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It is very important that every woman should understand about her own vaginal health and how to maintain good feminine hygiene and sexual health. The following 7 conditions will help you learn more about the various issues concerning a woman’s vaginal health.
1. Pain During Sex
Dyspareunia, a term to describe pain experienced during sex, refers to vaginal discomfort that may spread to the labia and pelvic areas during or after intercourse. Pain during sex can be experienced as deep pain, which is felt internally or superficial pain, which is felt on the outside in the vaginal area.
Causes And Treatment of Deep Pain
- Womb and ovary problems, such as cysts on the ovary and various womb disorders like fibroids.
- Vaginismus refers to the spasm of vaginal muscles, caused by fear of being hurt. This can cause both deep and superficial pain.
- Endometriosis is a disorder that affects the womb and makes its surrounding tissues very tender. During intercourse, the pressure of the penis on the affected area can cause an intense, deep pain.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), caused by Chlamydia, can inflame the tissues in the womb, leading to deep pain that is resulted by the pressure of intercourse.
- Ecotopic pregnancy is a condition whereby pregnancy occurs outside the womb, usually in the fallopian tubes. The pressure in the womb can be very painful and uncomfortable.
Causes and Treatment of Superficial Pain
- Menopausal or post-menopausal dryness occurs when there is a fail in female sex hormones, which prevents the secretion of a woman’s natural lubrication.
- Vaginal infections, more commonly known as thrush can also cause superficial pain.
- Injury to the vulva or vagina may be caused by a childbirth tear, or the episiotomy cut made during labor, or even a badly healed stitching will cause dyspareunia.
- Vulvodynia is a distressing and long-lasting condition whereby the vulva is sensitive to touch that it makes the woman jump with pain.
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) usually cause genital warts or other types of sores that will hurt even without the pressure of sex.
- Vulvitis is the inflammation of the vulva that may be caused by chemicals in bubble baths or soaps.
If you are experiencing pain or extreme discomfort during sex, you should seek immediate advice from your gynecologist, who will determine the cause of pain. As causes of deep pain are more serious, surgical treatments or longer-term medication may be required. Most of the causes for dyspareunia are not serious.
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2. Painful Periods (and Blood Clots)
Also known as dysmenorrhoea, painful periods can be categorized into two types: primary dysmenorrhoea and secondary dysmenorrhoea. The former refers to pain that is experienced during normal menstruation while the latter refers to period pain caused by certain reproductive disorders. Symptoms include pain in the lower abdomen, which may spread to the back; and blood clots that are passed in the menstrual blood.
Causes and Treatment for Primary Dysmenorrhoea
During menstruation, the uterus sometimes overworks to dislodge its lining, resulting in contractions that causes pain, also known as menstrual cramps. Additionally, prostaglandins that are formed in the uterus lining cause muscle contractions, which decrease blood flow and oxygen to the uterus. Some women have higher levels of prostaglandins hence, suffer more intense pain from contractions. If you suffer from dysmenorrhoea, you should consult a gynae to ensure that the pain is not cause by reproductive disease.
Primary dysmenorrhoea is common amongst women and can be easily treated. One may soothe the pain by resting in bed during the first day of menstruation; placing hot water bottles across the abdomen; practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga; taking pain-killers like paracetamol; and/or taking contraceptive pills, which eliminates period pain by suppressing ovulation.
Causes and Treatment for Secondary Dysmenorrhoea
Endometriosis causes the cells on the uterus lining to shift to other areas of the pelvis, resulting in severe pain during menstruation.
- Fibroids are benign tumours that grow inside the uterus and grow in response to female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Fibroids cause a sense of pressure on the pelvic area.
- Although treatment varies for different conditions, they usually include surgery that is used to treat fibroids or endometriosis; or medication such as anti-inflammatories or contraceptive pills.
3. Vaginal Odor
It is perfectly normal for a healthy vagina to emit a certain degree of odor at one time or another. But, it depends on the individual if the smell is neutral or pungent. Some women are sensitive to their own vagina odor, whilst their partners are unable to smell anything.
Causes and Treatment of Vaginal Odor
The main cause of vaginal odor is due to the imbalance of the vaginal flora, which consists of various micro-aerophilic bacteria. Lactobacilli is the main bacteria that protects the vagina. Frequent washing of the vagina may increase its pH, therefore disrupting the vagina flora and causing infections that will lead to a fishy vaginal odor.
Other than excessive washing, tight clothes and chemicals found in scented body washes, anti-bacterial soap, etc can also cause vaginal infections. In some rare cases, the odor is caused by one’s diet. Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can re-mediate the condition.
Fortunately, smelly vagina odor is a treatable condition and there are many ways and remedies that are available to help eliminate vaginal odor. If you are concern about unpleasant genital odor, try the following suggestions:
- Avoid wearing tight underwear and pants that may cause vaginal sweating. Excess moisture trap around your vaginal region could cause or increase vaginal odor.
