Let's Talk Vaginas... Expert Advice On Keeping Your Bits Healthy
Maybe you’re one of those people that can chat about your bits out loud and have no problem describing any noticeable changes from down below to your pharmacist over the counter.
Or maybe you’re like most. You enter the pharmacy as if you’re on a mission. You browse hairbrushes, lip balms, shampoos and breastfeeding equipment until the last person leaves the chemist counter. You march up the aisle with a purpose to explain what your symptoms in the 30 seconds before the next person comes into the pharmacy.
This is what most women experience on a trip to the chemist to discuss their vaginal health or else they self-diagnose and head back to their bathrooms with a cream that might provide temporary relief, but won’t solve the problem.
The most common mistake women make in self-diagnosis is mistaking bacterial vaginosis, or BV, with thrush.
One in three women suffer from BV. That figure alone will let you know how many of us are mistaking the condition for thrush.
We speak to the expert today, the managing director of Sam McCauley chemists, Mr Patrick McCormack M.P.S.I. about the differences in symptoms between the two conditions, the negative implications they have on a woman’s daily life and a new product on the market that’s going to become the “must-have” in every woman’s handbag.
BV And Thrush: Let’s Get Started
BV and thrush are two very different infections, but are very often mistaken for one another. Put simply, BV is caused by a bacterial imbalance and thrush is caused by a yeast imbalance or an excessive growth of fungi in the vagina. BV is the more common of the two, affecting one in three women. 30 per cent of women at a reproductive age and up to 50 per cent of post-menopausal women suffer from BV.
What Are The Symptoms?
“Sufferers of BV will notice a thin, watery, almost grey discharge and there is generally an unusual odour. You could also experience an irritation or dryness in the vaginal area. Although half of women with BV don’t experience any symptoms at all women suffering from thrush however will notice a thicker, almost curd-like discharge and it isn’t common to notice an odour with thrush. Thrush is caused by a fungus and women can experience itchiness, soreness and redness. It is most common with diabetes, if you are taking antibiotics or if you are pregnant,” Patrick explains.
Confused? Don't be afraid of speaking to your pharamacist...
What Are The Causes?
“It is very important to stress that neither are sexually-transmitted,” Patrick said, “Often this can discourage a woman from wanting to speak about her condition with a pharmacist.”
Thrush can be caused as a result of wearing tight clothing, synthetic clothing that might prevent ventilation, taking certain antibiotics, having diabetes, if you are pregnant or if you use products like bubble baths that could be irritating your vagina.
BV is caused by less of the normal vaginal bacteria being present or a change in pH resulting in your vagina becoming more alkaline. This can occur from using scented soaps, using vaginal deodorant or using strong detergents to wash your underwear.
If I mistake BV for thrush and I pick up my cream to treat thrush, will that make any difference to the BV symptoms?
“You might be provided with some relief from the symptoms,” Patrick said, “You might experience a soothing effect on the irritation but it’s not solving the long-term problem. It’s also very important to stress that if you have tried any products and spoken to someone over the pharmacy counter and there are still symptoms, you should always consider visiting your GP.”
The majority of women who experience these uncomfortable symptoms suffer in silence, either too embarrassed to discuss it with friends, their partner or their GP.
The psychological impact of these female intimate health issues is serious. Women can suffer from depression, paranoia (because of the odour), an active sex life can disappear and physical intimacy with their partner could be in danger too.
“Women’s attitudes are definitely changing,” Patrick said, “25 years ago a lot of women wouldn’t have even considered discussing something like BV with their friends or a pharmacist. It’s certainly becoming more normalised to speak about these issues and we are becoming more liberalised.
“If you don’t want to be explaining your symptoms across the counter to a pharmacist, all of our Sam McCauley chemists across the country have private consultation rooms where you can pop in with a pharmacist and explain your condition in privacy.”
Times are changing... don't be afraid to open up and have a chat with a friend...
And for the discreet little-something that could become one of your handbag’s must-haves?
There was a new product launched last week on the Irish market for bacterial vaginosis. LadyBalance can be used to treat an existing infection or prevent future infection.
The healthcare philosophy of LadyBalance is unique as it uses a prebiotic in the vagina. LadyBalance aims to enhance the naturally protective vaginal lactobacilli by providing lactose as a specific nutrient, which creates a lower pH making the environment unfavourable to many of the commonest pathogens.
It is an over-the-counter, easy-to-use, mess-free vaginal tablet and is discretely packaged.
LadyBalance is a brand new product on the Irish market to treat BV
It is proven to treat and prevent the symptoms of BV, unpleasant vaginal odour and discharge, vaginal dryness and itching and vaginal irritation and soreness.
“It really is fabulous to have something like this on the market for Irish women now,” Patrick said, “It’s there for women’s physical and emotional wellbeing and is packaged in a small, discreet pack that you can use everyday.”
I think the days of us browsing the breast-feeding apparatus are gone…
If you are still unsure what to look out for, LadyBalance has developed a simple check sheet available at their website to check your symptoms.
Alternatively, consult your GP or ask your pharmacist for advice on which treatments are most suitable for you.
Priced at €17.90, LadyBalance is available from Sam McCauley and selected pharmacies nationwide.