Here at Intimina, we’re more than comfortable with talking about periods, vaginas, and sex, but that’s not the case for everyone.
It’s understandable why. Much of the world avoids these subjects due to religious or moral beliefs, modesty, discomfort, lack of knowledge, or all of the above.
The thing is, reproductive health is just that – health, and it’s crucial for our well being that we become comfortable discussing it with ourselves, partners, our friends, possibly family, and for sure our health care providers.
First things first…
What is Reproductive Health?
Reproductive health is a broad term for any subject that relates to our reproductive organs during all life stages, including our vulva/vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, breasts/chest, and hormones or endocrine system.
Some topics that fall under the category of reproductive health are STIs and sexual wellness, disorders like endometriosis and PCOS, fertility and any outcome of pregnancy, postpartum care, cancer of the reproductive organs, contraception, menstruation, hormone regulation, and so much more.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, reproductive health “implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, the capability to reproduce, and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so”. You can expand this further to include people who are post-menopausal, and still very much in need of reproductive health care.
Now that we have an understanding of what it is, it’s important to understand why we need to normalize talking about reproductive health.
Education Creates Choice
Education around reproductive healthcare can take many different forms. There are so many online resources (including this blog), as well as sex educators on social media, and inclusive online sex-ed classes.
Education also means asking questions. Ask yourself, mentors, friends, and any family you feel comfortable with talking about these subjects.
The more knowledge you have around your reproductive health, the more choices you have in how you navigate it.
Unfortunately, your OB/GYN probably does not have the time to go over every last detail of your reproductive health, which is why it’s important to have these conversations, and get specific about what questions you may want to take to your provider. When you have more information going into an appointment, you are able to better advocate for yourself and ask more in-depth questions.
Not only does talking about it create choices, but it can also be life-saving. Disclosing any symptoms you’re experiencing to your provider, as well as discussing them with peers can help you pinpoint any red flags that could be a potentially life-threatening, or painful disorder.
Knowledge is Empowering
Our reproductive health is a huge part of who we are. Being sexual beings who menstruate every month, who choose whether you want to reproduce, or not – these are all incredibly intimate, yet normal, aspects of being in these human bodies.
The more we are able to comfortably discuss the blood, pains, and quirks that come with being alive, the more embodied we begin to feel.
Normalizing and educating ourselves on some of the most natural aspects of life, helps to deprogram any shame or uncertainty we have about our bodies. The more secure we feel in our bodies and talking about the ins and outs of how they work, the more secure we feel overall.
As difficult as it can be to start having these conversations, you’ll be surprised how quickly it may become totally normal to you. Which is an incredibly empowering feeling to have.
Here’s the thing, you’ll have to talk about your reproductive health at one point or another, so you may as well get used to it.
Of course, it isn’t always this simple, especially if you have any shame related to sexual wellness and reproductive health – which is totally normal – but it’s important to test your comfort zone, when it’s contextually appropriate to do so.
This will make it easier to talk to your healthcare providers about key issues.
If you choose to have children or already do, being comfortable with your own body will help to answer any questions they have. This naturally integrates what would be an uncomfortable “sex talk” into a normal non-cringeworthy conversation.
It’s also important to talk to your sexual partners about reproductive health. This means disclosing your STI status, and asking about theirs, discussing any other reproductive issues that may influence your sex life. Being candid about what’s going on with your body also just helps you to relax, and develop trust with your partner(s).
Not to mention, discussing STIs, helps to normalize them, and destigmatize any shame you may carry around them.
A Note on Inclusivity
Although genders outside of cis men and cis women are nothing new, there has been a growing conversation around transgender and gender non-binary people.
It’s important to understand the need for inclusivity in conversations on reproductive health. Transgender and non-binary people are all too often left out of the picture, and as a result, can feel isolated, or are not able to access safe, gender-affirming care.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.