Every girl has had a moment in the loo where she looks down and thinks, “Hmm. That can’t be good.” (Or a variation thereof, possibly involving a lot of swearing.) But according to Ivana Borsky, senior doctor at Marie Stopes International, many seemingly odd things in our pants are normal. And she should know, as she’s seen her fair share of downstairs compartments. So we asked the good doc to talk us through some common vaginal issues, since it might not be something you’d want to bring up with the girls in a crowded coffee shop.
The basics: things you should know
Ventilation is very important when it comes to hygiene, and Borsky recommends wearing 100 percent cotton undies to keep things nice and breezy down there. Also, you must change your underwear every day and steer clear of tight synthetic pants, as bacteria and yeast (like thrush) love butt-hugging nylon.
There’s no need to scrub yourself like a sink – your vagina is self-cleaning, so wash and rinse the outside and leave the rest to nature. “It’s best to avoid soaps and deodorants as these can often cause irritation or allergies,” advises Borsky.
When the crimson tide rolls in, change your pad or tampon frequently (four to five times a day), and make sure your hands are clean beforehand.
Small (yet irritating) issues
The most common complaints that Borsky hears? Less-than-Chanel-like fragrance, maddening itchiness, and discharge on knickers. All three of these should improve by wearing cotton undies and slipping on skirts, dresses, or loose pants, rather than tight jeans.
If you’re still experiencing symptoms, see your doctor for some antibiotic creams or pills. The good news is that some problems like thrush and cystitis can be treated yourself with over-the-counter products from the pharmacy. Thrush is a yeast infection that causes pain, itching and discharge, which you can sort out with Canesten or Diflucan. Cystits is an infection of the bladder that can be very painful, especially when you go to the toilet. Ural or cranberry pills can help you recover, but to avoid cystitis, drink plenty of water, wipe from front to back, and always urinate after sex. (Cystitis is known as “honeymooner’s disease” because you tend to get it when your bedroom’s seeing some action.)
Image: Attila Barabas / 123RF.com
Text: Bec Whish