Group of women talking in a meeting

Take charge of your Vaginal Health

Vaginal Health

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to take care of your vagina. And some of it involves pricy, unproven—and sometimes harmful—hygiene products and practices. From vaginal steaming and herbal cleanses to deodorants and scented lubricants, there is a growing market dedicated to needless vaginal health “remedies.”1

Fortunately, the natural vaginal flora is enough to keep most women’s vaginas naturally self-cleaning and self-sufficient. So, when it comes to keeping your vagina healthy, less is almost always more.

What’s important—

More important than any well-marketed hygiene product or trendy cleanse—is knowledge. Knowledge can empower you take charge of your vaginal health by helping you differentiate between what may be a normal change from what may require further assessment.

 

Vaginitis

Vaginitis refers to an inflammation or infection of the vagina, which can have a number of causes, as well as a number of uncomfortable—and often embarrassing—symptoms. These symptoms can include itching, burning, irritation, dyspareunia (difficult or painful sexual intercourse), “fishy” vaginal odor and abnormal vaginal discharge.

Vaginitis symptoms can be tremendously disruptive both personally and professionally. In addition to pain and discomfort, you may lose time at school or work. You can even experience impacts on sexual functioning or your self-image.

Successfully treating vaginitis requires accurate diagnosis.  Here are the three most common culprits, as well as how to identify them.

  • Young lady looking into camera

    What is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

    Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is thrown off.2 BV affects 29% of women in the U.S.3 While the exact causes of BV are not completely understood, things like douching, unprotected sex, and new sexual partners may increase your risk.
     

    Know the Symptoms:

    • Thin, white or gray vaginal discharge
    • Strong fish-like odor
    • Vaginal itching and irritation
    • Burning during urination

     

    If undiagnosed and untreated, BV may increase your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), premature labor and other pregnancy complications. It may also increase your risk of contracting certain sexually transmitted infections (STI).

     

  • Group of women gathering and talking

    What is Vulvovaginal Candidiasis?  

    Vulvovaginal candidiasis, commonly called a yeast infection, is caused by a yeast called Candida. It will affect 75% of women at least once in their lifetimes.4
     

    Know the symptoms:

    • Vaginal itching or soreness
    • Abnormal vaginal discharge
    • Pain during sexual intercourse
    • Painful or uncomfortable urination

     

    Vaginal candidiasis is typically mild, but severe infections can happen. In severe infections, you might experience wellness, swelling and cracks in the vaginal walls. Vaginal candidiasis shares symptoms with a number of other vaginal infections, so contact your health provider for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

  • Couple dancing in a room

    What is Trichomoniasis?

    Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by infection with the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis.5 Most people infected with trichomoniasis don’t exhibit symptoms, making diagnosis difficult. When symptoms do appear, they can vary.

     

    Know the Symptoms:

    • Itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals

    • Discomfort during urination

    • A change in vaginal discharge (i.e., thin discharge or increased volume) that can be clear, white, yellowish or greenish with an unusual fishy smell

     

    Trichomoniasis can increase your risk of contracting or spreading other STDs if left untreated. Diagnosing trichomoniasis requires a laboratory test, so seek medical care if you exhibit symptoms.

Young lady looking into camera

What is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is thrown off.2 BV affects 29% of women in the U.S.3 While the exact causes of BV are not completely understood, things like douching, unprotected sex, and new sexual partners may increase your risk.
 

Know the Symptoms:

  • Thin, white or gray vaginal discharge
  • Strong fish-like odor
  • Vaginal itching and irritation
  • Burning during urination

 

If undiagnosed and untreated, BV may increase your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), premature labor and other pregnancy complications. It may also increase your risk of contracting certain sexually transmitted infections (STI).

 

Group of women gathering and talking

What is Vulvovaginal Candidiasis?  

Vulvovaginal candidiasis, commonly called a yeast infection, is caused by a yeast called Candida. It will affect 75% of women at least once in their lifetimes.4
 

Know the symptoms:

  • Vaginal itching or soreness
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Painful or uncomfortable urination

 

Vaginal candidiasis is typically mild, but severe infections can happen. In severe infections, you might experience wellness, swelling and cracks in the vaginal walls. Vaginal candidiasis shares symptoms with a number of other vaginal infections, so contact your health provider for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Couple dancing in a room

What is Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by infection with the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis.5 Most people infected with trichomoniasis don’t exhibit symptoms, making diagnosis difficult. When symptoms do appear, they can vary.

 

Know the Symptoms:

• Itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals

• Discomfort during urination

• A change in vaginal discharge (i.e., thin discharge or increased volume) that can be clear, white, yellowish or greenish with an unusual fishy smell

 

Trichomoniasis can increase your risk of contracting or spreading other STDs if left untreated. Diagnosing trichomoniasis requires a laboratory test, so seek medical care if you exhibit symptoms.

Supporting you through every stage of your life

Taking charge of your vaginal health doesn’t mean experimenting with or trying unproven remedies. It means staying informed and having open conversations with your healthcare provider.

Explore some of these additional resources to help you take charge of your vaginal health and have important discussions with your healthcare provider.

Resources

  1. https://www.ashasexualhealth.org/
  2. https://www.keepherawesome.com/
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/std/general/default.htm
  4. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/healthy-living/screening-and-prevention

References

1. American Sexual Health Association (ASHA). Vaginal Health. https://www.ashasexualhealth.org/vaginalhealth/. Accessed May 16, 2022

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Stastics. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stats.htm. Accessed April 22, 2019.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bacterial Vaginosis fact sheet. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm. Accessed April 22, 2019.

4. Vaginal yeast infection (thrush): Overview - InformedHealth.org - NCBI Bookshelf accessed March 19, 2022.

5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trichomoniasis fact sheet. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm. Accessed April 22, 2019.