22 Feb Heart Your Parts
Last week was sexual and reproductive health awareness week. For those of us, like myself, who are excited by all things sexual reproductive health related, this was a week to be celebrated. However, as a sexual health lover I do realize that not everyone shares by passion or enthusiasm for this very exciting time of year. While I think the messaging and intent behind “heart your parts” is very sex positive, I do appreciate that not all of us are in a position to heart our parts; so at the very least, my intent in writing this small piece is to talk briefly about how we can take care of our parts! First things first, let’s name them. I am talking about vulvas, vaginas, breasts, penises and testicles! Regardless of gender or sexual expression taking care of our parts is integral to our overall health and wellness experience.
Here are a few keys to taking care of your parts
For those of us with vulvas, vaginas, cervixes and the like, it is important to get regular pelvic exams and pap tests from a health care provider. Best practice guidelines recommends doing this by age 25 and then having one every 3 years to monitor changes. It can also be recommended once a person becomes sexually active and this does not have to mean penetrative intercourse only. Ensure that if you experience any pain, discomfort, itching, bumps, sores or see changes in vaginal fluids that you touch base with a health care provider. If sexually active use caution and practice safer sex. Health care providers can test for Sexually Transmitted Infections when going in for a PAP test, but might not automatically, so if you want to be tested ensure that you are asking to be!
For those with penises and testes: practicing regular testicular exams is something that is recommended to start by age 15. If you ever notice swelling, pain in either the scrotum or penis make sure to see a health care provider. As well, if you ever notice bumps or sores or some penile fluid or discharge coming from the penis this can also be a good time to see a health care provider. Again, if you are sexually active it is also a good idea to get regular STI testing to ensure that you and your reproductive parts stay healthy!
Beyond just “taking care of our parts” in a medical sense, there is a lot we can do to take care of our parts in a wellness sense as well. I work with all different types of clients who experience varying degrees of emotional reactions to their “parts”. This can be seen in clients dealing with vaginismus, anorgasmia, erectile dysfunction, rapid ejaculation, varying degrees of gender(ed) expression; reaction to sexual abuse, and body image concerns among others. Therapy can be a helpful venue for people to explore their relationship to their body, gather psycho and sexual education and gain a sense of empowerment and deeper connection to self. So, in the spirit of keeping our enthusiasm alive in the realm of sexual and reproductive health I wish you a happy, healthy and empowered journey on the path to knowing and taking care of all your parts.
Bliss Specialist Jess Crowe