Let’s Talk About Down There with Dr. Jen Lincoln
“Don’t have sex. You will get pregnant — and die.” This line was delivered by a fictional high school coach in the movie Mean Girls, but it alludes to a real problem within the education system: that the vast majority of U.S. states don’t teach medically accurate or inclusive sex education. Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, an OBGYN and author, is trying to change that. Instead of scaring or shaming people, she’s meeting them where they are and setting the record straight, starting with the vulva. V invites Dr. Jen to answer all the necessary questions about periods, STIs, pubic hair, and vaginal emergencies. Plus, she gives a look at the lengths she’s had to go to educate, like planting books in libraries where talk of contraception and abortion is restricted.
Follow Dr. Jen on Twitter at @DrJenLincoln and at @drjenniferlincoln on Instagram and TikTok. And pick up Dr. Jen’s book, Let’s Talk About Down There, and check out her website on reproductive healthcare products.
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V Spehar, Jennifer Lincoln
V Spehar 00:04
Hello friends and welcome to what is going to be a particularly embarrassing episode for me, but it will be for the benefit of the masses. Today we’re going to be talking about vaginas, something you think I would be like much more secure with having owned one myself for 40 years, but no, still very much a mystery to me. And it can feel intimidating and embarrassing to ask about your body. But one TikTok account is making evidence based and myth busting facts accessible to all of her followers, she also happens to be a great friend of mine. This is the health class you wish you had in high school sex ed without the shame. Today, I am joined by Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, the author of let’s talk about down there, Jen, thank you for being here.
Jennifer Lincoln 00:48
Thank you for having me on, we’re gonna have fun talking about vaginas, it’s going to be okay.
V Spehar 00:54
Like you would think I would be like very comfortable with this as a fully grown adult woman who has been a lesbian, you know, since I was 18 years old, but no, still remains quite a mystery to me and to so many other people too. But I wanted to kind of get to know you a little bit. When did you know that you wanted to become an OB-GYN?
Jennifer Lincoln 01:13
I would say so first, I would backtrack and say don’t you feel bad, the majority of Americans have no idea what’s happening down there, whether or not we own a vagina or not. So you are in fantastic company. And that’s why I’m here doing what I do. And I would say, you know, I didn’t really know I wanted to be an OB-GYN until I was in medical school in the thick of it delivering babies during my rotations. I loved a little bit about everything. And that’s what OB is, it’s a little bit of clinic, a little bit of labor and delivery, a little bit of surgery. And really, I mean, so the way that you and I met was over, you know, advocacy and speaking up. And let’s be real the field of OB-GYN that’s like our jam because there’s so many issues right now with reproductive health. And so I love the ability to practice medicine, I knew I wanted to go into a field where I could fight for my patients and be there for some of the happiest times. So you know, when people think of what we do, they think of yeah, you’re delivering babies. But it’s also some of the saddest and the most tragic times. And, you know, it sounds weird, but I feel that I’m really good at helping my patients in the hardest of those times. And they need it because we’re in a country that’s historically marginalized birthing people. And we got to fight back. So yeah, super fun. No two days are the same. super messy, but I love it. And that’s why we’re here.
V Spehar 0:25
I was gonna ask, like, what is the average day, you know, at your job? Like you’re going in? Are you delivering, like 10? Babies? 15? One, two, like, what is it like?
Jennifer Lincoln 02:35
So I work currently as an OB hospitalist. So I only work on labor and delivery. And that’s a model that’s becoming more popular as we’re getting so sub specialized. So there are generalists who do a little bit of everything. There are people who specialize in GYN only stuff, cancer stuff, fertility. For me, it’s hospitalist medicine, so 12 hour shifts, no two days are the same. I work in one of the highest risk centers in my state. And so that means that if I ever get to do just a regular vaginal birth, I’m very like, something has to happen, right? Because my patients are always very sick, or very preterm, because we have a great model where our midwives do the majority of the low risk stuff, and we come in, we help our high risk doctors. So on our unit, we’re seen as the experts in the complicated stuff, we respond to all the emergencies. We’re adrenaline junkies, and I love it. And it’s yeah, it can be really fun. And you know, some days, yeah, we’re delivering 10 babies, and some days, we’re delivering no babies, but we’re working really hard to keep people from delivering their babies, which is sometimes very challenging. And so super fun. And yeah, I definitely have some gray hairs, but it’s all good.
V Spehar 03:43
So I got to know, I mean, growing up for me, if we were to go back, you know, to the origin of when we start to learn about our bodies, when we start to learn about the business of being born and all kinds of stuff. It was very limited education, it was kind of like, there’s this thing called Sex don’t have it, or you’ll die with it, or you’ll die or you’ll get pregnant or you’ll get AIDS or you’ll all these terrible things will happen to you. This was the product of going to school in the 90s. Everything was extremely scary, right? What was your sex education like growing up?
Jennifer Lincoln 04:18
Well, I would say it’s still that way. So the vast majority of our states are not providing medically accurate, comprehensive, inclusive, culturally appropriate sex education, which is a mouthful, but most of them are not doing a lot of it’s abstinence only. So my background was I went to Catholic school, all my life. My parents had me when they were my mom was 19, you know, teen pregnancy, and I think they were like, oh, my goodness, our daughter is going to do the same thing. So we have to scare the crap out of her. Enter Catholic school. And it was very much you know; you’ll go to hell and you’ll die and you’ll get pregnant and all the stuff that you mentioned. And it’s you know, once you have sex, you’re useless. Not just for like a religious standpoint, but just as your general worth as a female that you’re dirty. You’re used Stop, you’re the candy wrapper, you know, the chewed up piece of gum, and I bought into it hook line and sinker because I’m a rule follower only child, I was like, yes, I will be the best version, I can be like, you know, the song, the purity ring the whole thing. And I am not here to say that abstinence is bad, it’s great if that’s what you choose. But the problem is, is that education leaves you wholly unprepared. And that’s what happened to me went off to college, it’s like, I’m never gonna have sex, then I started having sex, I wasn’t protected, I had to go to the county clinic, yada, yada, yada. And now I’m here. And realizing that what happens when we don’t talk about these things is nobody knows what to do. They go online, there’s a bunch of garbage out there, or they internalize this complete feeling of shame. And that’s a lot of why we are where we are right now in a post real world. And for me, it was really, basically getting the full story and then being like, wait a minute, I don’t think what they’re saying is true. And yeah, it’s all ages, you know, and it’s still young people, older people who are saying, Yeah, I have no idea what works down there because we were never taught I mean, talking about the clitoris, please. That’s like, that’s just the place where sin happens. So, no.
