The Happy Trail

A handy guide to self exams

Men and women have different sexual needs; the same is true of their sexual health. While taking care of your private parts may seem like a daunting task, with a little bit of information you’ll be well on your way to maintaining a healthy reproductive system inside as well as outside of the bedroom. Here’s a primer on taking care of your sexy bits.

For the ladies: Be sure to check your breasts monthly for signs of discoloration or possible lumps. While breast exams are now considered an optional part of your monthly sexual health routine, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Being familiar with what your breast tissue normally feels like can greatly increase your chances of catching lumps early if they do develop. If you’re interested in finding out how to conduct a self breast exam correctly, you can find easy-to-follow how-to guides on sites such as WebMd and Planned Parenthood, or you can stop by CHWS to get some guidance.

If you would like to keep your lady parts clean it’s best to simply use soap and water in the shower. Using douches or scented wipes can often disrupt the pH of your nether region and can lead to an increased risk of infection. If you notice any strange odors or discharge you should visit a doctor in order to discern if you have a urinary tract infection or yeast infection, especially if you have no prior experience with either.

Ways of preventing UTIs and yeast infections include wearing clean, loose, cotton underwear, drinking lots of water and unsweetened cranberry juice to flush out your urinary tract and eating yogurts with acidophilus bacteria that naturally regulate the production of yeast. UTIs often occur from contamination that happens during intercourse, so it’s important to always urinate after sex to clean out your urinary tract. Finally, if there is a possibility that a difference in odor or discharge could be related to a sexually transmitted infection—as in, you’ve had unprotected sex and are experiencing symptoms—stop by CHWS or Planned Parenthood for a STI test.

Annual visits to your gynecologist can often help prevent many serious ailments, regardless of your level of sexual activity. While it may be scary to expose yourself to a stranger, it’s important to remember that they are medical professionals who can provide valuable information regarding your sexual health, whether it be decreasing your susceptibility to disease or certain cancers or finding the method of family planning that best suits your needs.

Now, for the men: Things are a bit less complicated. Most of your sexual health needs should be taken care of during your yearly doctor’s visits where you should be getting screened for testicular, colon and prostate cancers. Men can get UTIs and yeast infections as well as women—although it is less common—so it’s important to visit your doctor if you are experiencing any painful urination or unusual discharge.

To prevent UTIs and yeast infections, drink lots of water or unsweetened cranberry juice, try to stay away from a high sugar diet and always, always, always urinate after intercourse. Once again, if you have had unprotected sex and are experiencing symptoms, a visit to CHWS or Planned Parenthood is a necessary step to take for your sexual health.

If you are having problems with erectile dysfunction, jock itch or premature ejaculation, these resources can also help you correct these problems and lead to a healthier sex life. Your birth control options are limited to celibacy, vasectomy or condoms, and if you would like to make an informed decision about your form of birth control or STI protection, your doctor is always the best resource.

Navigating the ins and outs of your sexuality is hard enough without having to worry about your physical health. If anything regarding your goodies doesn’t seem quite right, never hesitate to contact a medical professional. Your health comes first.