Unpleasant odors, excessive discharge and itchiness: unfortunately, most women will have to deal with a vaginal infection or discomfort sooner or later. But for some of us, it isn’t just a one-off problem. Recurring vaginal infections can have a big impact on your quality of life — not to mention your health. How can you tell if you have a recurring vaginal infection, and what can you do about it?
There aren’t many allegedly minor complaints more disruptive than vaginal infections. And it’s not just because of the sometimes intense discomfort we experience when we have them: even in our day and age, these so-called ‘intimate problems’ are still taboo and difficult to discuss. Not only are you dealing with itching, pain, irritation and excessive vaginal discharge, you also have to suffer in silence.
Add to that the fact that no two vaginas are the same, and it can be difficult to determine whether you are dealing with just discomfort, or an actual vaginal infection. Sometimes these complaints are nothing more than that; sometimes they occur when there’s a serious condition.
A good way to keep track of your vaginal health is to regularly check your discharge for changes in the color, odor or texture. It’s also important to keep up with your regular pap smears.
If you notice significant changes in your vaginal discharge, or other symptoms such as bleeding, itching, burning or spotting, it’s best to visit your doctor. Once you know what’s going on with your health, you can start taking steps to get rid of your vaginal discomfort.
Bacterial vaginosis (also known as ‘BV’) is caused by an imbalance in your natural vaginal bacteria. It’s easy to recognize by the primary symptom: unpleasant-smelling discharge, which is caused by the coccoid bacteria.
Bacterial vaginosis is more than just a nuisance. BV is associated with:
This is why women who show symptoms of BV are advised to treat it.
Vaginal yeast infections (also called ‘candida’ or ‘thrush’) occur when the Candida albicans yeast runs rampant. This can happen when its food source, the sugar in the cells of the vaginal wall, is more abundant than usual, such as during the second half of your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and when you use birth control pills. Eating a lot of sugar and dairy can also play a role. With so many everyday causes, it won’t come as a surprise that candida is a common vaginal infection out there.
Common symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include:
Thrush can be easy to treat, but difficult to cure.
If you don’t have a vaginal infection, you may still suffer from recurring intimate complaints. It’s still important to take steps to treat these complaints: if left untreated, vaginal discomforts can land you on a downward spiral in terms of both physical and mental health.
In a time where we are constantly bombarded with idealized images wherever we turn, it’s harder than ever to maintain a healthy self-image. This is made even more of a challenge when dealing with ongoing discomforts and complaints — especially if it’s the kind that is still taboo or difficult to discuss openly.
If you struggle with recurring intimate complaints, you may find yourself developing a negative attitude toward your vagina, and maybe even yourself. You might think that you complain too much, for instance. This kind of negative self-image can influence your relationship with your partner, but also your friendships. In the worst case, it can lead to you being.
For most women, penetrative sex plays a key role in their sexual life. Recurring vaginal complaints such as soreness, itchiness and excessive discharge, can leave you feeling less confident and excited about sex. If you feel less aroused, you will also produce less natural lubrication, and may have trouble relaxing. Not only is this not enjoyable, it can result in painful intercourse that leaves you with damaged vaginal tissues.
And that can cause your complaints to keep coming back, landing you on that downward spiral.
Both the physical and mental repercussions from recurring vaginal infections and complaints can affect your immune system, which is your body’s defense mechanism. And that, too, can make you more susceptible to recurring intimate complaints.
Breaking the cycle of recurring intimate complaints can offer real benefits for your mental and physical health, both immediately and in the long term. But how do you do it? You have several tools at your disposal.
We don’t necessarily mean wash your intimate area more — in fact, depending on your current routine, it might mean the opposite.
Maintaining balance in your vaginal flora can help make you less susceptible to recurring infections like BV and candida. Frequently washing your intimate area with soap might feel like a good way to keep everything down there clean, but the opposite is true. Soap is alkaline, so it disturbs the pH balance in your vagina, making it easier for coccoid bacteria to run rampant. If you currently use soap, bubble bath or something similar, consider switching to washing with just water.
As we mentioned above, the Candida albicans yeast thrives on sugar in vaginal wall cells. While you don’t want to get rid of the yeast completely, you also don’t want it to overwhelm the rest of your vaginal flora.
One way you can help prevent this is by changing your diet. By limiting your intake of sugars, sweeteners and dairy products, you can give the Candida albicans yeast less fuel, making it much harder for it to get out of hand.
You can also look beyond your diet. It goes without saying that good physical health makes you less susceptible to infections. However, stress and distress also reduce your resistance. It’s easier said than done, but taking steps to improve your general physical and mental wellbeing will also help you free yourself of recurring vaginal discomforts.
The suggestions we provided above are great steps to improving your vaginal health in the long term. If you’re looking for more immediate relief, you might want to explore your options when it comes to self-care.
For more information about other self-care options, consult your physician.