machine helps guide your movements. 

If you’re interested, look up your local pilates studio and give them a call. Some yoga studios also offer pilates as well, which would be a great complimentary exercise. Pilates helps counteract all of the hunching and crunching we do in our day-to-day lives. It helps elongate the body, and improve your posture, all while helping build strength through low-impact movements. It really is as good for you as everyone says. Check it out!

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, leaving the legality of abortions up to the individual states, a lot of people have been saying that people with penises should step up and get vasectomies to help prevent unwanted pregnancy. Vasectomies are extremely effective at preventing pregnancy, and can sometimes be reversed, however, there is no guarantee that reversal will work. Let’s get the facts straight.

What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that prevents sperm from being in your semen, which prevents pregnancy. During a vasectomy, your doctor will cut or block the tubes in your scrotum that carry sperm, known as the vas deferens. This makes it so that no sperm makes its way to your semen, so when you ejaculate, the semen is free of sperm so pregnancy is not possible. There are two types of vasectomies: the incision method and the no-scalpel method. Both are quick and easy, and you usually will go home the same day. Vasectomies are nearly 100% effective at preventing pregnancy.

What changes after a vasectomy?

Because the vas deferens (the tubes that carry sperm to your semen) are blocked off, sperm cells instead stay in the body, rather than leaving through ejaculate. You’ll still have the same amount of semen after the vasectomy as you did before, and your experience of orgasm, as well as the taste of your semen, will remain the same. It does take about three months for the semen to be free of sperm, so if you have unprotected sex before those three months are up, it is still possible to get pregnant, as the sperm is still getting cleared out of the body. Use a backup method of birth control like a condom during this three-month window.

Most vasectomies are reversible, but not all

Because this is a surgical procedure, there is zero possibility for user error, making it one of the most effective forms of birth control. Although there has been a lot of talk about how vasectomies are reversible, that is not always the case. The type of vasectomy you get determines if it would even be possible to surgically reverse, and if it is possible, it is expensive and there is no guarantee you would be fertile again. Whether or not it can be reversed also depends on how long ago you received the surgery, and on whether or not your body has developed antibodies to your sperm. It’s possible that your immune system would try and attack your sperm after the reversal because it has become unfamiliar with it. In short, if you are getting a vasectomy purely with the intention to reverse it, don’t. There are too many risk factors that do not guarantee your fertility will come back.

Vasectomies as birth control

Vasectomies are designed to be permanent, so it is best to only get them if you know you do not want to produce biological children, or if you are done having biological children. If you think you or your partner would be a good candidate for this procedure, talk to your doctor. It is very fast, safe and super effective at preventing pregnancy.

If you are just wanting temporary and reversible birth control, unfortunately, there aren’t many options for men other than condoms until a male contraceptive pill becomes a reality. Hormonal birth control, IUDs, vagina condoms, and the ring are all options for female birth control that is 100% reversible. Talk to your doctor if you’d like to learn more.

What are fibroids you ask? Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow in and around the walls of the uterus. An astonishing number of people get fibroids by the age of 50—80% of black women and 70% of white women, with large variation amongst other races. Unfortunately, the specifics for this large discrepancy between races is unknown, likely because research on women’s health is greatly underfunded, but I digress.

How do fibroids develop?

Fibroids develop during child-rearing age, affecting women as they enter their 30s and 40s, then dissipate after menopause once hormone levels decrease. Fibroids vary in size, some being only a few millimeters, while others can grow to the size of a watermelon. Because of this large range in size, each person with fibroids likely experiences different severity of symptoms. Someone with smaller fibroids might not even know they have them, having little to no symptoms, while someone with multiple or large fibroids could experience a range of pretty intense symptoms. These symptoms unfortunately are very similar to that of PMS, PMDD, or anything related to menstruation and reproduction. 

What are the symptoms of fibroids?

Symptoms include heavy bleeding, feeling full, an enlarged lower abdomen, pain during sex, low back pain, frequent urination, complications during pregnancy and labor, and reproductive problems such as infertility. Because these symptoms are so similar to things we might regularly experience during our menstrual cycle, a lot of people will have fibroids and not even know it. Menstrual pain is often dismissed by the person experiencing it, or even worse, by doctors. We are often told it’s just our period and that we should just accept the discomfort because it’s no big deal. You know your body best – if something doesn’t feel right or if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, go see your doctor.

What are the risk factors?

Although the exact cause of fibroids is unknown, there are a few factors that put some people at higher risk. As I mentioned before, age plays a role in when fibroids might pop up. If you will get fibroids, they will be most common during your 30s and 40s when you are in the throes of your reproductive age. Family history plays a role as well. If you have a family history of fibroids, you are more likely to have them yourself. If someone’s mother had fibroids, they are three times more likely to experience it themselves. As I mentioned before as well, black women are more likely to develop fibroids than women of any other race. Unfortunately, the research is not here to explain exactly why, doctors have just noticed this as a pattern. People that are overweight are also at a higher risk for developing fibroids, being two or three times more likely than the average. People who eat a lot of red meat and ham also have a slightly higher risk of developing fibroids, and finally, a lack of vitamin D can put you at higher risk of developing them as well. 

What are the types of fibroids?

There are four types of fibroids, and the type and size determine the type of treatment needed, if any. Submucosal fibroids are the least common type of fibroids. These grow inside the uterus in the space where a baby would grow during pregnancy. This type causes heavy bleeding when present. Intramural fibroids grow inside the muscular wall of the uterus, embedding themselves in the sides of the womb. This type causes heavy bleeding or pressure on the abdomen. Subserosal fibroids are outside of the uterus but are connected to the outside wall of the uterus. Pedunculated fibroids are also less common and grow on the outside of the uterus along a thin stem keeping the tissue connected.

How are fibroids diagnosed?

Fibroids are diagnosed during a pelvic exam, so make sure you are seeing your gynecologist regularly! Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you should see your gynie regularly, every 1-3 years, depending on your age and family history. Once fibroids are diagnosed, the treatment depends on the type of fibroids you have, as well as how large they are. The size of fibroids can gradually change depending on hormone levels in your body at any given time. When you are pregnant, for example, your hormone levels are higher, so fibroids might grow. During menopause, hormone levels drastically drop, so fibroids will shrink or even disappear. If you are having mild or no symptoms, your doctor may just recommend monitoring your fibroids over time, and not taking any action for treatment just yet. If you are experiencing severe symptoms or develop anemia from bleeding too much, intense pain, or experience fertility issues, treatment is recommended. 

How can fibroids be treated?

Oral medication is often a treatment for fibroids, and works for mild cases. Iron supplements, birth control pills, and gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists can all help manage symptoms. Birth control pills help by decreasing heavy bleeding and menstrual cramping. GnRH agonists is a medication taken through nasal spray or injections that shrinks your fibroids. It only temporarily shrinks them, so it must be taken regularly. A new medication called Elagolix has been approved to be used for up to two years to relieve serious symptoms, but after 24 months, it can cause bone thinning, so it can only be used for this specific amount of time. 

In some cases, surgery is the best treatment option. A myomectomy is a surgery where the fibroids are removed without harming the uterus, maintaining the ability to get pregnant if that is important to you. If you do not plan on getting pregnant, or if your fibroids have caused infertility issues, a hysterectomy is another option. A hysterectomy is a surgery that removes part or all of your uterus. 

Because fibroids are so common but rarely talked about, the month of July is dedicated to educating people about them. Organizations like The White Dress Project also exist to bring people together to find a sense of community and offer a chance to educate other people about fibroids. If you are in pain, experiencing any of the symptoms I mentioned, or think you might have fibroids, contact your doctor. You do not need to live with this pain. There is treatment, and you can still get pregnant and have a healthy and pleasurable sex life with fibroids. Talk to your doctor and check out organizations like The White Dress Project to learn more.

It’s 2022 — it’s about darn time we had some hormonal birth control for men! Sure, condoms are a great option for birth control because they are non-invasive, cheap and accessible, reversible, and one of the only types of contraception that protects against STDs, but we need more options. It doesn’t seem fair that people with uteruses have the burden of taking hormonal birth control to prevent pregnancy when it also takes sperm to cause someone to get pregnant. Clinical trials for developing male contraceptive pills have been in the works for years, but a recent study makes this seem even more promising. 

