Let’s face it, there are certain medical issues that are more difficult to talk about than others. Whether it’s a weak bladder or a problem in the bedroom, you might be too embarrassed to discuss what you’re going through - and you might even put off seeking help from a doctor. But the fact is, these health issues are probably much more common than you realise and there’s really no need to feel self-conscious about the fact that you’re experiencing them.
Here are three women’s health problems that you shouldn’t be embarrassed about.
1. Urinary incontinence
If you suffer from this issue, you’re by no means alone. There are lots of different types of urinary incontinence, and stress incontinence is especially common in women. This condition causes wee to leak out when your bladder is under pressure, for example if you laugh or cough. It’s usually a result of damage to or a weakening of the muscles that prevent urination, including the urethral sphincter and pelvic floor muscles. If you’ve had children, you’re at a higher risk of this because pregnancy and vaginal births can damage these muscles. A family history of incontinence is also a risk factor, and you’re more likely to experience this issue as you get older - although it’s not an inevitable part of the ageing process.
The good news is, there are steps you can take to tackle this problem. Firstly, you should speak to your doctor. They will be able to diagnose the type of urinary incontinence you have and help you find a way to effectively manage the condition. To begin with, they might suggest some simple measures to see if they help. These could include doing pelvic floor exercises or making lifestyle changes like cutting down on caffeine and alcohol. You may also be advised to try bladder training, which involves learning techniques that help you to wait longer between needing to urinate and going for a wee.
If you’re not able to manage your symptoms in these ways, your doctor might recommend medication and, in rare cases, surgery is an option. The treatments that work for you will depend on the cause of your incontinence.
2. Bacterial Vaginosis
Intimate feminine health is sometimes treated as a taboo subject, but there’s no reason why it should be. One problem that many women experience, particularly women of childbearing age, is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). This condition is caused by an imbalance of the bacteria that occur naturally in the vagina and can lead to symptoms including a strong fishy smell that’s particularly noticeable after sex. It can also make the colour and consistency of vaginal discharge change, often making it watery and greyish-white in appearance. BV doesn’t usually cause any itching or soreness, and many women with the infection don’t experience any symptoms at all.
BV isn’t a sexually transmitted infection, but you’re more likely to get it if you’re sexually active. Other risk factors include using overly perfumed products in or around your vagina and using an intrauterine device (IUD) for contraception.
If you think you might have BV, you should speak to your doctor. They will suggest the most suitable form of treatment for you. Options can include antibiotic tablets, gels or creams. Alternatively, you can use a non-antibiotic gel that helps to restore the natural balance of vaginal pH levels and treats other symptoms of discomfort including unpleasant odour and discharge.
There are also simple changes that you can make to your hygiene routine to help relieve the symptoms of BV and prevent it from recurring. These include avoiding vaginal douches and deodorants, and not adding perfumed soaps, bubble baths or shower gels to your baths. Steer clear of using strong detergents when washing your underwear too.
3. Low libido
Everyone’s sex drive is different, so it’s important to be aware that there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ libido. But if you’ve noticed that your desire for sex has decreased, you might be worried about what this says about your health or relationship. Many women experience a loss of libido at some point in their lives, and this can be triggered by a whole range of physical or psychological issues. These include hormone changes, for example during or after pregnancy, or as a result of the menopause. Stress, anxiety, depression and exhaustion can also have a big impact on your sex drive, as can various medications, including certain antidepressants, medicines for seizures, antipsychotics and forms of hormonal contraception.
In some cases, underlying health problems like diabetes, heart disease or an underactive thyroid gland are the cause - and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or taking drugs can also impact on your sex drive. Relationship problems are another possible trigger.
If you’re worried about a loss of libido, you should book an appointment to speak to your doctor. They will discuss the issue with you and may carry out tests to see if you have any underlying conditions that could be to blame. The best treatment for you will depend on what is causing the problem. Options can include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), treatments for underlying medical complaints, changes to medications you’re taking, sex or relationship therapy, and various lifestyle changes.
Whether it’s a loss of desire that’s impacting on your relationship or a problem with your intimate health, it’s important to realise that you don’t have to suffer in silence. These women’s health issues are common and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. Treating them might be easier than you think, and it could have a positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing.