You may have noticed that in recent years there have been many new products aimed at treating women’s gynecological problems. In fact, so prevalent are the adverts and crowded the shelves in this section of the pharmacy, you could be forgiven for thinking women are constantly at odds with their reproductive organs! What you need to bear in mind is that pharmaceutical companies are in business to make money. That’s a perfectly legitimate goal, and without their work, we would not have many of the excellent modern drugs we do now. However, it also means that you will find a wide range of medicines available that you may not necessarily need. So how should you look after your gynecological health?
One of the most common infections in women is a form of yeast known as a candida fungus. The yeast is commonly found in the mouth where it is perfectly harmless. If the balance of bacteria in your body is upset though, for example, due to illness or the use of antibiotics, it can cause a white rash to appear as oral thrush in your mouth and on your tongue, or the vaginal area. It’s straightforward to treat with creams and pessaries, as well as oral anti-fungal tablets. Bacterial vaginosis is another problem that can arise when the bacteria in the body are affected, causing some that would normally be kept in check to grow rapidly.
These are two of the conditions you will see mentioned in advertising aimed at women, and it’s very useful to have treatments available to combat these problems. The key though is to make sure you need these treatments, and which infection you have. Itching in delicate areas can be caused by other factors such as allergies and dryness, and often in fact by the overuse of soaps. The best way to clean your vaginal area is to use warm water and no harsh soaps, with a specially formulated cleanser if you feel the need. Hygiene is the most important weapon against infection, of any kind, but don’t overdo the soap or you will upset the natural balance and cleansing abilities of your vagina.
There are all sorts of supplements and wellness products aimed at pregnant women, and in some cases, you might need to take on board extra nutrition if you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, or a health issue. However, it’s best to get this checked with a blood test before buying any supplements, so that you can be sure you need them and are taking the right dose.
There’s a lot of discussion about the medicalization of childbirth, and whether we should be treating women as patients rather than people going through a perfectly natural process. You need to feel happy with your care when pregnant and in labor, so make sure you find out about all the options and possible interventions related to giving birth. You will receive advice from medical professionals, but also friends and family, so you need to have the confidence to listen to what is being said, but make up your own mind about how you want the birth to go. For example, if you read up on how to give birth without tearing, you’ll see that using birthing stirrups is not normally the best position for a woman to be in when in labor. You can make your feelings known to the healthcare staff, and ask to give birth on your side, or on all fours; however, it is more comfortable for you.
This is a problem that can affect people most severely mentally in addition to the inconvenience it causes. One of the reasons women are more prone to incontinence is childbirth itself because it puts great strain on the same muscles that support the bladder and bowel. One of your best defenses is to practice pelvic floor exercises regularly, to build up the strength in these muscles and get them back into shape after giving birth.
The change of life affects the body in many different ways, but in respect of gynecological problems, the most common side effect is loss of natural lubrication in the vagina. This is caused by the changes in hormone levels that occur as the menopause progresses. The dryness can lead to itching and sometimes soreness, and may affect your comfort during intercourse. Hormone replacement therapy can help with many of the effects experienced during menopause, including vaginal dryness, but may not be suitable for all women. Alternatively, this is a time when the lubricants you see on the pharmacy shelves may be helpful for you.
Sexually transmitted disease (STDs)
Having intercourse without protection can lead to the development of an STD, if your partner is carrying the infection. There are a number of STDs you could catch, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, syphilis, and of course HIV. You can also pick up genital warts and pubic lice from sexual activity with an infected person. Prevention is better than cure, and indeed in some cases, there is no effective cure for these conditions. Therefore, caution is advisable, by abstinence, the use of condoms, or both partners having sexual health check-ups and tests. If you suspect you may have an STD, try not to feel embarrassed at the thought of discussing it with your doctor. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis and commence treatment promptly, and healthcare professionals will only be concerned about ensuring your welfare.
You can see from this list that there is a range of gynecological issues that can affect women of all ages. That doesn’t mean that you will necessarily experience all of them, or that they affect all women. As mentioned previously, good hygiene is essential to gynecological health. If you do experience any symptoms or feel uncomfortable, get it checked out by your doctor or clinic, who will be able to tell you exactly what’s wrong and advise on the best course of treatment.