9 Habits That Could Be Hurting Your Sexual & Reproductive Health

Aug 9, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. ET
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Women are constantly being bombarded with health and sex advice (including by us), but not all of it is helpful. But here are a few everyday habits that you might want to reconsider given their possible impact on your sexual and reproductive health. We talked to top OB-GYNs to get their take on the major key players preventing you from being healthy.

Binging on porn

Although you would think pornography would spice things up, Dr. Brandye Manigat, OB-GYN and libido coach, says it can actually cause more problems than it solves. “If you’re watching it alone, it’s often in secret, and that creates feelings of shame and isolation, which makes it hard to connect with your partner,” she adds. “If you’re watching together, your partner may feel intimidated by the actors on screen — how they look, what they’re doing — and feel pressured to look or act a certain way.”

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Getting sex advice from rappers

A song by Nicki Minaj has caused a dangerous trend: anal intercourse immediately followed by vaginal intercourse to create "truffle butter." Manigat warns that this introducing bacteria from the intestines into the vagina is a surefire way to get an infection. If you engage in anal sex, she recommends you and your partner shower or at least rinse off your private areas before having vaginal intercourse. Bottom line: Be careful who and what you imitate because it could land you in the hospital.

Having sex without a condom

You’ve probably heard this enough times to be blue in the face, but OB-GYNs cannot express it enough. “I have a surprising number of older and younger women who do not use condoms when starting a new sexual relationship,” says Dr. Kameelah Phillips, an OB-GYN in New York City, adding that "if both of you aren’t tested for STDs prior to sex or are not monogamous, you’re gambling with your health.” She also points out that one episode of unprotected sex can lead to gonorrhea, chlamydia and pelvic inflammatory disease. Have a plan to discuss condom use or wait.

Ignoring your body’s alerts

“Pain is a universal signal that something is wrong in the body,” says Phillips. “Pain during or after sex is not normal, so you should see your health care provider as soon as possible to find out what is wrong.” It may be as simple as a yeast infection that’s easily treated with a prescription pill or cream, but it could be something more serious, such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids, which may require surgery to treat and should be caught early.

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It’s no surprise that smoking is bad news for your health, teeth, breath and just about everything else. And it can also have an impact on your reproductive health. “Smoking causes wrinkles, discolors your teeth, and it can make it harder for the sperm and egg to get together and reach the uterus, leading to an ectopic pregnancy, a medical emergency,” says Manigat.

And the same goes for e-cigarettes. “The toxins in e-cigs accumulate in fluid around your precious eggs and sperm cells and can cause irreversible DNA damage to eggs,” adds Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, San Francisco-based fertility specialist.

Drinking too much caffeine

Your morning cup of joe might get you up and running in the morning, but be careful not to also indulge in too many afternoon cups. “We know that moderate caffeine consumption (less than 200 milligrams a day) was thought to be a contributing factor in miscarriages and preterm labor,” explains Dr. Sherry Ross, an OB-GYN and women’s health expert in Santa Monica, California, and author of She-ology. “The good news for coffee drinkers is that studies currently do not show that moderate caffeine consumption will lead to an increased miscarriage rate or affect your chance of conceiving.” She suggests limiting your caffeine intake to one or two cups of coffee or tea a day and keeping tabs on how much caffeine is contained in the foods you eat as well.

Skipping out on exercising

“Many women believe that if they are trying to conceive they should stop exercising,” says Eyvazzadeh. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Both the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 150 minutes of exercise per week in pregnancy. So don’t stop moving, but do remember not to overdo it either. “Exercising too much can cause an irreversible stop to your periods,” Eyvazzadeh adds. “Approximately 20 percent of extreme athletes (elite athletes included) may not have resumption of their periods after they slow down their exercise routine.”

Overloading on medication

Supplements can be great additions to your diet and fill the voids of any nutrients you might be missing. But there is such a thing as going overboard. “Certain medications you might be taking could be teratogenic, or harmful to the embryo during the early stages of conception,” says Ross. “Some include Rogaine (minoxidil), which is commonly used for hair loss and can affect the quality of sperm, and prescription acne drugs such as Accutane and tetracycline, which both pose potential harmful effects to the developing embryo.”

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Using drugs of any kind

Surprisingly, substance abuse is one of the leading causes of complications during pregnancy. “These drugs contain chemicals that are harmful during the pre-planning period and pregnancy,” says Ross.  “They have byproducts that are found in the vaginal fluids, affect the quality of sperm and ultimately the ability for the egg and sperm to fertilize.” And marijuana, though recreational and legal in some states, is no exception. “Marijuana-smoking makes the sperm hyperactive and less fertile and increases the risk of spontaneous miscarriage and possibly an ectopic pregnancy in women.”

By Jenn Sinrich

Originally published on HelloFlo.