(BPT) - Sexual intimacy can be an important part of life and healthy relationships. However, many women tend to avoid intimacy due to uncomfortable or embarrassing symptoms when they get a vaginal infection, which can cause a woman’s sexual self-esteem and health to suffer. During Sexual Health Month in September, it’s important to understand the impact that vaginal health can have on a woman’s sexual well-being.
According to a recent poll, nearly 80% of women surveyed have avoided sex with a partner due to the most common vaginal infection for women, called bacterial vaginosis (BV). It impacts more than 21 million women in the U.S. each year and it can cause unwanted and sometimes unpleasant symptoms. These include a foul or “fishy” vaginal odor, itching or vaginal pain, burning during urination and thin, white or gray discharge.
A healthy vagina has a natural balance of good and bad bacteria, maintained by an acidic environment. But a variety of factors can tip the scales, causing an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the vagina, which causes BV. This bacterial imbalance can happen when the vagina’s pH level (level of acidity) is disturbed by menstruation, use of tampons, sexual activity, douching, use of scented or vaginal soaps, and other factors., Many women with BV report feeling embarrassed, self-conscious and uncomfortable about intimacy and sexual activity as a result of the condition.
Over half the women surveyed tried to self-treat their symptoms before seeing a healthcare provider.
“When BV occurs, women want to get back to feeling like themselves and that can include resuming intimacy with their partner(s). It’s very common for women to self-evaluate their symptoms and try over-the-counter products or home remedies thinking they can’t hurt. But in fact, many over-the-counter and “natural” home remedies including yeast infection products and essential oils can sometimes make BV worse and delay intimacy even further,” said Brooke Faught, DNP, WHNP-BC, NCMP, IF. “BV is a bacterial infection that requires treatment with a prescription antibiotic. It’s critical that women who suspect they have a vaginal infection see an appropriate healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. A healthcare provider can discuss available treatment options including oral pills and granules, and vaginal creams, gels, and suppositories that will best fit into a woman’s lifestyle.”
Untreated BV can increase a woman’s risk for adverse health effects and complications like sexually transmitted infections, pelvic inflammatory disease – which can increase a woman’s risk of infertility – and pregnancy complications like premature birth or low birth weight, a key reason why an accurate diagnosis and treatment are critical.
If you suspect BV, see a healthcare provider right away. Be honest about your current and past sexual practices so that your provider can best treat you and prevent recurrence of BV. You may want to avoid sex for 24 hours before seeing a doctor and wait until he or she recommends resuming sexual activity.
Don’t ignore the symptoms of BV and don’t try to self-treat. Lynn Barclay, president and CEO of the American Sexual Health Association, says, “A key message for women with discharge is not to assume it’s a yeast infection that can be taken care of with over-the-counter remedies. Don’t be shy about having a health care provider help you sort things out to find an effective treatment option.” While seeking medical care is important, Barclay knows it’s not always easy. “Providers and patients alike are often reluctant to discuss BV and we need to make these conversations normal and routine. There’s no stigma around yeast infections or how they develop, for example, and the same should be true with BV.”
For more information about bacterial vaginosis as well as tips for talking to your partner about BV, visit KeepHerAwesome.com. This article and the KeepHerAwesome.com website are resources provided by Lupin Pharmaceuticals.
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