V Spehar 04:19
That’s devil’s triangle. So when did you start making TikTok’s? When were you like, you know what, I’m going to make TikTok’s.
Jennifer Lincoln 04:38
I was so reluctant because I was making fun of all the doctors on TikTok. I was like, look at him, bless their hearts because I was on Instagram professionally. I don’t know maybe four years ago now. Because I love I love to write you know, I’ve got I minored in English I wrote for the newspaper. Like I love communicating complicated things and really easy to understand way is because mentally I joke I’m 16 years old, and I always will be. Maybe that’s because like, that’s where I was stunted. I was like, I never got anything past that in terms of education. So I’m always speaking to like the 15-16 year old version of myself. And I had some doctor friends who had jumped on TikTok before the pandemic, like when it was still just teenagers dancing and whatnot. And I resisted, I was like, there was no way a self-respecting physician is going to be on there. And they said, Jen, your entire audience is on TikTok. And I said, Okay, fine, I’ll try it. And I made my first one. And it was very lame. But it didn’t get through the censors. And I thought, it’s interesting. So I reposted it, I went to bed. And then I woke up and had over a million views overnight. And I thought, okay, there’s something here. And it was the simplest of things, the things that I was like, nobody’s going to want to hear about this, like, the color of your period, blood can be this, or here’s how birth control pills work stuff that I thought was so basic, but it is but people aren’t getting it. And it just took off from there. And then when the pandemic started, really shifted my content into related to COVID. And pregnancy, but it’s always, I always try to keep it very basic, because as we know, people of this age are using TikTok as a search engine. And so I’m hoping with the huge amount of garbage and misinformation out there, that they’ll stumble onto my stuff, and they’ll see my stuff, and they’ll trust it. And I think it’s working. I think so.
V Spehar 04:47
Yeah. I mean, you have like over 2.7 million followers, right? And there, it just shows me that there are just as many people wondering about their own bodies, as they are wondering about the news. And they can’t all be young people. I mean, your audience has to be pretty varied. Like, do you have it in sight? Who is your audience?
Jennifer Lincoln 08:05
Yeah, I would say so. It’s primarily now I’d say 18 to 35. I’m also on YouTube, where my audience is a little bit older, and a lot more male, which I find it very interesting, but I try to make my content here to learn, they’re here to learn, and a lot of them are currently the one that may be the one that’s done the best is just the clitoris, here’s what it is, here’s how, here’s how it works. To can understand this medical mystery, you know, and some of them are totally leave me terrible, disgusting comments, and others are like, thank you so much for like, you know, you can see they’re like taking notes. So I truly try to make my content for everybody. Because I believe that just like with sex ed, when we split it up into the guys and the girls, well, first of all, we’re forcing people into these categories. And second of all, like, you gotta know how the other one works do because you just might touch a penis one day, or you just might touch a vagina, and you might need to know. Yeah, and as soon as people see, show me what they need to hear about, like, that’s what I talk about. So right now, obviously, I’m talking a lot about abortion content and what’s happening in a post real world because people are coming to me and they’re like, What do I do, Jen? Or can I still get an abortion X, Y or Z? There’s just so much confusing stuff out there.
V Spehar 08:11
And you’ve gone beyond the TikTok to now you have a podcast, and we’re gonna get into the book next. But what made you start the podcast?
Jennifer Lincoln 09:19
So this podcast, which is it’s called, you know, let’s talk about down there tend to be my theme. I just wanted a better way to directly connect with people because I was getting all these questions. And I always say, Listen, none of this is direct medical advice, blah, blah, blah, disclaimer, but so it’s really fun. It’s people calling in and leaving their questions. So it’s like, I’m just chatting directly with them, and able to go a little bit deeper than like, you know, in a 32nd Tick Tock or just to chat in a different way. And my real goal overall is to show people that doctors are just like, you know, celebrities, they’re real people, so are doctors and I know there’s a lot of really bad ones out there, but there’s a lot of really good ones. And when people feel like they can just talk to their OBGYN bestie in a coffee shop about you No crampy periods or whatever, then you’re going to be more likely to be able to talk to your own healthcare provider, or let your friend know like, hey, I don’t think that’s normal. So I think it’s gonna be super fun. I’m with podcast nation, and I’m just, it’s just getting ramped up. We’ve got our trailer out now. And I’m so, I’m just so excited because I think public health is going to where your audiences are. And if people can consume this content in different platforms, then I’m here for it. And then it’ll make people less likely to feel ashamed when they need to talk about their own bodies.
V Spehar 10:28
And that is so important. And what a great companion to the book, which again, is let’s talk about down there, an OBGYN answers all your burning questions without making you feel embarrassed for asking. We’re going to take a quick little break. And when we get back, I am going to ask Jen some of the most embarrassing questions I may ever propose to a guest. Stick around for that.
V Spehar 11:02
Okay, we are back friends. And as promised, I’m going to modify myself so that you don’t have to, I’m going to ask all the questions that I have had about womanly things that maybe we should know, maybe we should, but you know what, it’s never too late to learn, we’re going to learn today. The book, again, is called Let’s Talk About down there and OBGYN answers all your burning questions without making you feel embarrassed for asking. This is a book, honestly, you could hand this to someone who’s 10 or 11. And it’s going to be helpful to them. And I wish that I had a lot of information. I came from very sex positive household, my mother was never embarrassed to talk to us about things, or about our period or whatever. And I remember her telling me when I was like, I was like, eight, because the first girl in my class, this girl, Leanne had gotten her period. And we were like 8.
Jennifer Lincoln 11:49
We always remember, mine was Cassandra. And she was 10. And I was horrified for her.
V Spehar 11:54
Gymnastics, I remember everything about it. And I thought that she just hit the bar too hard. And they were like, no, actually, you all need to go home and speak to your mothers. And I was like, oh, she got hurt. No, I was wrong. So I remember talking to my mom about it, and her sitting me down and trying to explain to me what a period was, why it was gonna happen where babies came from. And I was literally like eight or nine years old. And I did not want to hear this. And I did not get my period until I was 17. So for almost nine years, I was like waiting for this day to come. Right. And every single day could be that day and the anxiety I had from the first time I heard about what is the period at the time that I actually experienced it. I mean, that was a hard time. And so what I liked about this first chapter here is all of the questions that I had about how bad it was going to be or what it was going to be like, or was it gonna be terrible? Or was it gonna happen at my sweet 16 swimming party, it’s here. And do you find that a lot of kids have anxiety about when their periods gonna come?
Jennifer Lincoln 12:55
I think they do. And I will say, like, almost all these questions were either, you know, videos, questions I’ve gotten on TikTok, or things that I’ve heard, because I think, you know, this book, I call it a bathroom book, because you can like put it in the bathroom. You can read it over a couple times, because we’re in a generation where people don’t want to read, you know, 1200 pages. It’s Q&A based. It’s illustrated, because that’s how my brain works now. And so a lot of questions I got, you know, when am I going to know my periods going to come? What am I going to do? Because why? Because periods are seen as dirty and gross. And so if you let on your pants, oh, my god, like, you know, and navigating that so. So yeah, trying to give some information about here’s how you can be prepared. Like, I can’t tell you the exact day. But here’s some signs. And I can’t tell you how many times people parents are like, so what age is too young for a tampon? And my answer is the age that she says she doesn’t want to use one. And then when she does like, it’s all good, but there’s this obsession with tampons taking your virginity and I address in this book that virginity is completely a social construct. Some people blow you know, their minds are blown when I say that. But I say you know two women having sex and somebody’s never had sex with somebody who has a penis. I doubt they consider themselves virgin. So what is it about the insertion of a penis into a vagina that magically means that you’re no longer a virgin. So same thing with tampons. Menstrual cups are another thing that we’re not really around when I was getting my period.
V Spehar 14:13
Yeah. How’s that work, Jen? I never imagined like the pinch, push.
Jennifer Lincoln 14:20
It’s crazy But it’s so cool. And they’re worse. It works for some people, not for everybody. And you have to be comfortable, you know, get up in there. And there’s cups and there’s desks. And basically you fold them up and you use your fingers to kind of guide them in the vagina. And then they open up and they act as a physical container. Some people do great with them and absolutely love them. Others. It’s a bit of a learning curve. There’s a bunch of different kinds out there. And sometimes it’s just figuring out what works for you. What’s nice is they can be used for like up to 12 hours ad so they’re great for people who might not have access to a bathroom. And they’re you know, they’re really nice environmentally friendly. They’re not the answer for everything when it comes to period poverty, which is a whole issue in and of itself. And it means that you have had access to clean water, and all these things and not everybody does. So it’s just great to have choice.
V Spehar 15:05
You do mention in here because a lot of people have questions about this the color and the smell of period. does that indicate illness? Does it not? Is everybody’s just a little bit different?
Jennifer Lincoln 15:14
Yeah, I did not realize what a big deal this was V. And really, it came out of people who were trying to say that the color of your period was an indicator of your health, and therefore you needed to buy this supplement, because if it was this color and meant you were deficient in estrogen and this color you I’m not going to tell you because it’s all bullshit. So it is exactly what it is. So it’s normal to be bright red at the start of your period. And it gets darker over time because blood oxidizes in the uterus. And so when it’s sitting there longer exposed to oxygen comes out and can be a darker color. That’s literally
V Spehar 15:42
What about people whose periods are very painful?
Jennifer Lincoln 15:46
I think it’s a huge problem. And it’s part of the issue that we don’t really talk about period education. So you know, there’s this idea of, you’re this helpless damsel in distress during your period, right? You need ice packs and ibuprofen, and you’re on the couch, and you miss school for a couple of days. And unless you’re told that’s not normal, you go through your life like that. And what I tell people is, yeah, are you gonna feel it, maybe you’re not gonna feel your best on your period, like, this is the best day of my life. But if it’s making you miss work, or school, or you’re in so much pain, these are signs of things that could be endometriosis, fibroids, bleeding disorders, add no meiosis, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And you don’t need to live this way. Now, unfortunately, some people when they’ve gone to their health care provider, they’ve been told, well just take some Mitel, and you’ll be good. So I do not disagree that the medical industry as well has a role to play in this and that if you go in and you’re like, my life kind of sucks, and they blow you off. It’s time for another opinion, which I’m sorry, that’s happening. I’m hoping though that with you knowing what is normal, and what’s not that you’re able to advocate for yourself, but trust me, I get it. But the answer isn’t, you know, the flow, gummy vitamins, blah, blah, blah, or this powder, or this thing, because most of these are untested, unregulated, don’t have good data behind them, and you deserve like actual legit care. Just like if a guy went in and had erectile dysfunction, he might be given a drug that works very well. And you deserve the same thing.
V Spehar 17:05
Something that they I’m gonna put my sister on blast right now, my sister had terrible periods when she was a kid. They were like, well, they should put her on birth control. She was like 14, to try and help fix the period problems. Why would they put you on birth control if your period is painful, or irregular?
Jennifer Lincoln 17:23
So some of that can be something called primary dysmenorrhea, which is a fancy way for saying, there’s nothing else going on, really. And it’s just related to the sort of your cycles. And that can happen for a lot of teenagers, right? As they get started, it’s a lot of hormones to have a regular period, and your body really can take a year or two to really kind of get into it. And so birth control can help because it helps to suppress things and that you’re not ovulating, you’re not going through those ups and downs. And you are being able to control those symptoms, you’re not having this heavy bleeding a lot, a lot, a lot of misinformation about birth control is out there. And we know that there’s no you know, it’s not like you need to wait to be a certain age, if you are so miserable, and you need help managing your cycles, then birth control can be a great option. And there’s you know, there’s pluses and minuses, but it’s a medicine. And it’s one of the most well studied medicines we have out there. And what I like to say to people is, well, if you were diagnosed with type one diabetes, we wouldn’t withhold insulin from you. Because it’s synthetic, same thing goes for birth control. And it doesn’t mean that because a lot of people will say, well, it’s a bandaid, they’re not looking at the root cause, of course we should. And sometimes the root cause is that there, there are no causes. It’s just what we call primary dysmenorrhea. And we can help you feel better. A lot of people are afraid it’s gonna lead to infertility, lots of other things. And on my social medias, I’m consistently breaking down those myths, because every few months, it sort of flares up again. And it’s because some influencers, somebody’s put out bad information, and I’m like, okay, let’s get back to the data, the data, the data, is really important.
