30 Worst Women's Health Myths That Won't Die
Banish these beliefs and you'll experience heavenly health—for good.
Some women can go their entire lives believing things about their health that simply aren't true, and that's a shame. Before you continue using yogurt-covered tampons for yeast infections, stay away from breastfeeding in fear of hurting your breasts, or give up on sexual satisfaction because you think you're past your peak, take a look at these myths. You might be surprised about what the world always seems to get wrong. And to truly whip yourself into peak condition, be sure to check out the 100 Easy Ways to Be a (Much) Healthier Woman.
It's harder to get pregnant after 35.
If you're worried turning 35 means your chance of getting pregnant immediately plummets, don't. That fertility countdown is just a myth. Fertility does decline with age, but multiple studies have found those 35 and up can still easily get pregnant. One in particular conducted by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found 38- and 39-year-olds had no problem putting the bun in the oven naturally. And for more on pregnancy, check out these 20 Secrets Your Gynecologist Won't Tell You.
You can drink cranberry juice to cure a UTI.
Let's get one thing straight: urinary tract infections—better known as UTIs—are really super annoying. And they're also tricky to get rid of. Unfortunately, your go-to cranberry juice hack isn't going to get rid of it any faster, though. According to the Cleveland Clinic, there's no proof it's going to cure it. Even though cranberries do contain an ingredient that could prevent bacteria from causing the infection, there's not nearly enough of it in any juice or supplement to actually help.
You'll gain a ton of weight after menopause.
Menopause can seem terrifying in itself, but one aspect that has many women even more fearful? Thinking they're going to gain weight afterward due to all the hormonal changes. Good news, though: That's not the case. Any pounds that do creep on probably have a lot more to do with what's on your plate.
"Menopause isn't the same for every woman, so not everyone faces major changes in their shapes and body weights," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read it Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table "If your weight starts climbing and your clothing is starting to feel a little tighter around the middle, that might be a sign that you need to pay closer attention to portion sizes and perhaps step up your physical activity. Include a combo of aerobic and weight-bearing exercise to help you burn calories and keep your heart and bones strong." For more on menopause, check out 40 Things Every Woman Over 40 Needs To Know.
Skipping breakfast will make you gain weight.
Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day—just not because it's going to make you gain a ton of weight if you don't eat it. Although the myth has been around forever and many people claim skipping the hearty meal will make you overeat throughout the day, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Nutrition Science found that's just a myth. It really is a great way to get in all your servings and fruit and veggies, though, so eat it when you can but don't worry if you have to skip.
Doing ab exercises will get you abs.
Ahh, if only it was that easy. While working your butt off doing every ab exercise in the book seems like it might give you a six-pack over time, it's just a myth—and part of that just has to do with being a woman. The good news is abs don't equal happiness.
"However many crunches, sit-ups, or planks you do, ab definition will only show if you're watching your nutrition and focused on reducing your body fat to 20 percent or less," says Michelle Cady, integrative nutrition health coach of FitVista.com. "That said, why do it? Women are designed to have body fat within the 20 to 25 percent range for optimal health and hormonal production. So unless you're a fitness model, think about reassessing your obsession on abs. Eat and work out to be healthy and feel good and move your body with joy rather than just focusing on aesthetics." For more fitness inspiration, check out the 10 Essential Subreddits for Health-Minded People.
Lying on your back during sex will make it easier to get pregnant.
Pregnancy is one of those things that seems so easy for when people don't want to get pregnant and incredibly hard for those when they do. There's a longtime myth that lying on your back with your pelvis elevated during sex will help increase your chances of expanding your family, but unfortunately the technique isn't as reliable as it seems.
You're not alone in thinking so, though: a 2014 study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found 40 percent of women believe it made it easier to conceive, too, but the reality is gravity doesn't make it any easier for the sperm to get to your egg.
Green mucus means you're sick.
OK, maybe this is TMI, but how many times did your parents check your snot growing up? If it was clear, you were golden, but green meant something was wrong and it was time to go to the doctor. The funny thing is green mucus being a sign of a sinus infection is a total myth. According to Harvard Medical School, you can't rely on the color or consistency of your mucus to cue you in on if you have an infection or not. In fact, green mucus might mean nothing more than it's doing its job and protecting your body. If you're trying to avoid sickness, be sure to check out the 20 Ways to Never Get Sick at Work.
