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DO stop believin' – Top 10 women's health myths

Your sister swears by it. But can cranberry juice really prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs)? Here are the facts about this and other women’s health myths we should all stop believing.

1. Cranberry juice can prevent or cure urinary tract infections (UTIs). Cranberry juice contains substances that can prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall, but it does not contain enough of these substances to make any difference. Most UTIs are treated with antibiotics, and there can be serious complications if a UTI is not treated promptly.

What to do: Read these tips to prevent UTIs. If you have symptoms of a UTI, see your provider or schedule an online visit.

2. You can’t get pregnant when you are nursing. Although you may not ovulate for several months after giving birth, breastfeeding your baby does not guarantee that you won’t get pregnant. You likely won’t know when you start ovulating again, and your period won’t show up until about two weeks after you’ve ovulated.

What to do: If you don’t want to get pregnant, use reliable birth control every time you have sex.

3. Yogurt can treat a yeast infection. While eating yogurt is good for your digestive tract, it doesn’t affect your vagina – even if you apply it to your vagina. The type of lactobacillus bacteria in yogurt (acidophilus) is different from what is in your vagina. It won’t kill off the yeast or produce more of the “good” bacteria that your vagina needs.

What to do: Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter medicines. See your health care provider if you get frequent yeast infections.

4. Breast cancer usually occurs when you have a family history. Women whose close relatives have had breast cancer are at a higher risk, but about 75 percent of women with breast cancer have no family history.

What to do: Follow your provider’s recommendations for mammograms and breast exams. Reduce the risk of breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, being active and consuming no more than one alcoholic beverage a day.

5. Only men get heart disease. Women may be diagnosed with heart disease a bit later in life than men, but one in three women in the United States will die from the disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death for women.

What to do: Work with your health care provider to track your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, maintain a healthy weight, eat a heart healthy diet and be active.

6. Miscarriages are caused by stress or lifting a heavy object. Most miscarriages occur because of genetic abnormalities in the embryo and are not the result of anything you did or did not do. Other causes of miscarriage include chronic health conditions like diabetes, physical disorders affecting the reproductive system, and lifestyle habits like alcohol use during pregnancy.

What to do: When considering pregnancy, talk to your health care provider to review your medical history and discuss what you can do to help ensure a healthy pregnancy. But remember that even if you do everything “right,” you may not be able to prevent a miscarriage.

7. Drinking alcohol helps you sleep. Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but it disrupts your sleep later. The more alcohol you consume, the more pronounced this effect.

What to do: For optimum health in addition to good sleep, women should limit alcohol consumption to one drink a day.

8. A breast injury, like falling or getting hit, can cause breast cancer. Breast injuries don’t cause breast cancer. An injury may cause tenderness, swelling or bruising. Occasionally, scar tissue that is not cancerous may form at the site of an injury, and it may feel like a lump or swelling.

What to do: If you have breast pain or tenderness not associated with an injury or your monthly cycle, or if you notice a breast lump, talk to your provider.

9. Cellulite is fat. Cellulite, which is the appearance of lumpy, dimpled skin on the thighs, abdomen or other areas, is the connective tissue between fat cells. Weight gain may make it more noticeable, but women of all shapes and sizes can have cellulite.

What to do: Stay active and maintain a healthy weight, but recognize that genetics may play the biggest role in whether you have cellulite.

10. Antibiotics can make the birth control pill less effective. The only antibiotic known to make the pill less effective is a special antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis. Other antibiotics do not make the pill less effective.

What to do: Some medicines can interact with the effectiveness of the pill, and the pill can increase or decrease the effectiveness of other medicines. Always tell your health provider that you are on the pill if a new medicine is prescribed for you.  

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