V Spehar 18:51
I have always had a lot of guy friends my whole life. And of course, I don’t expect that they understand things. But every so often they’ll say to you look, what are you on your period? What are you, PMSing? Is premenstrual syndrome, a real thing? Or this this other thing that you talked about in the book? PMDD?
Jennifer Lincoln 19:09
Yeah, PMS is real. And so as PMDD, which is premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which is like PMs on steroids, and it’s like PMS, plus, now you can’t go to work or you’re, you’re having such bad mental health side effects from the fluctuation in your hormones that you may have thoughts of suicidal ideation, or you may not feel that you can interact at work, you can get things done legitimate things, you don’t have to you don’t have to live that way. So yes, the symptoms are real. They’re called, you know, PMS is a bit more common than PMDD, thankfully, and they can all be addressed in certain ways.
V Spehar 19:40
Continuing to talk about just like period care. The other thing that I was taught when I was younger is like you can only use Ivory soap. If you use anything other than Ivory soap to wash, get down you’re gonna get an infection. You’re going to hurt yourself. You could potentially burn yourself. You could do any kind of thing like that. What kind of soap can you use? And how often should you be cleaning your vagina? Yeah,
Jennifer Lincoln 20:05
That’s a very common question. And I get it maybe every day in my DM. So yeah, so the goal is less, less is more and I love that you really sold, less is more. Because it’s a sensitive situation down there. You don’t want to go easy and some people. So I love that at least you were told to use, you know, a gentle soap as opposed to all the shenanigans because there’s so many washes out there right now. So people think that they need the Summer’s Eve violet blossom morning, honey, whatever.
V Spehar 20:32
Stuff reminds me of Lysol scares me so bad. I’ve never been interested in going for that.
Jennifer Lincoln 20:37
Did you know that one of the first douches was a Lysol douche.
V Spehar 20:40
No, Jen, I know nothing.
Jennifer Lincoln 20:43
Well, this is information you don’t need. But now at your next dinner party, you’re gonna throw this one out. Yeah, it was used and if you Google Lysol douche ad, which everybody should do right now, you will see this old newspaper out I think from the 50s or the 60s, which shows like, you know, this woman and this guy uninterested. And it’s like, you know, if your man is no longer interested or you’re frigid, it’s because you’re not taking care of down there. Like basically, it’s like, ladies you stink, here’s, here’s what you need to use. And really what it was being used for was before there was reliable birth control, it was sort of marketed this way. But it was the idea that this is how you don’t get pregnant. Doesn’t work. Please jump Lysol in your vagina anyhow back to the things you should be doing. Yeah, just you know, so water, just water is fine. So never anything internally. Unless I you know, I had a fantastic follower who corrected me, who was a trans person who had a new vagina surgically created. And she was like, no, no, you need to do it for that and was like, you’re absolutely right. But if you have what we call a native vagina, nothing should go in.
V Spehar 21:43
You don’t need to do that. Your body will take care of it. It does.
Jennifer Lincoln 21:49
We call it a self-cleaning oven, which to me is a very normal terminology. And other people are like, What did you just say? But yes, it normally is flushing things out. Even just douching with water can upset the natural balance of bacteria. So it’s seen as this benign thing and it’s really not. And then externally cleaning the vulva, you can just use water. If you feel like you need something a bit more, which is fine. I get it if you do like if you’re working out or if you have pubic hair and you feel like you sweat cool. And you want to really stick with things that have no fragrances ever. And cleansers are better than soaps because soaps can be very drying. So my favorite brands are Cetaphil, […] Vanicream, Free and Clear. Those are really great brands. And then if you want to soap like a dove unscented is okay. And some people do just fine with you know, with a soap or with something with a scent. So I always say like, Listen, do what feels right for you. But if you get a skin sensitivity, if you’re getting lots of infections, it couldn’t be what you’re using. And some people are like, Oh my God, that’s disgusting. I need to use something. Okay, fine, I get it. But sometimes what happens is you’re using these products, which is causing you to have abnormal discharge. And so it’s like a cycle. And so withdrawing it for a bit and seeing how you do can really help but less, less is more your vulva, she’s actually pretty low maintenance. It’s just that we make it complicated.
V Spehar 23:06
Is there something that your vagina can tell you as like an indicator of hey, I should go to the doctor, something that maybe is an unusual scent? Or is an unusual discharge? Like, is there something we should be looking for?
Jennifer Lincoln 23:18
Yeah, yeah. So if you’re discharged changes, and it’s causing any itching or burning or odor that’s different. People always want to know, like, the exact color that’s abnormal. And I’d say, you know, like a light white to light yellow can be normal. But if it’s different, if it’s green, or gray, or, you know, if you’re also noticing a lot of redness around the vulvar area where if you have any concerns, please come in and chat with us. I know it is so tempting to go to that aisle and get them on a stat. But we actually have really good studies that show that we’re really bad at self-diagnosing, and like myself included, it’s not just you know, it’s everybody. So if you’ve never had an infection, and you’re not sure what’s going on, come in and see us. I know that it’s hard to get in. I know it costs money, but we see people who try to self-manage for months, and by the time they come in, it’s like a hot mess. And we don’t know if it’s an infection or a reaction or allergic reaction. Yeah, and the other reason to come in, like I said, if sex hurts, if you’re having a lot of dryness and you feel like you’re hitting a wall when you’re trying to put in a tampon or a vagina, or vagina, you can put that I mean, you could try, you know, a tampon or a penis, or you know, a toy like these are all reasons to come, to come see us and we can really kind of walk through and see what’s going on.
