The Importance of Understanding Women’s Intimate Health (plus WIN)

This month is Women’s Health month and here at Becoming you we are using it as a chance to talk about some of the less popular topics around women and their bodies.

There are so many women who struggle with private health issues behind closed doors, they never get the proper help and often suffer in silence because of feelings of shame or embarrassment.

We want to pull the plug on those feelings and help women gain a better understanding of Women’s Intimate Health issues.

In celebration of Women’s Day we are also giving away TWO Body Shop gift cards valued at R1 500 each! Winners can then select their own set of spoils!

As women we need to take charge of our bodies, love them, care for them and get the right information about them, so that we can thrive!

Have you ever experienced any unusual symptom in your body and felt too scared or ashamed to find out what could be the cause? I certainly have had this experience and I can say it took much persuading to book that doctors appointment and get the issue resolved. Why did I hesitate? Why did I feel so nervous? I think perhaps I was fearing a dread diagnosis and I certainly felt a bit embarrassed.

But seriously- is your body not worth the utmost care and attention! Our bodies really are wonderful, unique and miraculous in so many ways. Let’s commit to educate ourselves even on awkward issues and make sure we understand our bodies in the best way that we can.

How do we start caring more deeply for our bodies?

Our bodies are intricate systems made up of so many different parts. Sadly, we often neglect them due to the many exterior demands placed on us as women. Often it is our bodies that are last in line to get any attention. This needs to change and we need to commit to becoming more attentive to our bodies, our cycles, our symptoms and our bodily functions. Being aware of our own bodies is the start to understanding them and caring for them properly.

What practical ways can one be more attentive to our bodies as women?

  • Sweep away embarrassment
  • Be more open to talk about previously ‘private’ topics
  • Ask for help more readily
  • Set aside time to relax, do regular exercise, prioritise good eating and sleeping routines
  • Take note of your body, your cycles, your bodily functions and note how your body functions when it is well
  • Arm yourself with accurate information about women’s health topics
  • Book an appointment with a professional medical practitioner if you experience any unusual, unexplained symptoms or changes in your body
  • Go for those annual medical check ups and keep in tune with your body

Women’s Intimate Health Issues

Have you ever been diagnosed with a women’s intimate health issue? 

Preceding a proper medical diagnosis most women would have had to have experienced some sort of unusual symptoms. They would have had to acknowledge that something was wrong, they would have booked and gone to a medical professional for an appointment, received a diagnosis and a script for treatment and then obtained the treatment needed. 

That process required the following:

  • Be aware of your body
  • Be proactive and book an appointment (even if it will be awkward)
  • Attend the appointment and get examined (another hurdle for many women)
  • Accept the diagnosis and get on the right course of treatment

As women we need to realise that delaying or ignoring symptoms will not assist us to get our health back. We need to take action and this may take some determination and pushing through some uncomfortable feelings on our part. 

 

“A lot of women will suffer in silence because of embarrassment and shame about very intimate symptoms. Usually it can be sorted out relatively easily, and they need to go and see someone to get it treated, managed and diagnosed.”

Dr. Philip Hay, Honorary Consultant in Sexual Health, St George’s University Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trust London.

 

Have you ever experienced any of these vaginal symptoms?

  • Change in discharge
  • Discharge that has a nasty odour
  • Discharge that has significantly changed in amount or colour
  • Vaginal itchiness 
  • Redness and an uncomfortable feeling in the vagina or vulva

 

These can all be symptoms of common women’s intimate health issues that can be readily diagnosed, treated and resolved if you get the right assistance. Vaginal discharge is normal and it changes according to the different life stages and phases of a woman’s life- such as during pregnancy or during ovulation. Normal discharge is clear or creamy, has no odour and does not cause any discomfort. Did you know that as your menstrual cycle progresses you will experience an increase of vaginal fluid and this indicates your fertile time of the month when ovulation is occurring? 

Recognising healthy and unhealthy discharges and symptoms is an important place to beginning understanding our bodies better.

The differences between Bacterial Vaginosis and Thrush

Many people are not aware of the fact that these two conditions are both very common and also easily treatable.

Let’s equip ourselves with accurate information so that we can identify symptoms more easily and get treatment when needed.

Thrush

Definition: 

Common vaginal infection caused by an overgrowth of a yeast or fungus called Candida albicans.

