Area physicians (from left) Tina Flores Schechinger, Michelle Heim, Suzy Feigofsky and Abby Williams offer a “Girls’ Night Out” health presentation, sponsored by St. Anthony Regional Hospital and held at Santa Maria Winery Wednesday evening.
Area physicians (from left) Tina Flores Schechinger, Michelle Heim, Suzy Feigofsky and Abby Williams offer a “Girls’ Night Out” health presentation, sponsored by St. Anthony Regional Hospital and held at Santa Maria Winery Wednesday evening.

Blood pressure, cholesterol and weight are all well and good, but there’s one topic women should be discussing more with their doctors, area physicians said this week.

Their sex lives.

A “Girls’ Night Out” event sponsored by St. Anthony Regional Hospital and held Wednesday evening at Santa Maria Winery dispensed with embarrassment and brought various women’s-health topics to the fore.

The event, featuring family medical doctors Michelle Heim and Tina Flores Schechinger, cardiologist Suzy Feigofsky and podiatrist Abby Williams, joined the ranks of the education programs St. Anthony has offered, usually at Santa Maria, for several years — but with a bit more wine and a few more giggles.

The women’s presentations followed a “social hour” with drinks, snacks and products available for sale from various area businesses and touched on sexual health, work-life balance, body image, pregnancy and foot health.

No topics were taboo on this evening.

“Queafing” (expelling noisy gas from the, um, nether regions) while doing yoga.

Having a tampon fall out while doing jumping jacks.

Going gray “down there.”

Pooping (eat lots of fiber).

Orgasms.

Sex toys (they can be good, the physicians said).

In fact, Mayo Clinic sells them at its medical clinic, Heim said.

“I don’t know if they’re covered,” she added.

Flores Schechinger addressed sexual health — she’d been assigned that topic because she missed a meeting, she joked.

Sex is healthy, she said.

Good sex is really healthy.

So if something’s making it less than good for one or both partners, talk to your doctor, she said — and your doctor should be talking about sex with you.

It’s not necessarily a relevant conversation for everyone, she noted.

“If you’re 88 and you’re a widow and you’re not baking the guy next door a pie — it’s fine,” Flores Schechinger said.

But never assume, she added, recalling a recent time she asked a woman in her 70s about her sex life.

“Oh, we do it every day, honey,” the woman said.

“My jaw dropped,” Flores Schechinger said. “I was not prepared. I was like, ‘Grandma!’”

Doctors and counselors can help patients with medical factors that affect their sex lives, included seemingly unrelated conditions or medical side effects, as well as infidelity, past sexual abuse or depression, she said.

And orgasms aren’t just for men, she added. A good experience on the part of both partners is better for everyone.

“The first thing I like to say is practice,” she said. “If you’re not having sex right now, get back on the bike. You might say, ‘My partner’s not very good.’ Well, if your kid doesn’t get the ball in the goal, you say, ‘Go try again.’”

Feigofsky, who touched on cholesterol, blood pressure, healthful eating and exercise, spent much of her presentation talking about the importance of work-life balance.

Few women have everything together when it comes to balancing life within and outside of work, Feigofsky said — coming home to cry into your glass of wine and to scarf down an entire roll of Thin Mints may or may not happen on occasion.

“Nobody’s perfect, and we all struggle, and you have to figure out how to balance that for you, because you only have one shot at it,” she said.

She suggested sitting down with your significant other or children (or cat) and scheduling “me time” into your days each week. Also important are date nights for couples, making and crossing off a bucket list and leaving work at the office as much as possible, she said.

“We are all special, and we all have something special to offer, and you deserve to honor yourself,” Feigofsky said. “So find that (work-life) balance so you’re not walking around crazy.”

Heim addressed body image, including during and after pregnancy, and encouraged women to look at the changes in their body during pregnancy in a new way. For instance, look at stretch marks as badges — “They’re beautiful,” Heim said — and a reminder that the woman carried and delivered a baby.

“Men can’t do it,” she joked. “There’s no way they’d be able to do it.”

Heim showed the audience two photos: one of a thin model smoking a cigarette and the other of a heavier-set woman performing a complex handstand on a beach.

“A lot of young girls might say, ‘I want to look like (the model) — I should start smoking to get skinnier,’” Heim said. “They’ll look at this other woman and say, ‘Look at her cellulite. Look how big her thighs are.’

“We should be saying, ‘Look how strong she is.’”

Opening her talk about feet, Williams apologized in advance for what she said might come across as an attack on high heels.

At the end of the day, she said, no matter how cute the stilettos are, they force feet — and legs, and the entire body — into an unnatural position for walking and can cause bunions, injuries and a variety of other foot problems.

So wear shoes that protect your feet, she said.

Some other tips: Make sure the place where you’re getting a pedicure has clean equipment. And don’t cut warts off your feet — the scar can be more painful than the wart itself, which eventually will leave, Williams said.

She showed audience members several photos of various foot problems she said are more common than some people might realize.

“I see this a lot,” she said as one photo scrolled past. “If your feet look like this and you’ve been hiding them, come see me.”

Keeping the setting informal and bantering back and forth with the audience, the physicians also discussed questions women brought up.

There’s no quick fix or short road to good health, Feigofsky said — it takes work.

“Eat less; move more,” she said. “Eat smarter; move more. Don’t eat before you go to bed; move more. Move all the time — have sex! It counts!”

And all the “feminine cleaning” products out there won’t get the job done as well as washing with water and wearing looser-fitting clothes, the physicians said.

Don’t clean using a douche, Flores Schechinger said — it’s never a good idea.

“And don’t date a douche,” Feigofsky added.

The presenters also touched on mental illness, including depression, which plays into sex, work-life balance, body image — even surgery recovery.

“It’s something that’s very taboo in the U.S.,” Feigofsky said, noting statistics that say as many as one in five people run into mental-health problems. “There are a lot of depressed women in here.

“This is very real. I know we’ve been funny tonight, but it happens and you should not be ashamed of yourself.”

Between the wine, the questions, the titters and the groans, the evening’s main goal was to touch on topics and questions people often don’t want to voice.

“When a community is educated, the whole community elevates,” Feigofsky said.

And whether the topic is depression or sex toys, the presenters agreed, maybe it’s time to talk about it a bit more.