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Home > Beauty & Grooming > Wellness > Double Tap: Follow millennial-approved Dr Cuterus for sexual advice and healthy giggles amid COVID
Double Tap: Follow millennial-approved Dr Cuterus for sexual advice and healthy giggles amid COVID

Dr Tanaya Narendra, who goes by the moniker Dr Cuterus on Instagram, address sexual health through humorous reels that have none of the usual jargon that professionals use. Her myth-busting segments, in particular, elicit laughter and collective sighs of relief from her 589k followers. With the third wave sweeping through the nation, she talks about common myths and how the stress of being cooped up at home can impact things “down there.”

Sanitary napkins continue to be hurriedly stuffed into black plastic bags across pharmacies and many young people have only ever discussed sex in hushed tones. But for physician and embryologist Dr Tanaya, the daughter of two fertility specialists, reproductive health was a dinner table conversation growing up and models of reproductive organs were a common sight at home. One of them even made it to her first casual explainer video in 2019, which went up on her private account for friends who’d often ask her about menstrual cups.

Millenial-approved Dr Cuterus on COVID, erections, menstruation, and more

Today, she offers medical advice on reproductive health and champions the cause of inclusivity in medical care, which resonates with thousands of young Indians. Many head to the comment sections to ask questions they didn’t think they could say out loud, some even centred on COVID-19. With the third wave in full swing, we sat down to ask the millennial doctor about the impact of the pandemic on reproductive health as well as the myths it has produced, amongst other things.

What are some of the most common questions regarding reproductive health that you’ve encountered in the pandemic?

Most of them are actually centred around vaccines. Even though they’re approved, a lot of people, especially pregnant women, have concerns because they believe the vaccine will make you more prone to miscarriages and increase your chances of infertility.

Interestingly, many people also ask whether you can get COVID through sex, specifically in terms of reproductive fluids.

Is there a myth around reproductive health that you believe could be potentially dangerous and needs to disappear? If so, what is it?

A lot of pregnant people refuse to get the vaccine because they are afraid that it will affect their fetus or their fertility. This is actually really dangerous because when you’re pregnant, your lung capacity reduces because there’s only a limited amount of space we have in our body, right? When they catch the infection, their lungs can get severely affected. Sometimes that leads to deaths straight away or long-term disabilities.

Also, a lot of men were very concerned that the vaccine would affect their sexual performance or cause issues with sperm quality. And it’s really interesting because actually, getting vaccinated protects you from these issues as well as erectile dysfunction. But no matter how many times you tell people to get vaccinated for their health reasons, they won’t listen. If you tell them it affects their erections, they will all 100 percent listen (laughs).

Also, one of the biggest myths is that people don’t believe in the use of condoms for oral sex. We need to focus on using protection when having all kinds of sex, and not just for preventing pregnancy. Sexually transmitted infections spread via sex and using a barrier method of protection can limit that.

As someone who’s working to dispel myths on social media, how do you come across these myths?

You know you hear things and you’re like, I wonder how that works. But mostly my questions are from three sources. They are from daily life interactions I have with other people because since I started doing this kind of content, more and more people, like friends and acquaintances, also ask me very interesting questions. Also, questions from DMs and stuff that I see at the hospital.

What are some food-related myths around menstruation?

This is one of the most popular areas for myth manufacturing. (laughs) I find that a lot of people have concerns about eating sour foods during their period, which is very sad because a lot of people do crave salty and sour foods at that time. Then, of course, we have the famous pickle rotting situation where people say that if you touch fresh pickles on your period, you can rot the entire batch. That’s an incredible amount of power to place in somebody’s hand.

We also have things like you should not eat anything cold on your periods, so it’s just really random. Unless it’s too much caffeine or anything that will cause a lot of water retention that can bother later, I ask people not to restrict anything. Whatever makes them happy is fine. We can’t live in that restricted fashion for the rest of our reproductive life.

What do you have to say about COVID vaccination having a significant effect on menstruation?

So this is a personal anecdote for me as well. I got my vaccinations early on as a health care worker, and I found that for the next four months my cycles were really short. And there are two angles to this.

The first has to do with the endometrium, which is the inside lining of the uterus that’s shed during a period. It’s a part of the immune system of our body. So if you’re making changes to the immune system of the body, there might be an effect there. But the second, more important part is that we’re under so much stress. It could be a combination of just the world being on fire and us feeling that stress.

The most recent and the most extensively studied research that came out about two weeks ago said that a lot of people experienced a shortening or a lengthening in their period, but it was not significant because of the vaccine.

Do you think that lockdown can stress us enough to affect reproductive health? How do you suggest we stay mentally and physically fit during such times?

Normally, if you have a stressful situation, you go for a run or hang out with your friends. But all of those coping mechanisms are taken away from us with a lockdown. Lots of people have been reporting that they found a reduction in libido or erections because of being cooped up indoors. You may love your partner, but you can get sick of them if you’re around them 24/7. There are also people who may feel that they’re getting the right drive but aren’t able to feel adequately lubricated. The impact has been varied and far-reaching.

Regular exercise is really good. Taking small steps to infuse some joy in your life, be it with good food, spending quality time with yourself, or with people, is great. If you have access to a balcony or access to an open space, it’s good to get some sunlight and feel a little bit of motion. What I found helpful when I got COVID during the second wave was face timing everyone. It kept me sane throughout.

What type of at-home exercises can we do for a healthy reproduction balance?

I think the best thing to do is just get your heart rate up for 30 minutes a day. That’s it. If that involves aggressively vacuuming the floor, great. If it involves pacing in the house while you’re talking to your friends and family and catching up or on a meeting, great. If it involves actually doing 500 squats, great.

What are your go-to resources to learn better about reproductive health and menstruation?

I would recommend following people who have a professional or educational background in the subject. Also, I recommend the WHO and UNFPA sites.

What, according to you, are the characteristics that would define a millennial doctor?

I think accessibility is the first difference we see between old school doctors and doctors our age. We’re more available on different platforms, be it through text WhatsApp or Instagram. We’re also more approachable in terms of the language we use. Because anybody can explain heart disease using really technical terms, but how do you make sure that the people who are listening to you understand what you’re talking about?

On top of all of that, a non-judgmental inclusive attitude is important. Lots of people today deviate from what we label as a “normal lifestyle,” and I think that’s wonderful. But somehow shaming and judging them for that has been ingrained into us through our educational system in medicine, so that’s something we need to work upon to dismantle.

What should your followers be looking forward to in the coming months?

At the moment I’m working on a book with Penguin Random House, India. It’s going to be simple language, simple questions that you tend to have about your health and your body. We’re scheduled to launch in July, but that’s if everything goes okay with COVID-19. I’m really excited about it!

All images: Courtesy Dr Cuterus 

Eshita Srinivas
Eshita spends her days writing, rewriting, and thinking of things to write about. In the little time she has left, she daydreams about going on a solo trip across Asia.
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