V Spehar 24:23
That is very helpful. We’re gonna take one quick break right there because the next things I have to ask you are about stuff like vaginal steaming and like putting eggs and crystals up there. I got a lot of questions. I’ve been studying for this and I’ve been horrified and I need your help. So we’re gonna get into all the weird stuff people are doing with their private parts after this break. Jen, with a straight face. I’m going to ask you what the fuck is vaginal steaming?
Jennifer Lincoln 25:09
So actually, you know, they call it v steaming.
V Spehar 25:12
Oh my god, I can’t.
Jennifer Lincoln 25:14
I know. Yeah. So it’s okay. So here’s what it is. So it’s this idea that you have this pot of boiling water. And you put these herbs and these things in it, and then you sit over it. And they like whoosh up into your vagina and into your uterus. And it does stuff. Now, I have gotten some pushback, because I have called out how medically this is not a fantastic idea. And some people have said […] is very much a cultural thing. And my response is that I hear you. Sometimes cultural things can be harmful, however, and are not great. So I just want you to make an informed decision and understand that if this is a way of expressing, you know, how we admire or, you know, celebrate femininity, maybe it’s time to just keep this in mind. And so what bothers me is the idea that this can be done. If you Google, you know, vaginal steam, whatever, you will see these claims that doing this will tighten your vagina, which don’t get me started on the obsession with vaginal tightness, because it’s got a whole like, we were talking about purity culture, this idea that if you have too much sex, your vagina is too loose, and you’re useless. Okay, what are some other things that I’ve heard it say? It’ll shrink your fibroids, it’ll cure infertility, which is a disgusting claim, because infertility is a terrible thing to have to deal with. And it comes down to time. So if you now lose six months to doing other things that have no evidence to work, and now you’re six months later into the game, you’re not going to be as young as you were. And if we know age plays a role. So I just hate that it causes people time, and takes advantage of them. My other favorite one is that it’ll read your uterus of like, the memory of your previous partners. I don’t know what to say about that. Other than that
Jennifer Lincoln 25:28
Dangerous. It sounds like it would burn.
Jennifer Lincoln 26:55
Yeah, it’ll cure your anxiety, depression, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. So people have come into the emergency room with burns inside the vagina. Because you know, like, when you put your hand over a pot of water, we know that steaming water is hotter than just boiling water. And so that’s just your hand. Think about your poor, sweet vagina. She didn’t want that. She didn’t want that. So yeah, so that’s what it is.
V Spehar 27:18
Don’t steam or burn your vagina. Similarly, probably also don’t bathe in this kind of stuff that if it’s going to be a dangerous bath situation, a very, very hot bath, I’m sure isn’t gonna help.
Jennifer Lincoln 27:34
For some people, you know, baths, they do just fine. And for others, it causes a lot of irritation. So I talked to people about not adding a lot of stuff to the bath. But I understand a lot of people can get away with it. But if you notice that you’re having irritation issues, you can just do like straight up Epsom salts or whatever. But yeah, and a lot of kids, we had issues with baths when we’re younger, that was related to low estrogen status of the vagina, not so much the bath itself. So some people some people do okay, but you don’t need it and it’s not going to tighten your vagina or like, make your uterus happier.
V Spehar 28:03
Let me just before I’ve got questions here, but I’m going to skip right to it. Can you make your vagina tighter? Is there anything?
Jennifer Lincoln 28:10
You can go to these people who do certain treatments that they’ll use lasers are radiofrequency and they will use that will like, tighten up the vaginal canal. I hate to say it but the it’s not a great idea. And the American College of OB GYN says that these are not really well studied FDA regulated and as you can imagine, can cause a lot of harm. And it’s usually addressing an issue of like this perception that your vagina needs to be tighter for sex to feel better. When we know that 80% of people with a vagina actually orgasm from clitoral stimulation has nothing to do with vagina. The other thing is that there are some treatments where you’ve got legit prolapse and you need surgery. And that’s a separate thing. But you’ll see these things like these emsella chairs that do these kegels and people become obsessed with kegels. Not everybody needs to do them. It can actually lead to pelvic floor dysfunction if you don’t need it.
V Spehar 29:06
you do talk about some stuff that you can put in your vagina safely. How does someone find a safe sex toy?
Jennifer Lincoln 29:14
Yeah, I mean, the key is, is that use toys that are made for that purpose. So don’t use a hairbrush use you still don’t use a vibrator. So I think what’s great is that we have so many options now and what’s awesome. Back in my day, when I bought my first one, you had to like go to the store like oh my god, like they’re judging me, but it was the French Quarter in New Orleans and she was like […].
V Spehar 29:37
She were there to serve.
Jennifer Lincoln 29:40
So fun. But there’s lots of great companies and I think just go with, you know, brands that sound you know, legit, and follow the instructions about how to use them, how to clean them the kind of loops that you need, and just you know, have fun. Everybody should have one and you should have a travel size and like just you should be in charge of your pleasure. You never want to have to wait for somebody else to help you out. So I think great.
V Spehar 30:02
how do people decide like what they should get for the first one like, you know, these are expensive items, the biggest, baddest one up front or do you just like gradually work your way up?
Jennifer Lincoln 30:14
No. So you can get that you know they have middle of the road, you don’t have to go all crazy and go super expensive. I think if you’re gonna start I love the idea of a clitoral stimulators like the little bullets or something like that. Because like I said, most people who have a clitoris, that’s what they need stimulated in order to orgasm. So that’s a great thing to start with. And if you feel like you, you know, your partner maybe doesn’t know what’s going on there. You can use that. And then I used to say, don’t make orgasm in the goal. The first time you use one, like, just have fun, just see what happens. Get to know the area, see what works, and go from there. But you don’t need to spend you know, like $300 on like the highest level, most expensive one. But that could be a great Christmas gift.
V Spehar 30:51
It could be, another thing a lot of folks have questions about is to have pubic hair or to not have pubic hair. Is there a benefit? Should we do like a pro-con list?
