About AOA

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until all the children are in bed.
- Unknown

 

Your Healthy Vagina - What's Normal, What Isn't?

Your Healthy Vagina - Whats Normal, What Isnt?

A healthy vagina is an essential part of your overall health. Ongoing vaginal problems can cause stress or relationship problems and damage your self-confidence, as well as impact your sex drive, your ability to have children, and your ability to reach an orgasm. A whole range of societal constraints can sometimes make it difficult to talk about your vaginal concerns, and sometimes it is simply a matter of not knowing what’s normal and what might need your AOA healthcare provider’s attention.

To start, there are a range of conditions that can affect your vaginal health, including:

  • Engaging in unprotected sex. When you forego protection, you leave yourself vulnerable to contracting a sexually transmitted infection.
  • Overly aggressive sexual activity. Too forceful sex can result in vaginal trauma, including vaginal lacerations or rarely pelvic fracture.
  • Some chronic health conditions. Some conditions, such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders can lead to vaginal dryness.
  • Medications and feminine-hygiene products. Antihistamines can cause dryness, and antibiotics can increase the risk of vaginal yeast infections. Tampons can lead to toxic shock syndrome, which is a rare, but life-threatening complication of bacterial infection.
  • Birth control. Some products can cause vaginal irritation and some, like a diaphragm or contraceptive sponge can increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy can increase vaginal discharge, and many women will experience vaginal tearing during childbirth. In some cases, an incision between the vaginal opening and anus during childbirth, known as an episiotomy, is necessary and can cause irritation and itching as it heals.
  • Mental health problems. Anxiety and depression can impact your ability to become aroused and lead to pain or discomfort during sex. Traumatic experiences, such as sexual abuse can also lead to pain during sex.
  • Aging. After menopause the change in hormone levels can cause the vaginal lining to become thinner and lose elasticity, which can lead to pain during intercourse.
  • Vaginitis. An infection or imbalance in the normal bacteria can cause inflammation. Symptoms may include vaginal discharge, odor, itching and pain.
  • Weakened ligaments and connective tissue. In some cases, ligaments and connective tissue that support the uterus can weaken and cause the uterus, bladder, or rectum to slip down and into the vagina. This is known as a uterine prolapse.
  • Other diseases. Cysts and cancer can cause pain, bleeding or pain during sex.

Some of the conditions listed above can be dealt with easily and others require more treatment. However, there are some basic steps you can take to prevent infections and maintain the health of your vagina, including:

  • Practicing safe sex. Limit your sex partners, use condoms, or maintain a monogamous relationship with someone who is free from infection.
  • Vaccination. If you are between 12 and 26 you can be vaccinated to protect against the human papillomavirus (HPV). You should also be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, which can be spread through sexual contact.
  • Good hygiene. Don’t douche or use perfumed soaps, feminine sprays, or scented tampons. If you use sex toys, be sure to wash them after every use.
  • Kegel exercises. Practice tightening your pelvic floor muscles daily to keep strong.
  • Be aware of your medications. Talk with your AOA provider about any medications you are taking and their potential side effects.
  • Limit alcohol and don’t smoke or abuse drugs. Alcohol and drugs can cause sexual dysfunction, or may lead you to take sexual risks. Nicotine can inhibit sexual arousal.

If you find yourself experience vaginal dryness, tearing, discharge, itching, unexpected bleeding, a mass or bulge, or if you experience a sensation of pressure or heaviness in your vagina, don’t dismiss what you’re experiencing. Do not let embarrassment or uncertainty keep you from sharing your symptoms with your AOA healthcare provider. We can determine the source of the problem and give you the help you need to get healthy.

Learn more about understanding and maintaining your vaginal health: