Ladies, have you every experienced discomfort or itching in your vaginal area and you begin to wonder How in the HEALTH did that happen?
As we approach the “Lover’s Holiday”, I’ve asked an amazing health and wellness blogger to be a guest author and share her knowledge on vaginal health to ensure that your “lady parts” are working just fine for a Valentines’ Day delight (or just in general)!
Janelle King is a Registered Nurse with a Master’s degree in Public Health. During her nursing career she has worked extensively in reproductive and sexual health. Her current position in College Health provides her with the opportunity to care and educate young adults. In her spare time you can find writing about sexual and reproductive health on her blog thenursenote.com.
As a College Health nurse, I have the opportunity to educate young adults about many different health issues. More often than not, my conversations with young women will eventually transition into a discussion about vaginas and “what’s going on down there.” I can’t count the number of times I heard a young woman say “I have this discharge…” or ask “Is that normal?”
I get it. Vaginal discharge and odor are a little confusing but you shouldn’t have to spend hours Googling your symptoms. Besides, there is so much conflicting information on the online, it’s easy to become confused and a little overwhelmed. But don’t worry, I’ve done the research.
Here are three of the most common vaginal problems you need to know about.
Vaginal Yeast Infection
If your discharge is thick, white, and looks like cottage cheese, these might be signs that you have a yeast infection. Truth be told, these infections are uncomfortable, but not as uncommon as you would think. Three out of 4 women will get a yeast infection at some point in their lives. So, you’re definitely not alone.
Here’s the deal. Your vagina contains a delicate balance of yeast and bacteria, but if there is too much yeast this can get ugly.
You may experience symptoms inside and outside of yourvagina including:
• Swelling, and
• Thick white discharge
Treating a Yeast Infection
The good news is, your yeast infection is easily treated. You might be tempted to head to your nearest pharmacy to grab an over-the-counter remedy, but a quick check by your doc is probably more helpful since two out of three women who use over the counter treatment don’t actually have a yeast infection! Your doc will make sure your infection is actually caused by yeast and give you medicine that you will either insert into your vagina or take by mouth to treat your infection.
Let’s be honest, every woman has their own natural vaginal odor but, at times your “lady bits” can get a little musty. If you find that your odor is a little stronger than normal, bacterial vaginosis might be to blame. Bacterial vaginosis or BV is another common infection caused by an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in your vagina. With its distinctive “fishy” odor, this infection is pretty hard to miss. Experts aren’t sure what really causes this condition but they believe that douching, having multiple sex partners, or having an IUD may play a role.
Sometimes BV can go away on its own, but more often than not, the infection has to be treated with a prescription antibiotic. You might be tempted to stop your medicine when your symptoms go away. Don’t! Take all of your medicine as prescribed to treat the infection correctly. You should also hold out on having sex until you have finished your treatment to prevent your infection from coming back.
What if I told you that you that you could have a sexually transmitted infection even if you don’t have any symptoms. Scary huh? Trichomoniasis is the most common non-viralsexually transmitted infection in the United States but only about 30% of people with the infection actually have any symptoms.
You may notice:
• Burning, itching, redness or soreness “downstairs”
• Vaginal discharge that is yellow, greenish, white, and has a fishy smell, or
• Painful urination
Truthfully, having sex with this condition is uncomfortable, and the infection it can last for months or even years if it is not treated.
Your doctor will give you medicine to clear up your infection but it’s also important to make sure your boo treated for the infection too. Wait for 7 to 10 days after you and your partner are treated before having sex again to prevent the infection from coming back.
How to Keep you Vagina Healthy
Normally, your vagina has no problem keeping itself healthy and maintaining its own pH balance but sometimes things can go left. Don’t worry, there a few things you can do to keep your vagina in tip-top shape:
Use a Condom
Condoms help to prevent harmful bacteria from getting into your vagina which can cause discharge and odors. It also doesn’t hurt that condoms protect against a number of sexually transmitted infections, like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis.
Get an HPV Vaccine
If you haven’t read my post about the benefits of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, you can check it out here. Recently, experts agreed that older women can also benefit from the vaccine. You should definitely schedule an appointment with your doctor to talk about starting the vaccine series if you haven’t already done so.
Schedule a Well-Woman Visit
If you are over the age of 21, you should be seeing your healthcare provider regularly for your pap smear. This test is the best way to identify changes in the cells of your cervix before they become cancerous.
You don’t have to get overwhelmed trying to figure out your vaginal issues. Having insight about three of the most common vaginal problems all in one location can save you time, energy, and help you keep your “lady parts.”
– Janelle King, RN, MPH
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