Symptoms:

  • Vaginal discharge that’s white, thick and cottage cheese-like
  • Vaginal discharge associated with thrush does not typically have a smell but can sometimes a yeasty smell
  • Itchiness, redness and soreness around the vulva and vagina
  • Occasionally pain when urinating

Treatment:

  • The infection is fungal in nature so an anti-fungal cream
  • Sometimes tablets are prescribed

Problems caused by non-treatment: 

  • Higher risk of STDs
  • Possible problems in pregnancy

Prevention:

  • Wash your vaginal area every day. Use mild soap. Rinse well and pat dry
  • Wear cotton or cotton-lined underpants
  • Don’t wear tight pants and don’t wear panty hose in hot weather

Bacterial Vaginosis

Definition: 

A bacterial vaginal infection caused by bacteria and is not a sexually transmitted disease. Your vagina has its very own colony of good bacteria called Lactobacilli, which helps maintain a delicate balance inside your vagina. These Lactobacilli bacteria produce lactic acid to maintain a slightly acidic environment inside the vagina (pH <4.5) to ensure a healthy vaginal lining and to protect the vagina against infections. When the balance is disturbed (there are too few Lactobacilli, or the pH of the vagina becomes too alkaline) harmful bacteria may grow and cause infection. 

Risk Factors:

  • Unprotected sex can disrupt the balance of flora in the vagina
  • Multiple or new sex partners
  • Oral contraceptive use
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Menstrual cycle changes
  • General illnesses like diabetes, iron deficiency and immune system disorders

Sometimes, the reason for candida overgrowth cannot be identified.

Symptoms:

  • Thin, white or grey discharge
  • Fishy odour is one of the most common distinguishing feature
  • More discharge than usual
  • No sore, red or itchy vulva or vagina

Treatment:

  • Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis needs to target the harmful bacteria that caused the infection. It can be easily treated with an antibiotic for a period of 5 to 7 days
  • The most common antibiotic used is metronidazole. This antibiotic can be taken orally (tablets) or topically (via the use of an intra-vaginal gel).
  • Topical treatments have lower gastro-intestinal side effects (nausea, vomiting, cramping and unpleasant taste in the mouth) than oral treatments

Problems caused by non-treatment: 

  • Increased risk of pelvic inflammatory diseases 
  • Increased risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases 

Prevention:

  • Avoid douching, douching upsets the balance of good and harmful bacteria in your vagina. This may raise your risk of BV
  • Avoid using antiseptics or perfumed sprays in the genital area.
  • Avoid using perfumed toilet paper and menstrual products.
  • Wear cotton underwear.

Use the graph below to understand your vaginal discharge and what it may be telling you!

Knowing the symptoms of these two common women’s intimate health issues is a start to equipping oneself with information that can help one lead a healthy life.

Use this useful online self-diagnosis tool which can be a great start in getting the right diagnosis.  If you feel unsure about any unusual changes or symptoms we always recommend seeing a health care professional to obtain a proper medical diagnosis. 

Let’s break the stigma attached to embarrassment about women’s health issues. Let’s talk openly about symptoms, treatment and help each other live optimum lives of health and wellness. 

For more details information and some really good answers to FAQ’s visit this great website: https://www.myvaginalgel.co.za/about/

 

WIN 2 x Body Shop hampers

 

    Max 3 extra entries

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional

 

(Information supplied by the Melborne Sexual Health Centre and www.myvaginalgel.co.za. The useful infographic is supplied by iNova Pharmaceuticals)

 

 

 

Emma Reid
Emma Reid

Emma is a mom of three (8, 4 and 2 months). She is an educationalist and holds a Bachelor Degree in English, Media & Writing and Film. She is also a qualified Primary School Teacher. She has a keen interest in curriculum and content development especially for child related fields. Currently she spends her days as lead creative and Cape Town City Director for Adventure Clubs. In this role she plans and creates unique experiences for families with young children. With many years of teaching children, and advising parents, she is passionate about childhood development and education - of kids and parents. Her hobbies include photography, reading, travel and spending time in the outdoors with her family and relaxing either in or near the surf!

8 Comments
  1. I like being a woman, even in a man’s world. After all, men can’t wear dresses, but we can wear the pants. i would love to see more articles about women ‘s sexual health and education for women about Endometriosis.

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