Initial trials with the drugs DMAU and 11-beta MNTDC both seem promising. These drugs work similar to how hormonal birth control pills for women work – they suppress sex hormones to make you less fertile while you are taking them. Both of these drugs have similar properties to androgens, which are male sex hormones. They also are similar to progesterone, which is also a male sex hormone. Female birth control pills work by producing synthetic estrogen and progestin, which is a synthetic form of progesterone. Male birth control pills strive to do the same. 

How would male contraceptive pills work?

The goal of the male birth control pill isn’t to suppress fertility so much that men produce zero sperm when they ejaculate, but rather, the goal is to decrease the number of sperm in each ejaculation while on the pill. An ejaculation with fewer than 1 million sperm in it would create a similar effect to how female hormonal birth control works. 

What do recent studies show?

During the study, a group of men were given placebo pills, while another group was given either two pills or four pills per day for 28 days. The men’s testosterone levels were measured throughout the process, indicating if the sperm count was in fact being limited. During the trial, there were no adverse side effects, and the testosterone levels decreased as the doctors wanted. Because the half-life of sperm is about three months, men wanting to take either of these hormonal birth control pills would need to be on the pill for three months before it would be at its highest efficacy. This is very similar to female hormonal birth control, as most pills require you to be on them for one month before they are at full efficacy. 

More research is required, as this was just the first phase of these trials. Researchers hope to extend the length of time men are taking these pills to see if that changes the efficacy at all. This is great news, and a great step forward to providing more options for birth control and family planning, especially with the overturn of Roe v. Wade. 

How would we use male contraceptive pills?

Assuming the future trials are effective and hormonal birth control for men becomes a reality in the future, I would still recommend using two forms of birth control to prevent pregnancy. If I was in a monogamous relationship with a man who was on the pill, I would trust he was taking it as needed for preventing pregnancy, but I would not blindly trust that someone I was casually seeing was necessarily diligent in taking it. Similar to not trusting that someone will definitely have condoms if you go home with them at the end of a date. 

Having hormonal birth control available for men would be a game changer and would allow men to be active participants in their own family planning. It would also relieve some of the burden from women being the only ones ensuring they don’t get pregnant. Here’s to hoping the next phase of clinical trials is successful.

It’s summer in Indiana, and you know what that means: extremely hot and humid days that are perfect for swimming! By the height of summer, it is honestly too hot to step outside unless you are stepping directly into a pool. Even though days of lounging by a pool in a swimsuit sound luxurious and effortless, your period is still going to happen despite wanting to wear your cute bikini bottoms. 

Although periods can cause bloating, headaches, and other discomforts, managing your menstrual flow should not stop you from enjoying time by the pool, on the beach, or in a lake. There are a handful of great options for managing your period during the summer months when you want to spend your time in a swimsuit submerged in cool water with a cold drink in hand!

1. Tampons

This tried and true method for period management is a great swimsuit-proof way to manage your period during the summer. Tampons are inserted into the vagina via an applicator that is removed, leaving the cotton tampon inside the vagina with a string hanging out. The cotton absorbs the blood, collecting it until it is ready to be changed. When you’re ready to remove your tampon, pull on the string to remove the cotton. 

Tampons are sold at nearly every grocery and drug store, with a variety of options to choose from. Depending on your flow, activity level, and applicator preference, you can find a size that works for you. Make sure you don’t leave your tampon in for more than eight hours, as there is a risk for toxic shock syndrome. Depending on your flow, you will likely need to change it more often than that anyway.

2. Menstrual cups

Menstrual cups have gained popularity over the last few years for being a reusable, super sustainable option for period care. Menstrual cups are small bell-shaped cups made from silicone or latex that are inserted into the vagina and collect your menstrual blood. There is a little stem on the end of the cup that stays in the vaginal canal, allowing you to remove it. To insert, you pinch the top of the cup, relax the vaginal muscles, and insert using your fingers. The opening of the cup sucks into place around the opening of the cervix and collects your blood throughout the day for up to 12 hours. 

While it is inserted, you shouldn’t feel it, and there will be that little knob of the cup that you can grab when it’s time to remove it. When you are ready to empty it, bear down using your bathroom muscles, grab the knob at the end of the cup, then carefully pull the cup out of the vagina. It will be filled with blood, so be careful in case of any spills. If you’re able to remove the cup in the shower at the end of the day, that would be ideal for clean-up.

Menstrual cups come in different sizes depending on if you have given birth yet or not, as that changes the size of the cervix a bit. Menstrual cups are a little expensive (around $40), but they end up being more economical than tampons because one cup lasts years and years. You clean it in between uses, following the directions that come with your specific cup.

3. Menstrual discs

Similar to menstrual cups, menstrual discs are inserted into the vagina and collect blood at the cervical opening. Menstrual discs are single-use items, however, and have to be thrown away after each use, similar to tampons. Menstrual discs look like actual little discs with a flexible round opening and material to collect the menstrual blood. To insert the disc, pinch the top of the disc so it is compact, then use your fingers to insert it into the vagina. Just like your menstrual cup, the opening of the disc will seal itself around the cervix and collect blood. 

Unlike a menstrual cup, the disc keeps the vaginal canal completely open. The disc sits at the top of the vagina, right below the cervix. These discs can also be kept in for up to 12 hours, while some even empty themselves as you use the restroom. When you’re ready to remove the disc, (with clean hands of course), bear down to activate those bathroom muscles, and insert your pointer finger into the vagina until you can use it to hook onto the edge of the disc and pull it out. Similar to menstrual cups, this can be a little messy upon your first few tries. Once the disc is removed, dump out the menses, then throw it away and insert a new one.

4. Period swimwear

You may have heard of period underwear as a way to manage your period, but now period swimwear is an option as well. Similar to period underwear, period swimwear is made from absorbent, odor-proof material that can hold 1-3 tampons worth of blood. Although this might not sound like a high level of absorbency, remember you would just wear this while you’re swimming, which would likely be only a few hours. 

Period swimwear can also be used as a backup method when wearing a tampon, cup, or disc, offering you extra protection. Period swimwear would be a great option on the lightest days of your period, absorbing the little bit of blood you might have as you start or finish your cycle. They’re as easy to use as regular swimwear- just put them on, and you’re good to go! You would wash them of course between uses, but this is definitely the least invasive method. 

Periods can have poor timing and cause discomfort, but don’t let your menstrual cycle get in the way of you having fun and being cute in your swimsuit this summer. If you’re not sure what period management method is best for you, talk to your gynecologist and express your needs or concerns. Knowing your vaginal health, your doctor can likely recommend what would work best for you. If you opt to use a tampon, cup, or disc, know it might take a few tries to successfully insert into the vagina. Menstrual cups and discs especially take a few tries to practice inserting and removing since you are using your hands and not an applicator to do so. 

Now go have some fun in the sun this summer!

Menopause is when your period stops permanently and your estrogen and progesterone levels go down. You are officially in menopause when you haven’t had your period for one year. The time leading up to the last menstrual cycle that we typically think of having hot flashes and other side effects is actually called perimenopause or the menopausal transition. This transition into menopause can happen anywhere from four to seven years before your last period, and after you’re in menopause, many symptoms can last for up to 14 years! Yowza! Menopause is an experience that all menstruating people will have, and it takes up a good portion of your life. 

Why does menopause affect sex drive?

Because of the changing hormone levels during menopause, your sexual desire and physical sexual experiences might change. Along with the more well-known symptoms of menopause such as mood swings, hot flashes, headaches, and forgetfulness, vaginal dryness can also lead to discomfort during penetrative sex. These hormonal changes, as well as the physical changes happening to the body, can lead to an overall decreased interest in penetrative sex. If you are still wanting to feel physically close and intimate with your partner, there are ways to do that even in menopause.

How else can you enjoy sex?

