For the longest time, I wasn’t worried about my cycle being messed up, or that my period was impossible to bear. All I was looking forward to, month after month, was a healthy vaginal discharge, which meant my vaginal infection wasn’t back – again. Vaginitis, inflammation of the vagina, is the most common gynecologic condition women experience. Around 29.2% of women ages 14-49 experience it. Yet, because 84% of women don’t experience symptoms, most ignore them.
Bacterial vaginosis, aka BV, is the number one vaginal infection in women aged 15-44. It’s not an STI or STD, even though the CDC classifies it as such. In a nutshell, bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial imbalance in your vagina. It’s not contagious, and you can get it from gym equipment, toilet seats, or even a towel. So far, there’s not enough research to know how sex affects BV.
How to spot it: lookout for a grayish-white, foul-smelling discharge, often described as a fishy odor.
What causes it: we don’t know yet. But bacterial imbalances and changes in your vagina’s pH might have to do with it.
What can you do: most doctors will recommend antibiotics, mine did. However, because bacterial imbalances come to play, the use of probiotics may be helpful as well.
When to seek help: the moment you notice abnormal discharge, talk to your doctor.
Another prevalent issue we all love to dismiss. 3 out of 4 women will experience a yeast infection in their lifetime. A yeast infection happens with a fungus (Candida) multiplies and invades the vaginal tissue. Not everyone experiences noticeable symptoms, but if you do, common ones are vaginal itching and vaginal discharges that may look like cottage cheese.
How to spot it: look out for thick, white, and clumpy vaginal discharge. Stay alert of any vaginal itching, soreness, or pain. If you experience pain when having sex, take notice.
What causes it: whenever the vagina’s balance is out of whack, yeast infections rise. When there’s increased estrogen levels, changes in hormone levels, and diabetes, a yeast infection can occur. Antibiotics, cancer treatments, and an impaired immune system may also be to blame.
What can you do: there are over the counter solutions at many local stores, most of these treatments are topical. Also, avoid scented detergents and feminine products, bubble baths, and body washes. Make sure you never spend too much time wearing wet underwear or a bathing suit. Avoid tight clothes.
When to seek help: if this is your first yeast infection. If you’ve missed a period. If you have or suspect diabetes. If you’re taking any prescription drugs. If you have a recurrent infection.
Unlike the previous infections, trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the parasite trichomonas vaginalis. This is the most common and curable STD in the US, affecting mostly women. However, this is a silent disease, while 3.7 million have the infection, 70% don’t report experiencing any symptoms. This can make trichomoniasis challenging to control.
How to spot it: if you’re experiencing itching, redness, or burning in the vulvovaginal area. You have discomfort when urinating and pain during sex. There’s a frothy yellow-green vaginal discharge.
What causes it: unprotected sexual contact with someone who’s already infected.
What can you do: it can be treated with a single dose of oral antibiotics. There’s no over-the-counter treatment available.
When to seek help: if your vaginal discharge turns yellow-green and you’re experiencing any of the other symptoms.
A Word from GR8NESS
As someone who has struggled with recurring vaginal infections, let me tell you, the symptoms are there, don’t ignore them. If you notice something isn’t right, seek medical attention immediately, the sooner you take a closer look, the better.