Your sex drive decreases as you get older.
If you think old age equates to a boring sex life, you're wrong. (And yes, being wrong has never felt so good.) While menopause can lead to changes in your sex drive, that's not a for-sure thing like people think. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some women actually have an increase in sexual satisfaction post-menopause, and that's not just because you'll no longer have to worry about accidentally having kids while you're shacking up.
Using birth control makes it harder to get pregnant later on.
Birth control is a lifesaver when trying to prevent pregnancy, but what happens when you get off of it? Many women believe years of use will make them less likely to be able to have children later on. Luckily, according to Planned Parenthood, that couldn't be further from the truth: When you stop using it, you can get pregnant just as easily as if you wouldn't have been on birth control in the first place. The difficulty just might come from getting older and closer to menopause—not from the pill itself.
Wearing bras cause breast cancer.
At some point in your life, you've probably heard how wearing a bra can cause breast cancer because of how they restrict your lymph system. According to the American Cancer Society, there's absolutely no evidence that backs that up and there's research to prove it. One 2014 study in particular looked at 1,500 women and saw nothing that linked the two, so wear a bra or don't—the choice is yours. If you're looking for other ways to decrease your risk, check out these 40 Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer After 40.
Too much sex causes the vagina to get bigger.
Despite what you've heard, having sex regularly doesn't cause your vagina to become "loose" or stretch out. When you're turned on, your vaginal muscles relax and loosen, which is a natural part of what makes sex feel good, says Psychology Today. But once you're done, things bounce right back to normal no matter how many times you hit the sack.
Using a yogurt-covered tampon can help with yeast infections.
Please don't put a yogurt-covered tampon anywhere near your body; it's not going to do you any good. You might have heard the myth that the good bacteria can cure a yeast infection, but gynecologist Lauren Streicher, MD, wrote the strain in yogurt isn't the same strain that helps keep your vagina healthy: "Soaking a tampon in yogurt and putting it in your vagina is nothing more than a waste of a perfectly good yogurt."
If you wear face makeup, there's no need for sunscreen.
Sorry, but your foundation and powder isn't going to protect you from getting skin cancer someday. It might seem like those layers are keeping you safe from the sun's harmful rays, but the truth is you can't skimp on sunscreen. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, sunscreen should always be your #1 protector because foundation only goes so far. For more advice on skincare, check out these 20 Things Your Dermatologist Won't Tell You.
It's possible for your period to sync up with your best friend's.
There's no better feeling than finding out your best friend and you have the same exact period schedule. You've probably heard all your hours spent together can sync up your flows. Unfortunately, it's not your hormones that are making you overlap.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, it has more to do with numbers: "Over time, a woman who has a three-week cycle and another who has a five-week cycle will eventually see their periods coincide and diverge again."
Reading in dim lights will mess up your eyesight.
Did you ever get in trouble for sneakily reading in dim lights past your bedtime? Your mom was concerned about you ruining your eyesight, but there's really nothing to worry about. (Yes, you can finally relax years later.) According to Harvard Medical School, it doesn't actually do any damage — it simply makes your eyes hurt due to tiring them out more quickly. Just get a quality reading light and you'll be good to go. For your next late-night read, check out the 40 Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf.
Women's bladders are smaller than men's.
Women might have to pee more often than men, but that has nothing to do with bladder size. An older study in International Commission on Radiological Protection found both genders have a bladder capacity of around 500 ml; the reason women rush off to the bathroom more frequently is because women's bladders push up against the uterus and fill up a little faster because of that added pressure.
Missing your period means you're pregnant.
Missing your period is a telltale sign you're pregnant, right? Not always. While it's one of the most well-known reasons, there are also plenty of other explanations why Aunt Flo doesn't always show up. According to the Mayo Clinic, other factors can also play into an irregular period, like high levels of stress, excessive exercise, or extreme weight loss.
Cold weather can make you catch a cold.
Just because you tend to catch more colds in the winter doesn't mean it has to do with the weather. It might be surprising, but through research, the Common Cold Unit found the real reason people tend to get sick more often in the cold weather is due to spending more time inside and within close proximity to each other. Those close quarters make it easier for viruses to spread and has nothing to do with the freezing temps.
Bladder leakage only happens to old people.
