5 things you might not know about 'down-there' healthcare

We're all aware of the need to stay healthy, but how much attention do you pay to "down there?" Whatever you call it, Dr Anita Mitra - AKA the "Gynae Geek" - thinks it's time we knew more about how our bodies work.

She joined the Fit and Fearless podcast crew - Tally, Vic and Zanna, to explain more.

1. Lifestyle factors can affect your periods

Things like stress and over-exercising can make your periods heavier, lighter, or disappear altogether.

Dr Mitra says: “If your body is so stressed and you’re training so hard that you’re not having a period, one of the concerns is that you’re not producing very much oestrogen. And oestrogen isn’t just for our gynaecological health; it makes your bones really strong.

“So while you’re not having your period, you’re not feeding your bones, you’re not strengthening your bones.”

The team suggests dialing back your exercise, or doing lower intensity workouts a few times a week instead of intense training seven days a week. They also recommend making sure you’re eating and sleeping enough to stay healthy.

2. Cycles aren’t exact

It’s a popular belief that it’s “normal” to have a 28-day cycle – this is actually an average.

“Probably only about 1 in 10 women have a 28 day cycle.” Dr Mitra says. “A regular cycle would be anything where you can kind of predict and it happens within about ten days. So you’ve got a pretty decent idea of when it’s gonna happen.”

3. Your progesterone levels cause PMS

Your hormone levels rise and fall in different parts of your cycle – and right before your period, your progesterone peaks, which will cause a lot of the symptoms you might have, like bigger or sore breasts, headaches or nausea.

“Progesterone is pro-gestation hormone, so pro-pregnancy hormone. So basically, it’s what you have when you’re pregnant, so during that phase towards your period you’ve got lots of progesterone so you’re getting a lot of water retention, that makes your boobs really big, some people get really bloated, get like IBS-type symptoms. So yeah, it’s all due to the different hormones, at the different time of your cycle.”

4. Discharge is completely normal

Dr. Mitra says discharge is absolutely normal – but you should pay attention to what your body does when you’re healthy, so you know when things don't look quite right.

“Something that I see a lot is people being really anxious about having vaginal discharge… your discharge will change throughout the month because it changes according to what your hormones are doing.”

Dr Mitra explains that your discharge changes throughout the months, depending on your hormone levels at the time, but that if your discharge changes significantly, you should seek medical advice.

“So before you can start to work out what’s going wrong, you need to work out what’s normal for you.”

5. Women need more body fat

Ever wondered why women might have a higher body fat percentage than men? Dr Mitra explains that this is completely normal.

“Female hormones are made of fat. They’re made from cholesterol… that’s where your hormones come from.”

Women need a higher percentage of body fat to sustain their gynaecological health and to protect their vital organs. Oestrogen is made in fat tissue, and so low fat diets can mean your menstrual cycle is affected.

“If you’re not giving your body the ingredients, they can’t make the goods. It’s just simple, really.”

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