Every human lives entirely in their bodies, however, women experience an utter lack of education regarding their own body and its functions.
There is no solid confirmed reason for this downfall. The Society for Women’s Health explains that historically, women were excluded from medical research and medical trials as their menstrual cycles were deemed too complex and the possibility of harming potential future pregnancies and fertility was enough to deter researchers.
Alternatively, we can examine societal issues. Women’s bodies are taboo. Historically, a woman’s body is meant to be the property of her husband and the functions of a female body is seen as grotesque and something to be hidden.
Generations of little to no research on the functions of the female body has created a modern culture of shame and misconstrued ideas of how a woman’s body works. Luckily, today there is more research and plenty of women working to lessen the shame and embarrassment women often experience when pursuing answers.
Shame regarding the well-being of your own body can be a detriment to how people pursue help. It is no surprise that myths and fears become the way in which women take control. Some myths are well meant and some are simply the product of fear and lack of research surrounding the way of women’s health. The best way to stay in control of your body is to understand it.
Cranberry juice cures urinary tract infections (UTIs): Contrary to popular belief, cranberry juice cannot cure a UTI by itself. The national library of medicine says “that cranberry-based products intake can significantly reduce the incidence of UTIs in susceptible populations.” Meaning that the vitamins and antioxidants that are in cranberry products can help prevent the build up of bacteria that causes the excessive peeing and burning that accompanies a UTI, however it cannot cure it alone. UTIs occur for a number of reasons and can often be treated at home with over-the-counter medicines like “Azo”, which can be found in most grocery stores in Idaho. Peeing after sexual intercourse, using gentle cleansers and wearing loose cotton underwear can all help your vaginal health and prevent UTIs.
I have no sexually transmitted infection symptoms so I’m in the clear: No. Let’s avoid the stigma around sex first, if you are having unprotected sex with multiple people and you are unsure if they are doing the same, routinely get yourself checked. Sexually transmitted diseases and infections can have no symptoms at first. Chlamydia and gonorrhea (both extremely treatable) have similar symptoms for simple conditions such as a yeast infection or UTI. There is no shame in keeping yourself healthy and going for routine STD screenings.
Plan B is an abortion pill: Not at all. Plan B is the brand name for a drug called “levonorgestrel”, a large dose of synthetic hormones that can stop the ovulation process (The egg dropping into the uterus). If unprotected sex occurs while a woman is ovulating, this option may not be suitable to prevent a pregnancy. Levonorgestrel is a safe over-the-counter drug that can be bought in pharmacies and grocery stores across Idaho. Alternatively, off-brand levonorgestrel can be purchased on Amazon for a fraction of the price.
Plan B can only be taken a certain amount of times before it impacts my fertility: Emergency contraceptives such as Plan B will not impact your fertility. The National Library of Medicine confirms that emergency contraceptives may alter period cycles and create an unpleasant feeling (nausea and vomiting), but research suggests it will not harm you long term. Levonorgestrel is actually one of the main ingredients in most birth control pills, and has been taken routinely by women for over 35 years. Phoebe Uricchio, family nurse practitioner at Boise State health services says, “Plan B affects everybody differently. It can be a little bit rough on your body as it’s kind of a hefty dose of hormones… but it’s perfectly safe.”
Plan B works the same for everyone: Unfortunately no, emergency contraceptives such as Plan B work best for women under 165 pounds. Planned Parenthood suggests another emergency contraceptive named “Ella” that works for women under 195 pounds. Emergency contraceptives should be used sparingly and other birth control methods (condoms, IUDs, the pill) are strongly recommended. Emergency contraceptives do not always work for everyone. Uricchio at Boise State Health Services says, “We do all forms of birth control, we do IUDs, we do the arm implant… and we’re all insurance based here.” Meaning Boise State students can get access to birth control here on campus, just call (208) 426-1459 to make an appointment.
Periods are supposed to be painful: Breast tenderness, body aches and cramps are all normal symptoms of a period. But debilitating cramps that last longer than 1-2 days is not normal. It is beyond important for women to pursue help if extreme symptoms persist. Extremely painful periods may be a sign of endometriosis, an extremely common and treatable condition.