- Maintain good personal hygiene by washing your vagina daily with warm water and unscented soap. Avoid using scented soaps or body wash since they can actually irritate and worsen the problem.
- Try wearing panty liners as they help to absorb any excess moisture and vaginal discharge. Keep a few in your bag if you are having discharge quite regularly.
- Yogurt contain healthy (lactobacilli) bacteria help prevent the over growth of yeast to combat yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis. You can prevent and treat existing vaginal odor by eating a cup of plain yogurt daily.
- Garlic has strong anti-fungal properties and, like yogurt, has proven its value in treating yeast infections. Making a natural garlic paste or inserting a garlic clove in your vagina can help reduce vaginal odor.
- With its strong antiseptic properties, tea tree oil is another natural remedy favored by many women. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil in some lukewarm water and then use this mixture to wash your vagina.
- Try Femanol, one of the popular herbal remedies taken orally to help get rid of vaginal odor. It contains many anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral herbs and vitamins (such as deodorized garlic, Beta glucans, neem bark extract, vitamin B, biotin, zinc and selenium) that helps eliminate vaginal odor by destroying the odor-causing bacteria, making Femanol a potent natural supplement.
4. Vaginal Discharge
The glands inside the vagina and cervix secrete small amounts of fluid, which flows out of the vagina to carry old cells that have lined the vagina. This is how the vagina keeps itself clean and healthy. This discharge is usually clear or milky when it dries on your clothing, and does not have a foul odor. The color and thickness of the discharge is affected by your menstrual cycle, breastfeeding, sexual excitement, pregnancy or even your diet.
Although vaginal discharge is normal, you should start to worry when there is an increase in amount of discharge and change in color and odor of the discharge. It gets serious when you experience irritation, itchiness or burning sensations around your vagina. If there are blood clots accompanying the discharge when you are not having your period, you should seek treatment from your doctor.
5. Vaginal Itch
Itching of the vulva or around the vagina can be a distressing problem for women. The itch sometimes causes a desire to scratch the affected area.
Causes and Treatment of Vaginal Itch
- Stress can cause vaginal itching and make one more susceptible to infections.
- A drop is estrogen during menopause results in the thinning of the vaginal walls, hence causing less lubrication.
- Chemicals from detergents, feminine sprays, creams, douches and contraceptive foams or jellies, are too harsh for the delicate genital area, thus causing an itch.
- Yeast infection or thrush, causes a curd-like discharge that is caused by birth control pills, pregnancy, menstruation and sexual intercourse.
- Vaginitis usually causes inflammation, discharge, odor and itching that are caused by other infections.
- Certain skin conditions affecting the vulvar skin.
One can treat vaginal itch by avoiding feminine hygiene sprays and douches, keeping the genital area dry and clean, wearing cotton panties, delay sexual activity, use condoms to prevent STDs and avoid scratching, as this will aggravate the itch.
6. Vaginal Infection
Also known as vaginitis, vaginal infection is the inflammation of the vagina that causes discharge, odor, irritation and sometimes itching. While some infections are caused by sexual intercourse, some are caused by yeast infections. The two most common causes of vaginal infections in women are bacterial vaginosis (BV), trichomoniasis and vaginal yeast infection.
Causes and Treatment of Bacterial Vaginosis
BV can be caused by a change in naturally-occurring bacteria found in the vagina. An overgrowth of infectious bacteria can be caused by many factors such as excessive douching, poor personal hygiene, wearing of tight pants and even unprotected sexual activity with multiple partners.
Bacterial vaginosis is usually treated by a prescription medication called metronidazole that is orally consumed. Vaginal creams and gels are also available for treating the condition.
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Causes and Treatment of Yeast Infection
Another common vaginal infection amongst women is vaginal yeast infection and are caused by fungi overgrowth. When the vaginal flora are disrupted, the yeast grows out of control. This form of infection is usually caused by hormonal change from ovulation, pregnancy or menopause, contraceptive pills, antibiotic use and weakened immune system.
A yeast infection can be treated with creams that are placed in the vagina.
7. Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary urine leakage caused by poor bladder control. It can be an embarrassing situation while some may experience minor leaks and others may wet their clothes frequently.
Causes and Treatment of Urinary Incontinence
One or more of the following are possible causes for urinary incontinence:
- Infection of the urinary tract.
- Bladder irritation caused by food that are high in spice, sugar and acid.
- Medication such as sedatives and muscle relaxants can contribute to bladder control problem.
- Weakness of the pelvic floor muscle in women who have given birth or gone through menopause.
- Dehydration can cause urine to become very concentrated, resulting in the irritation of the bladder that will worsen the incontinence.
Bladder retaining and pelvic floor muscle exercise are common treatments methods for urinary incontinence. In some cases, surgery may be required. Estrogen creams can help post-menopausal women with stress-related urinary incontinence.