Vaginal health: expert talks about how to take care ‘down there’

Vaginal health and wellness is often treated as a taboo topic, leaving many women in the dark when it comes to how to take care of there.

There are a host of common vaginal problems and annoyances that many women face, so how do you know that something isn’t “normal”?

Pharmacist Montana Greenville stresses the importance of always being honest with your healthcare professional.

“We’ve heard it all and nothing is too embarrassing,” Grenfell told 9Honey. “We are there to help and support you.”

She also says it’s important to try to understand your body.

“Getting to know your body is a real skill and tool because it helps you know when something isn’t right. We are all unique so get to know yourself, and remember that everyone is different.”

Read more: How to choose the perfect sports bra for you

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable woman holding a distress sign in front of her genitals
There are a range of common issues and inconveniences that many women face. (iStock)

Here, Grenfell shares some of the causes of common vaginal discomforts, as well as how to find proper relief, and when you know it’s time to see a doctor.

Vaginal thrush (candida)

About 75 percent of women They will encounter vaginal thrush in their lifetime, a condition caused by an overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans. This yeast lives in the intestines and vaginal canal but overgrowth can lead to itching and burning as well as a white discharge. Other symptoms include a tingling sensation during urination or a swollen vagina.

If you suspect that you may have vaginal thrush, it is important to consult a healthcare provider, such as your local GP, to ensure the correct diagnosis is made. The good news is that treatment options are usually simple, and include antifungal creams, or an oral tablet available at your local drugstore.

Read more: 5 things to do before stopping birth control pills and what to expect when you do

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

If you have ever had a burning sensation when urinating, or a constant urge to use the bathroom, cystitis may be the cause. Cystitis is the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI) in women and occurs when bacteria travel through the urethra and inflame the lining of the bladder.

If left untreated, the infection can travel further and reach the kidneys, which can lead to a serious infection. To avoid this outcome, it is important to treat the infection at the earliest sign of symptoms.

Consider a urine alkaline substance, which serves to reduce the acidity of urine and relieve symptoms of a urinary tract infection. It is always important to consult a healthcare provider first to make sure your symptoms are not caused by something more serious.

vulvar dermatitis

Dermatitis is a common skin condition that often occurs on the arms, legs, or face, but in some cases, it can also occur in the vulva. Vulvar dermatitis occurs when the sensitive skin around the outside of the vagina, the vulva, becomes irritated and dry.

Causes can vary and include reactions to creams, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, or friction from tight clothing or sanitary pads.

When considering the most appropriate treatment option, the best place to start can be to avoid any potential irritants, which may trigger the condition. With any condition of the reproductive organs, it is always important to see your doctor to confirm the diagnosis and prescribe any medications you may need.

Read more: Five women in the wellness field share what their morning routine looks like

Woman lying down because of menstrual pain.
92 percent of women experience cramps during their menstrual period. (GT)

menstrual pain

Aunt visits can be rather unpleasant, especially when they come with nausea, mood swings, bloating, backache, fatigue, and painful cramps. In fact, 92% of women experience menstrual crampswhich results from the contraction of the muscular uterine wall to shed the lining.

The most painful cramps usually happen in the first few days, with high levels of prostaglandins – the hormone that causes the lining to shed and the uterus to contract – on the first day of your period. Make sure to take care of yourself and prioritize your comfort during this time of the month.

To help ease the discomfort associated with your period, you can try over-the-counter pain relievers, along with non-medicated solutions like heat compresses or gentle stretching. Of course, be sure to speak to your doctor before starting any new supplements or medications.

Read more: Period maps could be the secret to achieving better sleep for women

pelvic floor weakness

Have you ever had mild incontinence from sneezing, coughing or laughing? This may be due to a weak pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles support the intestines, bladder, and uterus and help keep the urge to go to the bathroom in check.

Signs that you have a weak pelvic floor include pain during sex, constipation, or most commonly, a frequent need to go to the bathroom. Weakness can be caused by a number of factors including pregnancy and childbirth, obesity, painful periods, and in some cases, endometriosis.

Pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen these muscles, or you can consider using a pelvic floor trainer. If you have pelvic floor weakness, it is best to see your doctor, who may refer you to a pelvic floor specialist.

Do not suffer in silence

“Pain is a messenger from the body telling you that something might be wrong, so pay attention,” Grenfell adds.

Vaginal and vulval pain can range from mild to severe, temporary, or long lasting.

“It is important to listen to your body and know what it is trying to say. And to see your doctor when you feel uncomfortable and that you are not ‘normal,’ for example, if there is an odor or colored discharge, too much discharge, or stinging.”

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