This article was written by Tania Bhattacharya on behalf of Sherley Altidor.

Edited by Lynn Joseph

Over five dozen women have been to outer space but even in 2020,  most of us still feel uncomfortable talking about our health down there where the sun and moon don’t shine. The thing is, we need to be informed and talk about these issues that affect our health – not only to save ourselves but other women from going through health issues that could have been avoided if they had only known.

Did you know that vaginal infections are one of the most common health issues a woman faces? In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most women will have vaginitis at some point in their life. Having sex is not the only way to get a vaginal infection, so let’s break down what these infections do to your body and how you can prevent these infections and treat yourself if you find yourself with an infection.

What is vaginitis, you ask? What causes it? Is there any connection between intimate hygiene and Bacterial Vaginosis or “BV” for short? Let’s find out together.

Also read: Why We Should Talk About The Vagina

What is Bacterial Vaginosis?

Bacterial Vaginosis is a mild infection of the vagina that is caused by bacteria. Although it is not certain what causes Bacterial Vaginosis, most experts agree that it surfaces when the pH balance of the vaginal environment is disrupted. You might be wondering what causes that imbalance. Well, a lot of things factor into a possible imbalance, such as semen, menstruation, wipes, and soaps. Any of these factors could be the culprit. What causes Bacterial Vaginosis in one person may not be the same cause for another.

But isn’t there good bacteria? Yes! That would be correct. Lactobacillus is the good bacteria that protects our vagina. It pumps out lactic acid and in turn, helps to maintain a low, acidic level inside the vagina. However, sometimes, certain external factors end up messing with this balance. It kills the number of lactobacilli and increases other ‘bad’ bacteria responsible for Bacterial Vaginosis .

Some factors responsible for increasing the probability of Bacterial Vaginosis  include:

  1. Having more than one sex partner
  2. Having a new sex partner
  3. Douching (washing the vagina with water or a mixture of fluids)

Also read: How To Deal With Cramps

What are the symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?

The main symptom to look out for includes an increase in vaginal discharge of grayish white or yellow color along with a fishy smell. However, several other factors, including a few different types of sexually transmitted infections, can cause increased vaginal discharge. So, the best way to treat your infection is to visit your OBGYN and to get tested rather than jumping the gun on a self diagnosis from one symptom. Let the professionals diagnose your issue.

Is Bacterial Vaginosis a serious condition?

Apparently, BV on its own is not a serious condition. BV usually goes away on its own. However, this is not something that you should take for granted. Apart from the discomfort that BV causes, it may also lead to a host of problems like miscarriage, preterm delivery, an increased chance of pelvic infection during a C-section, hysterectomy, or abortion, and make you more prone to catch sexually transmitted infection when exposed to it. So while not dangerous on its own, BV may act as a life-threatening precursor. So do not take BV lightly if

How can you prevent getting Bacterial Vaginosis?

While there is no obvious connection between feminine hygiene and BV, research often connects douching with BV. So, it’s best to avoid doing it in the first place. Since the secret to avoiding BV is maintaining a healthy pH level in the vagina, you can attempt to achieve that by avoiding doing anything that disrupts the healthy makeup. For instance, certain soaps might upset this balance. Always opt for mild or unscented, natural soaps. It might take a few days to get used to using natural products, which aren’t buried in non-essential ingredients, but it’s worth finding the product that suits you. Let your skin breathe. Your entire body will thank you.

Also, if you love taking bubble baths, do not sit in the tub for very long. Rinse your vagina well and don’t forget to dry it. Always wear cotton panties and change your panties as soon as you can, after exercising. These small steps just may save you the headache of having BV.

BV might not be very serious initially, but it sure is uncomfortable and can  lead to bigger health hazards. So be sure to follow these tips and consult your gynecologist whenever necessary. 

What Are Other Vaginal Infections I Should Know About?

Vaginal Candidiasis is a clinical term for a yeast infection. The yeast is called Candida. The main symptoms include vaginal itching, soreness in the vaginal area, pain during sex or while urinating, and abnormal vaginal discharge. That said, soreness, redness, and swelling may also occur. If you experience these symptom, make sure to seek professional help so that you can receive the appropriate antifungal medicines to treat this. Most women experience a yeast infection or multiple yeast infections in their life, so this is nothing to be concerned about. Vaginal candidiasis is the second most common vaginal infection in the U.S. so don’t be alarmed if you find yourself with this infection. It is common and it is treatable.

Trichomoniasis is sexually transmitted, so if you are sexually active, you do want to be aware of the symptoms and treatments for this but all sexually transmitted diseases (such as chlamydia and gonorrhea) that you can research on your own time. These might very well be the most common sexually transmitted infections and diseases but these are far from the only ones. While symptoms do overlap, you won’t know for sure what your body has contracted until getting tested for STIs/STDS and/or seeking a diagnosis from a certified health professional.

What Are Other Causes For Vaginal Infections?

Taking antibiotics, changes in hormone levels, pregnancy, and breastfeeding are other causes of vaginal infections. You will also do yourself a great service by staying away from irritants that not only include scented soaps and perfumes but also avoid wearing jeans that are too tight in your crotch area (to avoid rashes). Some people can use the process of elimination here to narrow down how they may have gotten a vaginal infection but even if that is the case, make sure to seek a doctor so that they can diagnose you and treat you with the right prescribed medicine.

Also read: Sex Before Marriage: Is it Important

What’s the Bottom Line?

It is so important to pay attention to your body. Understanding your body’s needs helps you input what’s healthy, exercise healthy routines, and keep everything in your body circulating as it should. There are such simple everyday tasks that can be made to prevent you from getting diagnosed with infections that you don’t have to have in your life at all or more often than what you can control. So make sure to do your part and take the appropriate steps to protect your vagina, yourself from infection. No one wants to be uncomfortable, so why take that chance?

If you’ve been diagnosed with a vaginal infection, I encourage you to share in the comments the signs that you spotted, what you’re treatment was like, and how long your recovery was. Our bodies are all different and we respond to medicine differently, so what works for one person may not work for another. As much as medicine is designed to be a one size fits all, sometimes it may or may not take more. So I’m really interested in hearing what your experiences were like.

Finally, if you have yet to experience a vaginal infection, share what you are doing to continue your prevention efforts and any tips or tricks for those who are looking for easy everyday ways to incorporate making sure they are taking the right precautions as well. If these are things that you haven’t thought about before now, don’t be hard on yourself. Especially in the past year of 2020 when taking care of ourselves in this context may have been the last thing on many of our minds. But don’t forget your vagina. It is not too late to start paying attention, taking care of yourself in this way and thinking about how keeping your vagina as healthy as it can possibly be.

So what do you say? I say it’s time to embrace wearing cotton underwear, purchasing comfortable but not so tight jeans, using unscented and natural shower gel, cutting out the perfumes and replacing them with essential oils, and absolutely under no circumstances, do not douche. If your medical practitioner has not recommended douching, there is literally no reason to even do this. If you are just looking for a fancy way to clean up down there, aaginal steaming at the spa might be what you’re looking for. this is not even necessary but that’s your choice if you want to do it. Just don’t make it a regular part of your routine. Better safe than sorry, even if that sorry is a temporary one.

Articles you may enjoy:

Educating Ourselves on Feminine Hygiene

What Women Aren’t Comfortable Talking About When It Comes To Sex

Why You Should Use Luvena Prebiotic

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