Factors Affecting Vaginal Health

Wednesday 1 August 2012

When something is not right with your vagina, whether due to infection or growths, it can affect your overall health and well-being. Many Malaysian women are not familiar with the conditions of their vagina, and do not feel comfortable taking about it. This could be largely due to our cultural taboos regarding sex and sexual health.

This article attempts to share with you the signs and symptoms of common vaginal problems, and what you can do to keep it healthy.

The vagina is a narrow muscular canal that extends from the vulva (outside of the genital area) to the cervix (neck of the uterus). Vaginal problems will primarily affect your fertility, desire for sex and ability to reach orgasm.

Factors Affecting the State of the Vagina

1) Sexual practices. Unprotected sex could cause sexually transmitted infections.

2) Injuries to the pelvic area (vide accident or sexual abuse) can cause trauma to the vagina.

3) Medications. Prolonged use of antibiotics upsets the balance between good and bad bacteria in the vagina, increasing the risk of vaginal yeast infection. Certain antihistamines can cause dryness of the vagina, making intercourse painful.

4) Usage of absorbent tampons may cause toxic shock syndrome, especially if left in the vagina for too long.

5) Usage of birth control devices. A diaphragm or contraceptive sponge could pose a risk of toxic shock syndrome due to the possibility of bacteria entering the system. Using spermicide or vaginal ring can cause irritation to the vagina.

6) Pregnancy and childbirth. During pregnancy, the amount of discharge from the vagina will increase. During childbirth, there will most likely be tearing of the vagina. An episiotomy (small cut made in the tissue between the vaginal opening and anus) made during delivery has a long recovery period.

7) Childbirth, menopause and increasing age cause the muscles of the vagina to become weaker and less "elastic".

8) Painful sex. The levels of estrogen hormones reduce after childbirth, during breastfeeding and after menopause, causing the lining of the vaginal wall to become thinner, making sex painful.

Common Vaginal Problems

1) Sexually transmitted infections e.g. genital warts, syphilis, genital herpes.
Symptoms: abnormal discharge, sores on the genital area.

2) Vaginitis - inflammation caused by infections and changes in the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina.
Vaginosis - abnormal growth of bacteria that is usually present in the vagina.
Yeast infection - caused by a fungus called Candida Albicans.
Trichomoniasis - caused by a parasite.

3) Prolapse vagina. Common condition occurring in women who have given birth. The pelvic floor muscles are weaker and less able to support the uterus, bladder or rectum.

4) Cysts in the vagina or cancer.
Symptoms: pain during sex, bleeding after sex or menopause.

Care for Your Vagina

1) Practise good personal hygiene. Do not use douches or perfumed soaps. Avoid feminine sprays and scented tampons.

2) Practise safe sex by using condoms.

3) Vaccinations to help protect vaginal health.
HPV vaccine protects against human papilloma virus , which can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.
Hepatitis B vaccinations protect against liver infections that can spread through sexual contact.

4) Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises. Tighten your pelvic muscles as if you're stopping the flow of urine, at least 3 sets of 10 repetitions a day. This helps prevent the uterus from collapsing into the vagina.

(Source: Taking care of vaginal health by Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar, StarFit4Life, 27 May 2012)

Are you having unusual vaginal discharge? Do you get itching, irritation or swelling sensations at your vagina? Do you feel tinges of pain during sex? Email me at laifuiping@gmail.com for your solution of how to regulate your hormone levels, improve your vaginal health and prevent cancer.
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