A Patient’s Concern: Any Risk Being a Virgin at 29?

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(INSIDE THE HOSPITAL WITH DR GOKE AKINROGUNDE)

Doctor,
I need your help to clarify an issue, which has been giving me sleeplessness night.
I am a virgin of 29 years and single. Please let me know if being a virgin at 29 years is risky.
If yes, what are the risks?

I got this information through a friend that it is very risky for a woman to remain a virgin for this long, and since then I have been very worried.
Thanking you for your anticipated understanding and early response.

From K.

Dear K,
I commend your courage for bringing up this very personal issue for the attention of this column. However, my approach to your questions will flow from a strict scientific outlook and understanding of the issues at hand.

On a general overview, my answer will be both a direct “No” and an indirect “Yes”.

For one, medically speaking, there is no special risk attached to being a virgin at age 29 years just as it does not necessarily put you at a better position per future reproductive activity.

On a positive note, however, is the fact that it puts you in a position of purity as per the impossibility of contacting the many sexually transmittable infections. Notable among these are the major ones like HIV/AIDS, Syphilis, Hepatitis B, Chlamydia and Gonococcus infections.

Other sexually transmittable infections that you are protected from while you maintain the “virgin status” include herpes simplex virus (type 2), genital warts, Lymphogranulomavenerum.

Aside from these, it can be inferred that you are better protected from the possibility of developing cancer of the cervix (the cervix is the entrance canal into the womb or uterus). This is so because research findings are pointing to the fact that very early first sexual (especially before the age of 16 in ladies) and subsequent recurrent sexual intercourse put such ladies at a higher risk for the development of cervical cancer later in life. Cancer of the cervix gets matured later in life and hence it is commoner in elderly women in their mid-fifties onward.

Also interesting to note is the relevant information that HIV/AIDS is a major risk factor for the development of cancer of the cervix in women of younger age group. Thus, since sexual intercourse is a major avenue that HIV is contacted from, abstaining from sexual intercourse via “virginity maintenance” is also a double protection from HIV/AIDS and by inference early on-set cancer of the cervix.

Social wise, especially in cultures close by, it is worthy of note that it is the desire of some men to meet their wife “intact” on their first night together after their wed-lock. Although, the gender ‘disadvantage’ here is rather on the side of the woman, where the persistence of the hymen (the virgin’s membrane-covering of the vagina) is a sure sign of virginity maintenance, however, no such equivalent sign exist in the male.

Hence, if the purpose for remaining a virgin is to maintain the sign of purity for your man in future, nature does not seem to be kind enough to provide the equivalent sign in the man that will reassure the woman concern that her man has also been as pure as she has been.

On the other hand, however, I should say that there are some established findings that generally point to the fact that late first pregnancy in women put them at higher risk for some pathologic conditions, regardless of the fact that the woman has maintained her virgin status or not.

Prominent among such pathologic conditions is the higher likelihood of developing Fibroids in the uterus of women who had their first pregnancy late in their reproductive life. In other words, the old medical adage which says that “a womb that was unable to carry babies will eventually carry fibroids” is a clearer explanation of this development.

Similarly, retrospective surgical research findings on the risk factors for breast cancer also point to the fact that early and recurrent pregnancies in women are protective against the development of breast cancer in future. Here too, the risk is not virginity status related.

In this wise, getting ‘disvirgined’ much later in the reproductive life of a woman may not be protective against the development of breast cancer in future.

In the same vein, older pregnant women (particularly, those above 35 years) are more at risk of having babies with congenital abnormalities than women who get pregnant at younger age; same for other complications in pregnancy.

From the aforementioned, my candid advice from medicosocial point of view is that just as it is desirable to maintain the virgin status based on the earlier mentioned incidental advantages, it is not a win-win situation, especially with respect to delaying early pregnancy.