Jennifer Lincoln 31:01
I love that. Yes. So PS I do have a T shirt that says pubic hair has a purpose. Because that’s my life, right? But it does, because it does. So okay, let’s talk about the pros of pubic hair. The pros is the number one that it’s there like, right, we didn’t evolve with pubic hair for no reason. So it’s protective, it helps to create a little barrier between your skin and your clothes. And we know that that skin down there is a bit sensitive. So it’s nice to have a little breathing room, it actually helps to prevent some infection because it can catch some of the bacteria and keep them from going up your under. Yeah, and that’s, I mean, those are kind of two of the main things. But when it comes to removing pubic hair, there can also be some pros of that too, which is that if that’s the way you like your body to look, then I’m fine with that. So I’m a huge fan of do what you want. And if you want to remove it in a perfect gynecologist world, nobody would. But if you want to remove it, it’s fine. And there’s ways to do it safely. Because taking off your pubic hair, there are some cons. So just the act of removing it can make you prone to infection, especially if you’re not using new razors. Or if you’re getting waxed and you get a little ingrown hair, there’s a decreased risk of, decreased protection. And we know that when you do remove your hair, you are at a slightly increased risk of sexually transmitted infection. And it’s probably just because you don’t have that protective area. And you know, when you’re doing it if there’s a little blood exposure, and you have sex, potentially higher transmission, but you can remove it in the low with low risk weigh really going from the least risk to the most least at least is using scissors because you’re not actually causing any skin trauma, and then going to shaving ideally using a new razor blade every time do I absolutely not. I made sort of like a confessions, YouTube and I was like, I’m sorry, guys, when I like to shave my pubic hair and I don’t use the […], I’m sorry, but I’m fine. But if you notice that I get an ingrown hair. Oops, it’s on me. So you know, whatever. And then waxing, sugaring. That kind of thing. It’s ideal to test a small area don’t go to the cheapest place, make sure they use a new you know, a new thing a wax every time you would think that would be obvious it is not. And then laser and electrolysis obviously more invasive, can be okay. Yeah. And you know, you can try if you’re like, well, I just don’t want hair sticking out of my bathing suit. Cool. You could just do the edges, you know, like, whatever. And it’s either way is totally fine.
V Spehar 33:15
Another thing folks never want to ask about it and they’re get so embarrassed about you know, is STIs. How do you know if you have one? How do you report it? How do you tell your partner?
Jennifer Lincoln 33:26
Yeah. So I think it’s really important to know that they’re common, and one that I always lead with is HPV or the human papilloma virus. So 80%, 80, of us who have sex at some point or time, time in our lives will have it so I call it the common cold or the vagina like it’s really not shame based, nothing like that. And other things like gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, like all these things, they happen and doesn’t mean you’re dirty, or there’s something wrong with you, it just means that you’re human having sex with other humans. So it is important to know your status. What I do tell people is that when you go in and you say I’d like the STI testing, please, there’s no one checkbox that we check. So you need to really know what you’re being tested for. And maybe what you’re not being tested for. For example, we don’t routinely test for herpes, because if we do that blood test, and it comes back that tells me nothing about whether you’ve got you’ve got oral herpes or genital herpes, whether you had it 10 years ago, or it’s active right now. So it’s important to really talk with your provider and say what your concerns are, whether you just want routine testing, or you’ve had an exposure. And then if you’ve got something it’s really important to communicate it with your partner. Yeah, it’s normal. You guys, it just means you know, that we’re just out there having sex.
V Spehar 34:35
There was a rumor that lesbians can’t get STIs and for listening, it used to be called an STD, STI is the new term right? So sexually transmitted?
Jennifer Lincoln 34:44
Correct, because not all infections turn into diseases. So […] little more accurate. So yes, yeah, so there’s that rumor there’s also that rumor that lesbians don’t need pap smears.
V Spehar 34:53
I like that one until I read in your book. And I was like, oh shit, I’m so far behind.
Jennifer Lincoln 35:01
Yeah, so it can happen. Yes, it can. And just like anything else, you know, things spread oral sex, vaginal sex using toys. One of the ones that people are like, no, no, I was told I don’t have to have a pap smear if I don’t have sex, or I’m a lesbian, because there’s this idea that you won’t be exposed to HPV and number one, that’s not true. And number two, not all cervical cancers, which is why we do pap smears are caused by HPV, so it is important. So I’m sorry to burst that bubble. That’s true.
V Spehar 35:27
I know, the problem if you don’t go, and I understand that it can be scary to go I often myself am afraid to go is you could miss cervical cancer, which is not just something that happens because of heterosexual sex.
Jennifer Lincoln 35:41
Correct. So while the vast majority of them are due to HPV, which is a great thing, because now we have an anti-cancer vaccine for that. So if you haven’t gotten your HPV vaccine, just know that you can, it’s FDA approved up to the age of 45. And you can get past it. Even if you’ve had HPV before. There’s other you know; the spit can be caused by other things as well. And cervical cancer is one of those cancers that is very slowly progressive. So that’s why we do pap tests because we can see precancerous changes and we can monitor or we can treat. And as somebody who has in residency cared for people with cervical cancer, it’s a terrible cancer. The treatments are not nice. It’s radiation and chemo in an area that you can imagine, and a very, very extensive surgery. It’s not good. So the fact that we can prevent it by vaccines and screening, it’s really important. And if you have had traumatic gynecology exams, or a history of sexual trauma or a pap smear that’s not gone well, before I hear you, they should not hurt. And I in my book, and also on my YouTube channel, I put a whole bunch of suggestions on how to make it easier from just talking to your doctor for the first time to having a game plan setup of how you’re going to make it go easier. Because I get it. These are intimate exams that can be few, it can feel like a lot and so we should be able to partner to make it better. And if you feel like your provider is not listening, then it’s time to find a new one because there’s some really great ones out there to help it feel not so scary.
V Spehar 37:01
What if I’m having an emergency? What if I lost a tampon up there? I lost a condom up there. I did put the […] in I put the menstrual cup in I can’t find the thing. Except it’s all, make a wish. Putting the heart in now. Voicebox all that stuff’s up there. What do I do?
