Let’s face it, certain medical issues are far more difficult to talk about than others. When it comes to your intimate health, it can be tempting to bury your head in the sand and hope the problem just goes away. The thought of discussing these issues with loved ones or medical professionals can seem awkward. However, it’s important to remember that more often than not these conditions are much more common than you may realise and there is no need to feel self-conscious when looking for medical advice.
Worrying about people’s perceptions of you or simply the prospect of an embarrassing conversation could mean you suffer longer than you need to. Aside from the impact on your intimate health that any delays in treatment or an incorrect self-diagnosis can have, your own mental health, self-esteem and relationships could also suffer. Whether you’re not sure if you are suffering from Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) or Thrush, or you’re uncertain if you should speak to a doctor about your vaginal dryness, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.
Here are 4 common intimate health problems and what you should do about them:
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
With approximately 1 in 3 women experiencing the condition at least once in their life, BV is a common intimate health issue that can affect women of all ages. As the name suggests, BV is a bacterial infection linked to an imbalance between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria naturally found in your vagina. Although not always present, the symptoms of BV can include a watery, greyish-white vaginal discharge and a strong fishy smell that is particularly noticeable after sex. Unlike vaginal yeast infections such as Thrush, BV doesn’t usually cause any itching, irritation or soreness.
While BV is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it is true that you become more prone to BV if you’re sexually active. Other factors that could contribute to a higher risk of infection include the use of an intrauterine device as a form of birth control and even the use of overly perfumed soap products in or around your vagina.
If you think you may have BV, it’s important you speak to your doctor. Treatments can be quick and effective, usually coming in the form of antibiotic tablets, creams or gels. You can also restore the natural balance of vaginal flora using non-antibiotic gels, foams and washes.
In order to reduce the chances of BV returning, you should avoid vaginal douches and deodorants, as well as bathing with perfumed soaps, bubble baths or shower gels.
Thrush is a common fungal infection which can cause severe irritation to your intimate area. Other symptoms include a thick, white or yellowish vaginal discharge and a stinging sensation during sex and when you urinate.
Although often wrongly self-diagnosed, Thrush is a completely different intimate health issue than BV. While both infections can cause excessive vaginal discharge, the consistency and smell of this discharge tends to differ. This, along with the common itching and irritation in the vaginal area, makes the diagnosis of Thrush simple for a medical professional. However, like BV, it is possible to have thrush without experiencing any symptoms at all.
If you think you may be suffering from Thrush, your first port of call should be your doctor. Antifungal creams and vaginal pessaries can be prescribed which usually help clear up the infection in under a week. Oral tablets can also be prescribed for more persistent cases.
You can help to avoid the onset of thrush with a few simple personal hygiene tips. Staying clear of scented soap when cleaning your intimate area is a good idea. Changing the clothes-washing detergent you use to a non-bio alternative and avoiding the use of fabric softeners can also help. Finally, when going to the toilet, remember to always wipe the area from front to back. This can help to prevent unwanted bacteria from spreading.
Many women believe vaginal dryness is an unavoidable part of the aging process, while others are simply too embarrassed to seek treatment for the condition. The truth is, however, although vaginal dryness is more common among women who are going through the menopause, the condition is actually relatively common and can affect women of all ages.
This intimate health problem, which is particularly common in women who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding, can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort, particularly during sex, and can have a large impact on a woman’s mental health, relationship and sex life.
However, it’s important to be aware that treating this intimate issue can be quick and simple. If the condition has only recently started, you can try to relieve your symptoms using a water-based lubricant or a vaginal moisturiser
Like BV, Cystitis is a bacterial infection that can cause extreme discomfort to your intimate area. The infection, which most women suffer from at least once in their lives, causes your bladder to become inflamed which can lead to a host of unpleasant symptoms, such as pain while urinating, back and abdominal pain, a feeling of needing to use the toilet more frequently and extreme tiredness and fever.
Although not classed as an STI, Cystitis can be caused by having sex, as well as using a diaphragm and even inserting a tampon. Most cases are believed to be triggered when bacteria that usually live harmlessly on the skin get into the bladder via the urethra causing inflammation. While for some the pain of Cystitis is only mild, for others it can be severe enough to impact their day-to-day lives.
If you think you might have Cystitis, the good news is that most cases get better by themselves within a few days. On the first signs of Cystitis, you can treat symptoms at home by using over the counter painkillers, avoiding sex and drinking plenty of water. If the symptoms persist over a few days, you should speak to your doctor for advice. It’s important to return to your doctor to seek further medical attention if symptoms continue as cystitis can develop into a more serious kidney infection if left untreated.
To reduce the chances of contracting Cystitis there are a number of things to remember. Once again, avoid using fragranced soaps around your intimate area and make sure you remain well hydrated throughout the day.
Although sometimes embarrassing and awkward to talk about, your intimate health and wellbeing is important. Treating these conditions might be easier than you think, and sorting the problem out quickly is likely to have a positive impact on both your physical and mental health.