Solving the mystery of your nether regions just got easier.
Going to the gyno can be a very awkward experience. Aside from the levels of anxiety you feel as to whether your bits are beautifully healthy, nobody likes asking a perfect stranger (if it’s your first time) questions like, “What does this yucky yellow discharge mean?”
The list of embarrassing questions we all have could fill multiple books. So, to save us all some blush-worthy blunders, we asked obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr David Shelley-Jones, six of the most pressing questions we’ve all had about your va-jay-jays at some point.
1. Can I safely have sex during pregnancy?
According to Shelley-Jones, it’s perfectly safe to have sex during pregnancy, from conception right through to full term. However, there are a few exceptions.
“Sex while you’re pregnant is fine, provided there are no unusual conditions,” he states.
These can include placenta praevia (a low-lying placenta, which leaves the blood vessels close to the cervical os vulnerable, causing bleeding), and a shortened cervix. That is, in cases of threatened preterm labour and shortened cervix, sex can increase the chance of premature delivery. So as long as you pay attention to what your body is telling you, it’s okay to get down and dirty.
2. Is it normal to have asymmetrical labia?
“Yes, having asymmetrical labia is common, and of no medical concern,” says Shelley-Jones.
There are many variations on what is considered normal, just as there are for any other part of your body. Asymmetrical labia majora (the larger, outer lips of your vulva) are extremely common. In most women, one labia majora is typically lower than the other.
The labia minora (the smaller, inner lips of your vulva) can also be quite varied, as their shape can be altered by childbirth. In some women the labia minora is smaller than the majora, while in others the labia minora can protrude beyond the majora and be clearly visible. These are both completely normal and are not cause for concern. Yes, you can have vaginal cosmetic surgery to rectify this, but gynecologists do not recommend it as it commonly leads to infection and loss of sensation.
3. Why do I have a funny smell down there?
“Smell can be insignificant and natural,” says Shelley-Jones.
“Sometimes there is an excess of bacteria, which leads to an increase in the smell. There are also other physical causes. Unusual diseases such as a large cervical polyp can contribute. Lost tampons are also a common cause of a change in smell. Your doctor can and should review this.”
Much like your skin, your mouth and your gut, your body is covered with a range of ‘good’ bacteria that help to keep things in balance and reduce infections. However, it’s important to look out for sudden changes in what is normal for you, so if the scent becomes very strong or is accompanied by unusual vaginal discharge, play it safe and have a check-up with your doctor or gyno.
4. Is vaginal itching normal?
“A short period of itching isn’t cause for concern, however, a persistent itch must be reviewed by your doctor as soon as possible,” says Shelley-Jones.
The most common reasons for continued itchiness are a yeast infection (thrush) or lichen simplex, which is a form of dermatitis. Lichen simplex can be a result of sweating, a reaction to clothing, soaps, lubricants, latex condoms, medications, hormonal changes and other lifestyle factors. Rarer causes of chronic itch can include eczema, psoriasis and autoimmune diseases.
While it’s tempting to the chemist and self-treat with an over-the-counter thrush cream, pessary or tablet, if your symptoms don’t resolve or the problem reoccurs it may be time to book an appointment with your gyno. In the meantime, avoid scratching, waxing and shaving which can all exacerbate the itch and may lead to micro abrasions.
5. How much daily discharge is normal?
Vaginal discharge varies from woman to woman, and it’s important to be aware of what’s ‘normal’ for you. As with vaginal scent, the thing to watch out for is sudden changes in discharge levels. Shelley-Jones insists if you notice anything unusual, it’s essential you consult a doctor immediately.
“Discharge requiring you to change your pad more than twice a day is abnormal. It can be indicative of cancer, and mustn’t be ignored.”
6. Why doesn’t my vagina produce vaginal lubrication like it used to?
Vaginal discharge does vary in volume over the course of your cycle, due to changes in hormonal level. However, this changes on a more permanent basis over the course of a lifetime.
“After menopause, estrogen levels are often low. This can be a cause of reduced secretion,” says Shelley-Jones.
If you find the dryness irritates you, there are actually a number of treatment options.
“You can buy vaginal moisturizers over the counter at any pharmacy; the don’t require a prescription. Vaginal estrogen creams and pessaries are also good options.”
Images via giphy.com