Jennifer Lincoln 37:24
Yeah, so you’re having a vaginal emergency. And I will tell you, every gynecologist we have been called to the emergency room for something’s in there. And it needs to come out. Like we have seen it all. I can’t even share the stories but we’ve seen it all. So it’s one of those things that you are more than welcome to go seek care, you know, either from an urgent care, OBGYN or an ER but usually these aren’t emergencies. And you can wait until the next day. But if let’s say you got a tampon, you can’t get it out or a condom. You can try and get it out yourself. There’s different positions, you can try squatting, and you can you know, all different things you can if you’ve got a partner, they can help they can try too, the number one thing is don’t feel like an idiot and ignore it. And because you’re so embarrassed, because I will tell you like a few years ago on labor and delivery, the nurse was like, Jen, you need to come in this room. And I was like, oh, you got a patient. She’s like, no, I can’t get my frickin tampon out. And I was like, that’s cool. I’m here, you know, and I got the speculum. We’re just chit chat. Hey, what do you want to order for dinner later, you know, like, this is our life, totally normal. The only real thing that I would say as quote unquote an emergency is if you’re only using condoms for pregnancy prevention, then you might want to not might, but if you don’t wanna get pregnant, you should get some plan B. And if you don’t know their STI status, you’re gonna want to check into that too. But other than that, you know, yeah, just get it checked out. We’re happy to help. We love to go in and see what we get out.
V Spehar 38:42
While we all think about the things we put in our vagina this week, we’re gonna take one more quick break. When we come back we’re going to talk about the future of reproductive health and like Dr. Jen was saying, what contraception’s are available what the state of America is in a post Roe situation. We’re gonna have all those answers when we get back. Okay, Welcome back friends. So we’ve had a little bit of fun embarrassing me throughout this asking lots of questions that I now actually feel like really comfortable with and much more confident with. So I’m glad you were here. Some other things that I really again, I just didn’t have an occasion to think about it really I myself did not ever plan to get pregnant still don’t my partner doesn’t plan to get pregnant. So I really never had like a firsthand look at reproductive health opportunities for people who could get pregnant and the future of reproductive health is very unclear right now. It feels like every day a new law or a new rule is popping up to block people from having bodily autonomy. And one of your previous TikTok’s you talked about the University of Idaho employees being warned to not give out birth control or talk about abortion. And so you like flew from Oregon to Idaho to interview students on campus and put your book in the school library, which I think was very smart. Just tell me a little bit about this trip.
Jennifer Lincoln 40:13
So I just I saw this come out and it drove me bananas. It came from the administration, where they said that given that Idaho is very restrictive now, with no abortion access, that they didn’t want their staff to get in trouble. So this was all protecting their staff. It was from their legal team, saying, don’t talk about contraception, abortion these things unless you’re being neutral, which I don’t know what that really means. And if you are to give out condoms, you can only give it out and say it’s for STI protection and not to prevent pregnancy. I find that completely ridiculous. Because the what they’re doing is they’re saying, oh, well, students, like too bad. They’re centering their faculty, when they don’t exist for their faculty, they exist for the students. And instead of stepping back and saying, You know what, screw this, we’re gonna fight back like Vanderbilt did, and other schools were the same thing and say, now we’re gonna go really make sure we’re protecting our students, they, they took the cowardly way out. And I went there, because I said, you know, I just nobody’s giving the students a voice. Nobody had asked them what they thought. And what I found really interesting was that a bunch of the students hadn’t heard about it, or the way that they did hear about it was that their parents were sent an email, not them. These, you know, adults were not being told. And the ones that had heard, they were horrified, including the guys that I talked to who were like, my friends matter, like, I need to know how to keep my friends safe. In Idaho, it’s an old law that says you can’t advertise abortion and contraceptive services. So the fact that you even talk about it would be considered illegal, which as you can imagine, is a slight, you know, imposing on our free speech. So I’m hoping that this gets challenged, which is what’s happening now in a post Roe world because we have all these laws everywhere. They’re all ridiculous. They don’t make sense. And they slowly will need to work their way through the court system. But in the meantime, people will actually be harmed and people actually be hurt. So my friend, who’s a labor and delivery nurse, who, the night before, I was like city want to go to Idaho and help have some good trouble. She’s like, where do I meet you in the airport. So we went and we filmed and we chatted, we gave out a lot of information, we stopped in the very conservative downtown area and put in a lot of stickers and things. And just because this is where we’re at right now is having to use these routes, because these kids still need to be kept safe. And they want to, and they again, you’re not getting what they need based on their zip code. And it makes me so angry.
V Spehar 42:29
Because it’s not just oh, you can’t have an abortion, it’s now starting to creep into well, we can’t talk about contraception, well, you can’t get certain contraception, well, we’re going to prevent you or try to prevent you from getting it in the mail. We’re gonna reduce the amount of education that you have around this so that you don’t even know what sex is or what counts is sex, right? A lot of folks will say, well, good, they can’t kill babies. That’s not what this is. That’s not what you’re experiencing as an OB-GYN a person who wants to bring babies into this world, right? So tell me what it’s like.
Jennifer Lincoln 43:02
Yeah, and I my stance is that if you think that’s what’s going on, and you are very much against abortion, I support you, because I support you for having that choice for you. And I am not here to talk people into why they should support abortion for everybody. Or, you know, for anybody other than themselves, because it’s about you. I love delivering babies, to people who are ready to have those babies or who chose to get pregnant have those babies because the number one most dangerous thing that people with the uterus can do in their lives is really get pregnant and have a baby. And so it’s more about the forced birth of a part of it. That really worries me because people who don’t see what I’ve seen in pregnancy, don’t understand until it happens to them. And I just worry that we are taking away basic rights that, again, if you don’t support it, don’t have one. But we know the majority of Americans do want this. And what’s happened is we’ve taken all this time and all this energy and diverted it into this conversation when we’ve got other things that we still need to be focusing on, like the maternal mortality rates in this country, the disparate level of care, the outcomes that we’re seeing based on race, and poverty, and we’ve had a shift all that here. And I think it’s gonna get worse for the next 10 to 20 years as we work these things through a court system. And I think that people right now who are in their 20s, when they eventually run for office will have this and will have this be their motivator for, for why they engage in politics in the future. But for guys are people who are like, well, I don’t care. This doesn’t affect me. It affects all of us. It affects all of us. And I just would say that see this as an erosion of your liberty, your freedom, your ability to choose what’s best for you. It is a government mandate on your uterus. And I don’t think I don’t understand why we’re not talking about that more.
