WHEELING - From puberty to post-menopause, women face challenges for sexual wellness.
As girls mature and they experience physical changes, such as menstruation, it is important to arm them with proper information toward good sexual health.
Dr. George Jirak, gynecologist with Ohio Valley Medical Center, agrees that a woman's sexual health begins well before she is sexually active.
"Sexual health relates to all the anatomic and physiologic changes that occur to eventually result in reproductive capability. Prior to menstruation, the young girl goes through progressive changes involving multiple areas of her body including fat distribution, progressive breast development, and distribution of female hair growth," Jirak explained.
"This culminates in the beginning of menses or menarche. This is influenced by multiple hormones the primary being estrogen. Problems with nutrition and genetic disorders can effect this normal progression to influence sexual health in a negative way."
A healthy diet as a child can lead to a healthier woman during her child-bearing years. Today's gynecologists also stress the importance of having young girls and boys vaccinated against the Human Papilloma viruses.
"This is very important. It has been found that cancer of the cervix and genital warts are caused by a number of 'high risk' viral types within the grouping of Human Papilloma viruses. The virus has been found to be present in up to 60 percent of men and women in their 20s," Jirak noted. "The virus is sexually transmitted so vaccination of girls and boys prior to sexual activity should result in a reduction of these infections and therefore reduce the number of cervical cancer cases."
As women mature and become sexually active, sexually-transmitted diseases remain a threat even late into women's lives.
"With sexual activity, sexually-transmitted diseases can occur at any age and older women are not exempt. This is primarily an issue for women who may have more than one sexual partner, partner has more sexual partners, or they had recently changed partners. Use of condoms helps with protecting against sexually transmitted diseases but may not prevent against the HPV virus," Jirak added.