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5 Reproductive Health Issues We Need to Talk About in 2020

From access to contraception to severe menstruation pain, discussing relevant reproductive issues is essential for our sexual health and wellness. As education, awareness, research and attitudes progress, it’s also important to stay up to date on the most recent guidelines.

Wondering what’s new in the world of reproductive health topics in 2020? Here are five to know about:

1. Birth Control Has Become More Widely Available

For years, physicians and lawmakers have pushed policies that help prevent unintended pregnancies. One of the best methods for pregnancy prevention — contraception — has become even more widely available both nationally and internationally. Through the work of organizations like the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), people around the world have access to assistance with family planning. 

Beyond having access to contraception, women also need to be educated about birth control and their options for usage. Obstetrician-gynecologists and other reproductive health experts want to make certain that women are undergoing proper screenings too, as “the pill” or an IUD don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and other reproductive health-related conditions.

2. The Rates of HPV Have Increased

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is so common that “nearly all sexually active men and women get the virus at some point in their lives, ” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although there is no cure for this virus, only a few strains of it are harmful out of the over 40 types of HPV. For those infected with HPV, it’s important to discuss with your doctor which type you have and whether that puts you at an increased risk for cervical cancer or genital warts.

Of course, given the increased prevalence of this  virus, it’s even more vital to use proper protection. Again, anyone who’s sexually active also should be screened regularly for STDs.

3. The Education and Screening for Endometriosis Is Improving

In 2020, there will be an even greater push to make sure the diagnostic problems surrounding endometriosis are being addressed. Unfortunately, research has shown that endometriosis often goes undetected because women’s reports of pain and other symptoms aren’t taken seriously. In some cases, women also diminish their own pain and falsely believe that everyone must go through this. 

Endometriosis occurs when tissue starts to grow outside of the uterus on the ovaries, fallopian tubes or other areas near the uterus, such as the bowel or bladder. These growths lead to painful periods, pelvic pain between periods and/or pain with sex. In the past,  it took up to 10 years on average for women to receive a diagnosis of endometriosis. Now, groups such as the World Endometriosis Organization are working with the medical community and policy-makers to ensure that physicians have a greater understanding of how to screen for this condition. 

4. Women’s Pain Still Isn’t Taken Seriously Enough 

Endometriosis isn’t the only gynecological condition that can cause severe pain. Certain menstrual disorders, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) or fibroids, also can  affect a woman’s quality of life. Sometimes these conditions may go unnoticed because of the subjective nature of pain, yes, but research shows that women’s pain is taken less seriously. Women’s physical symptoms also may be dismissed as being the result of emotions, leading to less effective treatment.

While the medical community is systematically trying to address this issue, there are a few things that women can keep in mind. For instance, going through a bottle of ibuprofen in a week and missing work during your period is not normal. If you have to regularly reschedule social activities due to pain, you may be suffering from a reproductive health issue. So, it’s important to meet with a gynecologist and ask specific questions. By taking control of your own health, you’re more likely to receive the treatment you need.

5. Products Targeting Women’s “Vaginal Health” Often Are Unnecessary 

In recent years, there’s been a proliferation of vaginal health products. From spritzes to washes and wipes, companies are trying to convince women that the vagina needs to be cleaned all the time. Yet, there is no evidence that women need these products. In fact, the Office of Women’s Health (OWH) strongly advises against douching, a custom that became popular after companies started stocking douche products in stores across the U.S.  

While douches and similar products may claim to benefit women’s intimate areas,  some of these relatively unregulated products could potentially cause harm. Instead, it’s best to let your vagina clean itself. For those who are concerned about their vaginal health, there’s no need for embarrassment! By getting the right information through your healthcare provider, you’ll feel empowered to make safe and educated decisions about the products you use.

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