I can’t get pregnant if I have sex when I am not ovulating: It is a great idea to keep track of one’s ovulation and hormonal cycle. Knowing when you are and aren’t ovulating is a helpful way of both being in tune with your hormones and knowing when you are most fertile. However, the Mayo Clinic reports that “Ejaculated sperm remain viable for several days within the female reproductive tract. Fertilization is possible as long as the sperm remains alive — up to five days.” Meaning it is possible to get pregnant even if you are not ovulating. It is always best to be safe and take necessary precautions with condoms or your preferred form of birth control.
I have to be 21 to go to a gynecologist: Not at all. Mayo Clinic suggests that pap smears are recommended when a woman turns 21. However when a woman becomes sexually active, it is best to begin seeing a gynecologist. Gynecologists specialize specifically in women’s reproductive health, Boise State Health Services offers full gynecological services. If you fear something is not right with your body, do not hesitate to get the help you need.
My period tracker is selling my information: Some period tracker apps do sell user information. These tricky details are often hidden within the neglected privacy policies. With abortion now illegal in 8 states, including Idaho, there are fears that information from these apps could be used in a legal prosecution. A New York Times article explains past prosecutions that did not rely on information from period tracking apps, instead they used text messages, search histories and website visitation records. The information from a period tracking app is miniscule compared to all the other available information within your cell phone.
What is true about the laws regarding reproductive rights?
We live in an extremely fast-paced world. It seems everyday there is a new law and new fears surrounding the choices women can make. With the grasp social media has on the modern age and the sources in which people receive their information varies greatly, it’s easy to listen to the loudest and scariest voices.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade recognized that the decision whether to continue or end a pregnancy belongs to the woman, not the government. In June 2022, the U.S. The Supreme Court overturned that decision.
Abortion at any stage is completely illegal in the state of Idaho. Some women fear that new laws and bills in the state of Idaho make it illegal to leave the state for an abortion. However, that is not true.
House Bill 242 restricts aiding a minor in getting an abortion. Being over 18 and seeking an abortion on your own is not a crime.
“It is 100% legal to access abortion care in Oregon and Washington,” says Mack Smith, Communication Director of the Planned Parenthood, located in Meridian, ID. “There are many barriers that could make it difficult for a pregnant person to travel to another state for an abortion including cost, transportation, health concerns, etc. For those who are interested in getting an abortion out of state, but may feel it is out of reach for any of those reasons, there are resources for you including the Northwest Abortion Access Fund.”
“Our society has created so much shame around abortion…it’s not always a choice for somebody,”Kimra Luna, full spectrum doula and founder of Idaho Abortion Rights said.
Idaho Abortion Rights is a great resource for more than just abortions. They offer educational courses, access to birth control and a no shame environment dedicated to helping women.
Where can I get help?
There can be so much fear for women regarding the health of their bodies in this day and age. Fortunately, there is also help and compassion hiding in the shadows of all the scary parts of today.
Boise State Health Services is a wonderful hub of information and help for all Boise State students. Students can get birth control, STD tests and gynecological appointments all on campus.
Students can also get over the counter birth control pills at the Health Services dispensary. It can be paid for in cash and kept private if need be. Health Services also has all female medical providers. While that is not done on purpose, it can create a sense of safety and vulnerability for female students seeking help.
“Just come and ask questions anytime like no question is off limits,” Uricchio said. “I just don’t want anyone to ever be afraid to come ask…if you’re concerned about anything, or you want prevention services or anything, it’s always okay.”
Planned Parenthood health centers offer a wide range of services including birth control, STD/STI testing and treatment, pregnancy testing, cancer screenings and sex education. All Planned Parenthood centers are committed to providing services at the lowest possible cost and to ensuring that financial concerns are not a barrier to necessary health care, and some may offer free services. Students with questions can reach out to the Planned Parenthood patient access center at 1-800-230-7526.
Idaho Abortion Rights also offers a multitude of services. They leave condoms, emergency contraceptives and pregnancy tests all around Boise. Including the Flying M and Flying Pie pizzeria.
Womens health is not something to feel apprehensive about. At the end of the day it is your body and your responsibility to make sure you understand it and know where to get the help you need. Education surrounding the female body has failed women, but there is opportunity to correct that and take control of it.