Signs of an Unhealthy Vagina
Knowing the signs of an unhealthy vagina is essential information for every woman. The vagina is an integral part of the reproductive system, and its health is essential for overall wellbeing. While women might be hesitant or embarrassed to discuss this topic openly, it's important to understand the signs that may indicate an unhealthy vagina. From unusual discharge to persistent itching or discomfort, recognizing these symptoms early on can help women seek appropriate medical attention and maintain optimal vaginal health.
In this article, we'll explore some common signs of an unhealthy vagina and discuss possible causes and ways to prevent any problems.
Common Misconceptions About Vaginal Health
Accurate information about the health of your vagina enables you to make informed decisions about your wellness. Here are some common myths about vaginal health.
Myth: Vaginas should always have a "fresh" scent
Reality: Many people believe that vaginas should smell fragrant or devoid of any odour at all times. In fact, every woman has her unique scent due to hormonal fluctuations and natural bacteria present in the vagina. While a strong odour may indicate an infection, mild and musky smells are entirely normal.
Myth: Douching is necessary for cleanliness
Reality: Douching involves washing out the inside of the vagina with water or other mixtures containing chemicals or fragrances. Contrary to popular belief, douching isn't necessary for vaginal cleanliness and can actually disrupt the delicate balance of healthy bacteria in the vagina, leading to infections and irritation.
Myth: Tightness indicates good sexual health
Reality: The notion that tightness equates to sexual health is misleading. Vaginal tightness can vary naturally among individuals based on factors such as genetics, age, childbirth experiences, and muscle tone rather than indicating good health or sexual satisfaction.
Myth: All vaginal discharge is abnormal
Fact: Vaginal discharge is normal and serves various functions like keeping the vagina clean and lubricated while preventing infections. The colour and consistency may vary throughout your menstrual cycle, but any sudden changes accompanied by itching, foul odour or discomfort could indicate an infection requiring medical attention.
Myth: Yeast infections are caused by poor hygiene
Fact: Yeast infections, also known as candidiasis, are usually caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. Although good hygiene is essential, yeast infections can happen to anyone regardless of cleanliness habits.
6 Signs of an Unhealthy Vagina
Many common vaginal issues are actually perfectly normal in a healthy vagina. These six signs of an unhealthy vagina can help you decide if what you're experiencing is abnormal.
If you're concerned about any vaginal symptoms, it's essential that you seek professional advice. Only a healthcare professional can diagnose specific conditions accurately.
1. Unusual discharge
While some discharge is perfectly normal, changes in vaginal fluid can be a sign of an infection or other problem. Pay attention to any substantial changes in colour, consistency, odour or amount.
- Yellow or green discharge might indicate bacterial vaginosis.
- Thick white discharge like cottage cheese may suggest a yeast infection.
- Grayish-white or frothy discharge could be associated with trichomoniasis.
2. Foul odour
As discussed above, some degree of scent is normal due to the vagina's natural bacteria. But an unusually strong or unpleasant smell might indicate an issue like bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection.
3. Redness, itching and irritation
Persistent itching around the vulva area can be caused by various factors, including yeast infections, contact dermatitis from irritants like soaps or laundry detergents, pubic lice (crabs) or even certain sexually transmitted infections like genital herpes.
4. Painful intercourse
Experiencing pain during sexual intercourse can have multiple causes, like dryness due to hormonal changes (especially during menopause or after giving birth), vaginal infections like yeast infections, inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis), endometriosis affecting the pelvic area, among others.
5. Abnormal bleeding
Any abnormal bleeding should be evaluated promptly by a healthcare professional since it could signify various conditions ranging from minor issues such as cervical polyps or hormonal imbalances to more serious conditions like cervical, uterine, or ovarian cancer.
6. Pelvic discomfort
Persistent discomfort in the pelvic region could be a sign of an underlying condition such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is often caused by sexually transmitted infections. Other possible causes include endometriosis, ovarian cysts, fibroids or even urinary tract infections.
What Can I do to Keep my Vagina Healthy?
By adopting a few simple habits and following good hygiene practices, you can help prevent discomfort, infections, and other vaginal problems. Follow these tips to keep your vagina healthy.
Practice good hygiene
- Wash the external area using mild, unscented soap and warm water.
- Avoid using douches or harsh cleansers as they may disrupt the delicate pH balance.
- After using the toilet, always wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from spreading.
Wear breathable underwear
- Opt for cotton underwear instead of synthetic fabrics.
- Choose underwear that fits properly without being too tight or constrictive.
- Avoid wearing overly tight panties or leggings for extended periods as it can lead to increased moisture and potential infections.
Maintain safe sexual practices
- Use condoms during sexual intercourse to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancies.
- Get regular STI screenings if you are sexually active with multiple partners or starting a new relationship.
Eat and drink well
- Drink plenty of water daily to stay hydrated and help maintain natural lubrication in the vaginal area.
- Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats that support overall health.
Avoid irritants and allergens
- Steer clear of scented products like soaps, bubble baths or tampons/pads with fragrance as they can cause irritation or allergic reactions.
- Choose hypoallergenic laundry detergents and avoid excessive use of fabric softeners when washing undergarments.
Practice safe menstrual care
- Change menstrual products frequently (tampons/pads/cups) to prevent bacterial growth.
- Choose unscented, organic or hypoallergenic menstrual products to minimize irritation.
Regular physical activity
- Engage in regular exercise to improve blood circulation.
- Avoid wearing wet workout clothes for extended periods as it can create a moist environment promoting bacterial growth.
Visit a women's health physiotherapist
- A women's physio can assess any issues you might be having and devise a practical treatment plan to get you feeling your best as soon as possible.
Common Vaginal Infections:
Identified by itching or burning sensation in the vagina and vulva area, thick white discharge with a cottage cheese-like texture, redness and swelling.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
Recognisable by a thin greyish-white discharge with a fishy odour that becomes more noticeable after sexual intercourse or during menstruation, itching or burning sensation.
This is a sexually transmitted infection that causes frothy yellow-green discharge with a foul odour, itching and irritation in the genital area, painful urination or sexual intercourse.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
These cause a burning sensation during urination.
Another sexually transmitted infection that can result in vaginal discharge, pain or burning sensation during urination, bleeding between periods or heavier periods.
Being aware of the signs of an unhealthy vagina is vital for every woman's overall health. While some changes may be temporary and harmless, others can indicate underlying issues that require medical attention.
If you're in any doubt or have concerns about your vaginal health, a consultation with a healthcare professional will put your mind at rest and set you up with appropriate treatment.
If you think you have signs of an unhelthy vagina or have another women's pelvic health problems, call Magdalena on 07877 017 936 or drop PelviCare an email for a no-obligation chat. Alternatively, you can book an appointment online for treatment.
PelviCare Women's Health Physiotherapy is located in Greenwich, London, serving women across South London, East London, Essex, Kent and beyond.