From smear tests to painful urination and sex, here are your most common concerns answered…

KNOW WHAT’S NORMAL

A healthy vagina will have a bit of a musky smell, which is normal, as is a vaginal discharge (in most cases). Normal discharge colour can range from clear to a milky white at different times of your cycle and you may notice more when you’re ovulating, sexually aroused, or breastfeeding. The smell may be different if you’re pregnant. But if you notice a fishy smell it could be an infection called bacterial vaginosis, or a yeasty smell could mean thrush (which is a fungal infection). A common sexually transmitted disease, trichomoniasis (‘trich’), is caused by a parasite that easily spreads through unprotected genital contact (condom use can lessen your chances of getting it, but the parasite may infect areas that aren’t covered by the condom). Most people who have the parasite don’t develop symptoms, but it can cause an odour along with redness and pain during urination or sex.

From smear tests to painful urination and sex, here are your most common concerns answered… Photo Gallery



SOAP AND WATER

Your vagina self-cleans; fluid from glands inside your vagina and cervix carry away dead cells and bacteria to help prevent infection. ‘Just use unperfumed soap and water to clean the vulva,’ says sexual health expert Natika H. Halil.

SOOTHE THE ITCH

Three out of four of us will have the yeast infection thrush at some point. ‘You might notice itching, soreness and redness around the vagina, vulva or anus; white discharge from the vagina that may be thick and look like cottage cheese, or smell yeasty; pain when passing urine and having sex,’ says Natika. ‘Or you may have thrush but no symptoms.’ Try an over-the-counter cream like Canesten.

STOP DRYNESS

Up to 45% of us may suffer with vaginal dryness at some point. Try a vaginal cream like GynaGuard Lubricating Moisturising Gel (R84,95, Dis-Chem). It’s a non-sticky moisturising gel that will help with lubrication during sex. You can also speak to your gynaecologist about an oestrogen-based cream or tablets that can be used to prevent regular dryness.

PAIN WHEN YOU PEE?

It’s probably cystitis, a common bacterial urinary tract infection (UTI). But hold off on the cranberry juice. A study by Yale School of Medicine found that contrary to popular belief, the juice doesn’t ease symptoms. Best option? Flush out the infection by drinking at least two litres of water a day

BE PREPARED FOR MENOPAUSE

Menopause, The Answers (Orion) by Dr Rosemary Leonard is a helpful menopause ‘bible’ which looks at everything from hot flushes and sex to the pros and cons of hormone-replacement therapy. Also have a look at menopause.co.za – a website dedicated to promoting women’s health during midlife and beyond.

DOWNLOAD AN APP

FrzMyEggs (free for iOS/Apple; Android) helps women decide if egg freezing is right for them. The egg-freezing ‘calculator’ uses your age and other health indicators to estimate how many eggs you might be able to freeze per cycle. That information helps determine your pregnancy success rate, how much the whole egg-freezing procedure will cost, and it’ll weigh up the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.

TAKE A PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENT

‘Bacterial vaginosis is very common and is due to a loss of lactic-acid producing bacteria in the reproductive tract,’ says Dr Sarah Brewer. ‘Use an over-the-counter antibiotic gel to clear it up and also take a probiotic supplement to replenish levels of lactic acid-producing ‘good’ bacteria in the gut, which will find their way into the reproductive tract.’ Evidence shows that taking vitamin D3 supplements can also help reduce bacterial vaginosis symptoms.

GIVE SOMETHING NEW A TRY

Find it difficult to relax and enjoy sex? Try it in the bath, says sexpert Alix Fox. ‘Sit up at one end of the tub; your partner should sit facing you. Next, lay back in the water, while your partner slowly, gently and rhythmically strokes you. The warm water will relax you. Close your eyes and submerge your ears beneath the water; the sensory deprivation can help you focus on how your partner’s touch feels to heighten the sensation.’
source: Styles Star

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