Open your mind as to what a physical, intimate experience with your partner (or yourself) can be. Penetrative sex is not the only option for pleasure. If penetrative sex no longer feels good due to lack of lubrication, try some other stuff. You can incorporate sex toys like a vibrator that stimulates the clitoris or the nipples or explore other erogenous zones such as the ears, the nipples, or behind the knees. You could read a sexy story together or give each other a sensual massage. Penetrative sex is not the only option, and exploring new ways of touching and pleasuring each other is an erotic experience that could bring you and your partner closer. 

Lubricants are great for menopausal sex

If you are wanting to experience penetrative sex, however, you can use lubricants right before inserting anything into the vagina or talk to your doctor about prescribed estrogen that will increase your vaginal lubrication over a period of several weeks. Lubricants can be found at any drug store and can be used at the moment of penetrative sex. Water-based lubricant is always best, as it is compatible with sex toys and condoms. If you’re wanting prescribed estrogen, visit your doctor and chat about it. 

This can make penetrative sex more enjoyable. You might notice after menopause though, that your body responds to touch a little differently. This is totally normal. Take your time, communicate with your partner, and don’t be afraid to use toys or other sexy items like erotica to turn yourself and your partner on. 

Some people have an increased sex drive after menopause once the risk of unwanted pregnancy is gone. Not everyone experiences a decrease in their interest in sexual activity. If you do though, talk to your doctor, talk to your partner, and get creative. Your body has changed during this time, so it’s natural if your sexual desires and activities change with it.

The vagina is a truly magnificent part of the body. Not only can it bring life into this world and then bounce back to its original shape, but it also is a self-cleaning organ. The vagina is lined with a thin layer of moisture that keeps the vaginal pH steady, preventing irritation/infection, and allowing sperm to become fertilized during procreative sex. This moisture is caused by estrogen, one of the female sex hormones. When estrogen levels decrease, the moisture in the vagina decreases as well, causing vaginal dryness.

What is vaginal dryness?

Vaginal dryness isn’t necessarily an unsafe condition, but it can be uncomfortable. Vaginal dryness can cause burning or itching, discomfort, as well as pain during or after intercourse. It can also cause bleeding after intercourse. Although vaginal dryness is a normal, natural part of life, pain during or after sex does not need to be. There are many ways to treat vaginal dryness and ensure you have a fun, pleasurable sex life. Vaginal dryness can also cause urinary tract infections.

How do hormones affect our vagina?

Estrogen levels lower naturally as we age, especially during menopause. One in three women experiences vaginal dryness as part of their menopause symptoms. Dropping estrogen levels can also be caused by childbirth, breastfeeding, excessive stress, rigorous exercise, some medication, as well as some cancer treatments. If you have a vagina, you will experience vaginal dryness at some point. It’s pretty common. If you do experience vaginal dryness and it is causing you UTIs, discomfort, or pain during sex, even a loss of interest in sex, talk to your doctor and find a treatment.

What type of lubricant should I use?

Over-the-counter lubricant can be an easy way to treat vaginal dryness during penis-in-vagina sex, or when inserting toys or fingers into the vagina. Water-based lubricant works best, as it is safe to use with condoms and all types of sex toys. Be sure to get a fragrance-free lubricant so you don’t cause any irritation to the vagina. Lube can be found at any grocery store or drug store, is fairly inexpensive, and can be used in the moment to treat vaginal dryness and make intercourse more pleasurable.

Other treatments for vaginal dryness

If you are wanting a long-term treatment for vaginal dryness, or are having issues outside of discomfort during sex, you can take estrogen to increase the moisture your vagina is naturally producing. You can take an estrogen pill that will also help treat any other menopausal symptoms, insert a cream into the vagina, or use an estrogen ring, also inserted into the vagina. Your doctor inserts the ring into the vagina, and it releases estrogen into the body. Similar to the ring birth control, it needs to be replaced every three weeks. The cream is also inserted once or twice a week, then can be decreased over time and used as needed. 

Although vaginal dryness is a normal, natural part of aging or experiencing life, being in pain is not. Use lubricant or talk to your doctor to find a treatment that makes you and your body feel good.