You might think bladder leakage is something that only happens to the elderly, whether that's peeing a little when you sneeze, cough, or are even exercising. That's just a myth, though: Roger Goldberg, MD, told Poise it's super common in younger women, too: "Stress incontinence affects nearly 50 percent of women who have had children by the age of 40."
Breastfeeding causes breast sagginess.
Some women forgo breastfeeding simply because they're afraid it's going to result in saggy breasts. In reality, it has nothing to do with the way your chest looks. A 2007 study from UK HealthCare Cosmetic Surgery Associates found it wasn't breastfeeding that changed the breasts' appearance—it was other factors like age, the number of pregnancies, and whether or not the participants smoked.
Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis later on in life.
Cracking your knuckles feels really good, but do you cringe a little every time you do it thinking you're setting yourself up for arthritis down the road? According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, there's no link between cracking your knuckles and arthritis, or even making them bigger, for that matter.
You have to drink eight glasses of water every day.
The whole eight-glasses-of-water-a-day rule has been around forever, but when it comes to hydrating your body, you don't necessarily have to focus on that number. The amount of water you should drink has more to do with how active you are, where you live, and your health, says the Mayo Clinic. And that doesn't all need to come from water; it can also come from the water in the foods you eat. Since location is a key factor in water consumption, check out The 25 U.S. Cities with the Best Drinking Water.
You can't get pregnant if you're on your period.
You might think you're in the clear to have unprotected sex during your period without the chance of getting pregnant, but be careful—that's just a myth. Because sperm can stay alive and kicking in your body for up to five days, there's still a chance that it can reach your egg while ovulating post-period. It's unlikely, but not impossible.
You don't need sunscreen in the winter.
The winter means lots of dark, dreary days ahead and that might seem like an obvious reason to skimp on the sunscreen: Less sun means there's no point, right? Wrong. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should be wearing sunscreen year-round; the sun's rays can cause damage to your skin on even the cloudiest days and snow actually reflects the light even more, increasing your need.
You're supposed to gain a bunch of weight during pregnancy.
Many women use pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever and whenever they want—you are eating for two, after all! Unfortunately for your appetite, you're not actually supposed to gain a ton of weight during pregnancy. According to the Cleveland Clinic, your baby only requires you to eat an extra 300 calories a day.
Talk to your doctor to figure out how much weight gain is healthy for your body in particular because packing on too many extra pounds can lead to problems like gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and issues for your baby. Looking for some baby name inspiration? Check out The 30 Best Pop Culture-Inspired Baby Names.
You shouldn't work out during your period.
Although it would be nice to have a scientific reason to avoid working out, your period isn't it. You might lose a little motivation during that time of the month, but there's nothing unhealthy about hitting the gym during your menstrual cycle. In fact, exercising has been shown to reduce cramp pains and boost your mood, says the Mayo Clinic. These are two major plusses when you're PMSing.
You don't have to worry about heart disease if you're a woman.
Even though you've probably heard you're less susceptible to having a heart attack than your male counterparts, that's unfortunately just a myth. Even though heart disease is thought to be more of a man's issue, the latest data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found it is actually the number one cause of death for women. Yeah, it's that common in ladies, even though it's not as talked about.
Deodorant causes breast cancer.
There has been plenty of debate about the link between breast cancer and deodorant or antiperspirants. Some scientists believe there's a connection because the potentially harmful ingredients they contain are applied right near the breasts, but the National Cancer Institute hasn't found any evidence that there's anything to worry about. But if you want to be cautious, start using natural formulas just in case.
Shaving will make your hair grow back thicker and more quickly.
If you still think shaving a certain part of your body makes your hair grow back much thicker and more quickly, erase the myth from your head ASAP. According to the Mayo Clinic, shaving doesn't change anything when it comes to your hair—not the coarseness, color, or rate of growth. Sure, it's going to feel a little thicker or look darker at first because it's growing back out, but absolutely nothing has changed.
Your sexual prime is at 35 years old.
Everyone always talks about being close to or past their sexual prime, but it's all a myth. The whole idea of a sexual prime is based off super-old, outdated research. Psychologist David Schnarch told the Huffington Post you actually have two peaks: One when you're young and your hormones first start kicking in, and the other when you're mature, sexually experienced, and super comfortable with yourself and your sexuality. And good news: Because of that, the sexual prime is most often reached when a woman is in her 40s, 50s, or 60s. For more sex content, check out these 30 Sizzling New Sex Games Every Couple Should Play.