V Spehar 44:48
When I think you know, honestly, before June I hadn’t had a lot of thoughts about it, and I didn’t have a lot of experience with it. I just didn’t. And so my idea of abortion is like In some vacuum like sucking body parts up, that is not there are so many different types of care that are not that one.
Jennifer Lincoln 45:10
Yeah, I mean, to be honest, the vast majority, so 91% of abortions happen before in the first trimester. And we are now seeing that over half of them, and this number will only increase our medication abortions. And these are things that can actually be done at home called self-managed abortion with the appropriate counseling and medications. And it’s extremely safe, these medications are safer than Tylenol, fewer people go to the emergency room for using these medications than they do for Tylenol. And the severe complications related to any abortion is actually less than half a percent. Extremely safe. I performed lots of abortions in my training. And I can tell you that the earliest ones using the basic what we call a manual vacuum aspirator it’s a couple of seconds and ridden and a lot of times people are like are we’re done and like yeah, we are like it’s you know, it’s not this big dramatic thing that people think.
V Spehar 46:01
And so many people have had an abortion and they don’t even they don’t classify it as such, if they unfortunately had a miscarriage and had to have a DNC which right my mother described as a dusting and cleaning because the way that they talked about it back in the 60s and 70s, you know, that is an abortion procedure. It there’s not this rottenness of like hate that surrounds it’s a medically necessary procedure, right? Is Plan B an abortion.
Jennifer Lincoln 46:27
So their morning after pills, there’s two kinds of plan B, which has a bunch of generics over the counter don’t need a prescription, no age restrictions, no gender restrictions anybody can get it. And then there’s […] which is ulipristal acetate, which is prescription only, and it works a bit better. So if you can get that that’s great. But they both work by delaying ovulation. So if there’s no egg released, and sperm happens to be there, they can’t party together, it does not affect anything if you’re already pregnant. Now, the fun little part that I should throw in there is that if you look at the package insert, it says that one of the ways that it could work is that it could prevent implantation of an embryo. However, there is no data to support this statement. And this was included when it was at the FDA to be approved, and they had people on the panel who were anti-abortion, and they just agreed to put this in so that they could just get it through. However, that’s come back to haunt us now. Because politicians are saying see that label. That’s why we want this to be outlawed too, because it causes an abortion, even though you could say that taking this pill could cause you know, the clouds to turn purple. I mean, sure, theoretically, we haven’t proved it, but you just can’t throw in theoretical things onto package inserts that then potentially make people think they cause an abortion when they absolutely don’t.
V Spehar 47:34
So tell us what can people do who are looking for a place to take action? What can they do right now?
Jennifer Lincoln 47:42
Oh, yeah, so much. So I would say personally, I’m a huge fan of my nonprofit, which I will throw out there. But I’m not saying that’s the only thing but I would say just talking about this. So if you want something more tangible, donating to your local abortion funds is huge. If you want to sign up to our emailing list obstetricians for Reproductive Justice, it’s an obstetricians for reprojustice.org, we’re three OB-GYN’s who are going around the country telling stories helping patients and providers tell their stories because stories move the needle, not data, not stats, but people actually telling their stories. So if you’ve been harmed and opposed to our world, and you want to tell your story anonymously or not, you can get in touch with us that way. I think just saying the word abortion, just reporting misinformation when you see it, and just keeping an open mind and knowing that it’s okay to change your mind to because I grew up completely anti-choice. I wrote a book report on abortion, I had the best time writing it. I said extra prayers for people I was the whole thing until I saw what the world was really like. And I realized that it’s not about abortion, it’s about control. So just trying to keep an open mind and understand that there are different perspectives out there. And showing up when there are things where we say this is a problem. This is you know; this is happening right now we need you here, I think is a big is a big thing. And if you want to take action to be prepared, whether you have uterus or friendos, I started a website called freeforfreedom.com, which is a hub where you can get mail order birth control, emergency contraception and medication abortion pills in all 50 states. It directs you to websites where you can get all this and it’s all evidence based, legit and make no money from it. I just had this idea in the shower after I heard about the Dobbs decision leak and we have like 800 hits the day before Roe feel made 80,000 hits a day Roe fell so people are using it. And sharing resources and just looking out for your friends keeping that plan B on the shelf in case you know when your medicine cabinet case a friend needs just taking care of each other.
V Spehar 49:31
I am so appreciative of you being here. Dr. Jen, I just had such a great time with you on our Creator trip to DC and we only got through like half of the book guys. Again, the book is called Let’s Talk About Down There an OB-GYN answers all your burning questions without making you feel embarrassed for asking and there’s a ton in here about birth control about giving birth about all the things that you wonder about that unfortunately, we haven’t been able to have the access to the information into the community and conversation that we deserve. So I’m glad that you are here. We’re going to link to everything that Dr. Jen Lincoln said in the show notes so you can easily find places to activate places to find reproductive health care stuff that you can get through the mail if you need it, like we said, again, just taking care of each other and being honest about these things in eliminating the shame. So Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, thank you so much for being here with me today. I appreciate you.
Jennifer Lincoln 50:24
Oh, so fun. Thanks for having me.
V Spehar 50:31
Well, I am still feeling significantly embarrassed about all of the talking down there but you don’t have to be you can pick up Dr. Jones book let’s talk about down there in OBGYN answers all your burning questions without making you feel embarrassed for asking. Like she said, It’s a great book to just have in your bathroom have on your coffee table. Give out to someone that might have questions young people full of great information very easy to read lots of graphs. Please be sure to tune in to this Tuesday’s episode where we’re going to have another guest another one of my favorite people on this planet. […] who is the host of fake the nation. We’ll be talking about election day because it’s coming. It’s finally here. It’s ending. It’s good all around. Leave me a voicemail at 612-293-8550 Follow me at under the desk news on TikTok and Instagram. And be sure to check out some V INTERESTING extras by subscribing to Lemonada Premium only on Apple podcasts. Thanks and I will see you on Tuesday.
V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.