A guide to spotting the symptoms
When a woman thinks there may be something wrong with her vagina, it is often put to the back of the mind. Either because she is too worried about what it could be, or simply because there is no time to think about it.
In fact, some women don’t want to seek help from a doctor or pharmacist and are likely to try and diagnose themselves – which means it’s really important to understand your symptoms so you can get the right treatment and fix the problem.
Bacterial Vaginosis, or BV is the most common vaginal infection among women, and it’s twice as common as thrush. Despite this, two out of three women with BV assume it’s thrush because they haven’t heard of BV and don’t know how to recognise the symptoms.
Here’s an at a glance guide to the symptoms of Thrush, BV and Trichomoniasis which is an STI, and another common vaginal infection. All of these problems require different treatments.
How to recognise the symptoms of BV
|Symptoms of BV||Symptoms of Thrush||Symptoms of Trich|
|Is there a smell?||Possible fishy smell||No smell||Unpleasant strong smell|
|Do you have a discharge?||Thin, watery, possibly greyish white discharge or abnormally large amount of discharge||Thick, white, curd-like discharge||Yellow or green frothy discharge|
|Do you have itchiness or discomfort?||Occasional discomfort||Intense itching or even a burning sensation||Soreness and possible inflammation|
|Redness and irritation of the skin around the vulva||Pain during sex or when passing urine|
You can also the online symptom checker, designed by the Intimate Health Taskforce a team of expert health professionals and women who have suffered from BV, to help you find out the best way to tackle your intimate health worries.
Your vagina – and what goes on down there
Despite the fact we all have one, most women don’t know a huge amount about what goes on day to day inside their vagina. Your vagina is home to millions of micro-organisms – it’s like a little eco-system and when things are in balance, it doesn’t need any interference to stay clean and healthy. However, when some of these micro-organisms deplete, or a new organism such as an STI or a fungal infection are introduced, things get out of balance and you start to experience unpleasant symptoms.
There’s a particular strain of ‘good’ bacteria called lactobacillus, that can be seen as the ‘hero’ of the vaginal eco-system. It produces lactic acid and antimicrobials including hydrogen peroxide that stop infection by potentially damaging bacteria, and keep the vagina slightly acidic, which is where it likes to be. When we are lacking in lactobacillus for one reason or another, we can succumb to infections such as BV, or our vaginas are more likely to be invaded by something like candida, or Thrush or an STI like Trichomoniasis or Trich.
Keeping your vagina in perfect balance isn’t always possible, but here’s a few things you can do to help:
- Don’t use a douche or ever feel the need to ‘wash’ your vagina by pushing water or detergents up there. This will create problems, rather than treat them.
- Don’t use perfumed soaps or antiseptic products down below or in the bath as they can upset the balance inside your vagina.
- Try using a condom if you tend to get BV symptoms after having sex with a male partner, semen is alkaline and your vagina needs to be slightly acidic, so it can upset your natural pH balance. If you’re not using a condom, go for a pee after sex.
- Always wipe from front to back – candida albicans, the organism that causes thrush can hang around on your skin, and can be accidentally introduced by wiping from back to front.
- Try using a little Balance Activ – one or two tubes a week or one pessary a day for four or five days, if there are times when you tend to get a recurrence, such as around the time of your period.
If you’re still not sure what the problem is, don’t be embarrassed to talk to your pharmacist or make an appointment with your doctor. Most high-street pharmacies, including Boots, Lloyds, Superdrug, Rowlands, Inish and many independent community pharmacies have consultation rooms where they are able to deal more discreetly with intimate health queries. Remember, healthcare professionals are trained to deal with intimate health issues, and they genuinely want to help. It’s not embarrassing to them – they have seen and heard it all before. Find your local stockist