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Debunking Myths About Female Sexuality and Reproductive Health

Abundant myths, misperceptions and misinformation circulates as "common knowledge" when it comes to women's health. This is of such confusion and concern to women that ABC's popular morning show, "The View" asked Dr. Donnica to discuss this topic on air (10/15/04). Below is a summary of what Dr. Donnica had to say about debunking four of the more common myths about female sexuality and reproductive health.

One circulating myth is that most women can feel themselves ovulate. This is FALSE. . .although apr. 20% (1 in 5) of menstruating women can. A slight discomfort on one side or the other of your lower abdomen just before, during or just after ovulation may indicate a condition called "Mittelschmerz". There are several explanations for the cause of this pain. Just prior to ovulation, follicle growth may stretch the surface of the ovary, causing pain. At the time of ovulation, fluid or blood is released from the ruptured egg follicle and may cause irritation of the abdominal lining. Mittelschmerz pain or discomfort may be felt either side and this may vary from month to month. It is important to know that this pain is not harmful or severe and does not indicate that anything is "wrong". In fact, women who feel this pain may have an advantage if trying to conceive. This is NOT a reliable way to avoid conception, however. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. ibuprofen) may help relieve the pain. More serious one-sided pain should be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible. While most lower abdominal pain is not ovarian in nature, ovarian cysts and other conditions may certainly cause pain. Most causes of lower abdominal pain are not ovarian in origin however (e.g. appendicitis, endometriosis, many GI disorders, etc.).

Many women mistakenly think that they can't get pregnant if you have your period. This is false. In fact, a woman can conceivable get pregnant anytime she has heterosexual intercourse. While menstruation is the most unlikely time for pregnancy to occur in women who have regular period cycles, every 28-32 days, women who have irregular periods (especially prolonged), or cycles that are only 20-26 days, however, may get pregnant during menstruation for two reasons. First, sperm can live in the body for 3-5 days after intercourse. Second, a woman who has irregular or shorter cycles, can ovulate earlier than normal, or closer to the time of menstruation.

There are as many myths about pregnancy as about contraception. One popular myth about both is that you need to be off the pill for 3 months before getting pregnant. This is simply FALSE. While many doctors still reflexively make this recommendation, there is no basis for it.

Myths abound about female sexuality. Many of these myths are about the "G-spot", vaginal orgasms, and ejaculation. In fact, any statements of "fact" about any of these topics are FALSE. The fact is that each of these issues are very controversial. While many women--and sex researchers--testify to the fact that these phenomena all exist, the current consensus is first that we still haven't fully understood/elucidated female sexual anatomy or physiology. Next is that there probably is a variation in female sexual anatomy in which these phenomena occur in some women but not others. The G-spot or Grafenburg spot was identified in 1944. For many women, this is a highly sensitive, highly erotic "zone" located 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) inside the vagina on the front wall--easily reachable with a finger. Many women can feel a rough area distinct from the generally smooth and silky area like the rest of the vaginal wall.

Some women-- and some researchers--say that there is a female ejaculation that may occur when the G-spot is stimulated to the point of climax. Other experts claim this is nonsense, because an anatomically distinct area has not been consistently located on autopsy exams. The Skene's glands or paraurethral glands are located in this area and drain into the urethral opening--they are believed to produce the ejaculate, which has been shown to be similar to the secretions produced by the prostate. Viagra researchers have been frustrated trying to figure out why Viagra may have an effect in some women but not most. One study (Jannini 2002; Adult Urology) has identified a varying concentration of an enzyme targeted by Viagra (PDE5) in the G-spot area of women who respond to Viagra. He found that the Skene's glands were more prominent in some women and not identifiable in others. His research supports the theory of female ejaculation and vaginal orgasm in women who have prominent Skene's glands.

The question of whether vaginal orgasms exist independently of clitoral stimulation is also controversial: some women swear that they have vaginal orgasms during intercourse or during manual stimulation. Bottom line: who cares? If you do, enjoy it! If you don't, focus on clitoral stimulation or another erogenous zone.

Created: 10/25/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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