The ‘v’ word is shrouded in shame and stigma. Is it any wonder then, that you probably didn’t know the answers to these simple questions, till now?
Vaginas are like snowflakes — no two are the same. (Isn’t that a lovely analogy?).
One way that women are the same, however, is that many of us stress over our vaginas. What’s up with the itching and burning? Is my smell normal? Why am I so sweaty down there?
While you should always feel that you should be able to bring these concerns to your provider (remember, health professionals like OB-GYNs and midwives have seen and heard it all), there are common concerns that just seem to come up over and over again.
Dr. Samuel Malloy, medical director at the online resource Dr Felix, talks us through some of the vagina problems that every woman seems to worry about at one time or another.
1. “Does my vagina smell normal?”
This is such a common concern. Your vagina has a natural scent and that’s completely normal. If things don’t smell right down there — fishy, or an actual foul odor — this can be a sign of infection, and should be checked with your provider. Otherwise, embrace your womanly fragrance and definitely don’t try to mask it or change it by douching (which itself can lead to problems such as vaginosis).
2. “Why am I having discharge?”
Repeat after me: daily vaginal discharge is normal. “It is a little known fact that every fertile woman will experience some vaginal discharge every day,” explains Dr. Samuel Malloy, medical director at the online resource Dr Felix. “However, the quantity can vary a lot from person to person — being almost unnoticeable for some people. The main thing to keep in mind is that it should be a normal quantity, color and consistency for you.” Malloy adds that “discharge can vary over the course of your menstrual cycle, being thicker during ovulation.” As with your natural scent, get to know what’s normal for you and then go from there, checking in with your provider if things don’t seem right. “Changes in color and smell can be a sign of STIs and other infections,” says Malloy.
3. “I’m itchy down there.”
There’s no reason you have to sit on your hands to keep from scratching at your vagina. (Also, ouch.) If you’re feeling itching or burning, don’t try to mask the symptom with an anti-itch cream. Find out what the cause is, whether it’s a yeast infection or an STD or vaginal dryness, so you can utilize modern meds if necessary and make that aggravating feeling go away.
4. “What’s the dryness about?”
Vaginal dryness is a very common issue around menopause, explains Malloy, advising that “the best solution for this is lube. If you are masturbating or having sex with your partner, lube can make the whole experience much more comfortable and pleasurable, as it replaces the naturally lubricant produced by the vagina pre-menopause.” Malloy suggests speaking to your provider if you’re experiencing dryness during the day: “[S/he] should be able to discuss potential treatments such as HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) that may help relieve your problems.”
5. “My period is irregular.”
There are a lot of reasons you might be experiencing an irregular period, including stress, fluctuation in weight, hormonal issues, and thyroid problems. Instead of freaking out, worrying about it, and doing endless (and endlessly anxiety-provoking) Google searches, see your provider to figure out the cause and address it.
6. “What do sores on my vagina mean?”
There’s no mincing words about this one: sores on your vagina can be caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD). So if you’re experiencing sores, warts, pain, or a rash, forgo the Google search and go see your provider.
7. “I’m never in the mood.”
“If you’re just never in the mood for sex (with a partner or solo), or feeling anxiety or inhibition, why not investigate so you don’t miss out on the fun? “If you aren’t comfortable with sexual activity with yourself, you may find it harder to relax during sexual activity with another,” says Malloy, who recommends masturbation to “help you to get used to penetration and to help alleviate any anxieties surrounding sex.” A low sex drive can also be caused by antidepressants as well as other factors — but can be addressed naturally (exercise can increase your sex drive!) or by your medical provider. Your vagina can even be depressed (a condition called vulvodynia).
8. “My vagina is sweaty.”
“There’s few things more uncomfortable than feeling rather too sweaty down below,” laments Malloy. “This happens most commonly during menopause, periods or if you go on holiday to a warmed environment.” Malloy advises cotton panties and loose fitting clothes: “Cotton is absorbent, yet breathable and helps to remove the moisture from your skin.”
Image via Pexels.com
Comment: Did we miss any of your most common vagina problems?