College students studying. Image courtesy of the public domain.

Prioritizing Reproductive Health Amongst College-Aged Students

College is commonly known as a time when people are figuring out who they are and their relationships with others. A crucial component of this experience is reproductive health. 

The World Health Organization describes reproductive health as, “a state of physical, mental, and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system.”

I spoke with the Director of Nursing Education at Frederick Community College (FCC), Dr. Kyla Newbould, who has over 25 years of nursing experience, to discuss the topic further. 

Reproductive health is very personal as everyone’s experience is unique. Dr. Newbould emphasized, “Before engaging in sexual activity, it is important to assess what is important to the individual in regards to one’s own values and morals.” 

As discussed in our conversation, a part of practicing good reproductive health is establishing a trusted relationship with a healthcare professional. This includes both males and females. The main benefit of speaking with a provider is finding out what choices or options are available to protect oneself. 

It is pivotal to be aware of one’s own current health status before being sexual with someone else. Dr. Newbould recommends being proactive when seeking medical advice because, “It’s your body and you should know what is going on with it.”

For females in particular, maintaining good health as a woman includes consulting a professional for annual wellness checks. These check-ups typically entail a breast exam, a pelvic exam, and a Pap test to screen for possible abnormalities.

Dr. Newbould acknowledged the risks involved with taking part in sexual activity, “The choices about what he/she does with their body have implications not just now, but years down the road as well.” 

Co-President of the Biology and and Pre-Health Club at FCC, GeZhi Liu, said, “I would say it’s very important to establish quality reproductive health practices, especially for college-aged students because one doesn’t want any unpleasant incidents that could possibly implicate his/her future.” 

Although consulting a medical professional is not as easy as it sounds for young adults who do not have health insurance. However, there are resources throughout the community to help. To name a few are the Frederick County Health Department, Frederick Health, and Planned Parenthood

A large portion of reproductive health includes taking preventative measures. As Dr. Newbould pointed out, “It’s not always that we have a medical issue that we are going to a provider to seek help for, but it is also how to stay healthy.”

The recommended forms of protection help prevent unplanned pregnancies and the conception of sexually transmitted infections. Dr. Newbould explained that the main measures of protection include: abstinence, birth control, barrier protection, vaccinations, and regular testing.

Each form of protection is different, therefore it is important for the individual to research and find which one works best for him/her. Ideally, these forms of protection would be implemented before one becomes sexually active. If not, it is never too late to take action on one’s own health.

Another aspect of reproductive health is the emotional wellbeing of someone when they are in a relationship. Like Dr. Newbould mentioned, “As with anything else, it is crucial to know what you want out of a relationship.” It is essential to be aware of a toxic relationship, including signs of emotional and physical abuse. 

Emotional wellbeing also includes verbalized consent. Dr. Newbould added, “It is important to be in a relationship where one can give and withdraw consent, being honored by the person he/she is with.” This consent can actually result in enhanced intimacy, as both partners have a greater investment with each other.

Liu also commented on the importance of communication between partners, “When taking part in sexual activity it is not just about one person; the individual also needs to be thinking of his/her partner and the future for both parties involved.”

The ability to bring awareness about reproductive health is very important, as it helps maintain a better quality of health for all. Dr. Newbould said, “If we don’t bring things into the light, we can’t see all of the information that we need.”

Dr. Newbould concluded by bringing light to the subject saying, “College is a time when we get to really step in to who we are as adults, and part of being adults are our intimate relationships. Sex is simply a part of that.”

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