Articles

Time to Talk About Intimate Health – How Your Pharmacist Can Help

Sonal Davda MRPharmS, Chel Pharmacy, London W1

Sonal is a practicing pharmacist at Chel Pharmacy in London and has joined the Balance Activ Intimate Health Taskforce because she’s passionate about helping women take control of their intimate health. Here, Sonal tells us how a pharmacist can help with your intimate health issues.

For most women I meet in the pharmacy, talking about intimate health still feels a bit awkward. After all, a pharmacy counter does not feel like the most natural place to divulge this kind of personal information. I wanted to take this opportunity to explain how pharmacists and pharmacy assistants can help you find the right treatment.

I always try to approach someone discreetly if I see them looking at Thrush or BV products. The symptoms of each condition can be similar, so it’s important to find the right treatment. It would be pointless letting someone walk away with the wrong medication if it’s not going to solve the problem.

If my customer wants to have a discussion of their symptoms, or ask any questions, we direct them to a private area of our pharmacy where we can talk without being overheard. It’s always useful to be able to talk through what’s happening, so that we can reach the correct diagnosis. Many pharmacies also have a consultation room, where they can talk behind closed doors, so you don’t have to discuss your intimate health on the shop floor.

So, what is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

BV is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age, and is caused by the pH of the vagina being disrupted. This enables certain bacteria to multiply more than others, meaning that the bacterial balance of the vagina is affected. This causes a thin, watery white or grey discharge, sometimes with a fishy smell, especially after sex. In contrast, thrush is a fungal infection where the discharge is lumpy like cottage cheese, and creamy in colour and texture. Itching is uncommon with BV, unlike with thrush, and there may sometimes be burning with urination with BV. Both can be easily treated with the right medication. Balance Activ has been clinically proven to treat BV – it contains a combination of lactic acid and glycogen which help to fight BV and nourish the good bacteria to help them grow and maintain your natural balance.

If someone hasn’t heard of BV before, they may just assume they have thrush and keep on treating it with over-the-counter remedies. These can be expensive, especially if more than one is used as is often the case. When we notice someone repeatedly buying over-the-counter thrush remedies, we always question them on their symptoms in the most diplomatic way we can. We usually get a sigh of relief and an in-depth discussion, which helps us to get to the root of the problem.

It’s important to know that your pharmacy assistant can also help, and they are well-versed in discussing sensitive and personal topics, so don’t be afraid to ask. If asked about thrush or BV, they may refer the customer to the pharmacist, who can accurately diagnose the condition. The pharmacist will be able to determine if the patient needs to be referred to their GP, or if the condition can be treated safely over-the-counter.

Remember, Community Pharmacists are always available to offer advice and a good Pharmacist will be available to speak to without an appointment, and without any obligation to buy something, and can be a wealth of information. We always know when it is appropriate to rely on our advice, or when to seek more urgent medical attention.