Why is there still a stigma surrounding vaginal health?

We have all been there, it starts with an irritating itching sensation or discharge that doesn’t seem ‘normal’. This is followed by the awkward visit to the doctor followed by an even more awkward visit to the pharmacy to pick up the antifungal medication (without anyone knowing or seeing what it is for). It’s a mission in itself! But why do we feel embarrassed  about our vaginal health and more importantly where can vulva and vagina owners get the information they deserve. We will cover more on this later in our blog.

Vaginal health education has for so long been a taboo subject. The embarrassment that comes with talking about our vaginas even to medical professionals is often linked to a lack of education. How can we feel comfortable talking about our vaginas and bodily functions if we are not taught about it in school? What should a healthy vagina feel like? Are there signs we should look out for that we may have an infection? What should we look out for in our vulvas skin colour and texture? These are all topics we should be taught in order to feel comfortable discussing when they need to. But for so many of us that was not the case and this needs to change!

Why we need to open up the conversation…

Feeling unable to talk openly about our vaginal health can also be damaging, symptoms and signs can be missed and infections can go untreated. But the mental health effects can also be far reaching as anxiety can then build and we can feel trapped in a cycle of worry about our untreated symptoms. Feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable to visit your doctor about a vaginal health issue is such a common thing. Please don’t beat yourself up or feel like you are the only one). We’ll cover some tips below on how to feel more empowered to talk openly about vaginal health.

Changing the conversation on vaginal health

If we all take that step to talk more openly about our vagina’s, the more we can change the discussion surrounding vaginal health. Instead of a conversation held in whispers and embarrassment , let’s remove some of the stigma! Its ok to talk about thrush with your best friend or to ask your doctor about some unusual discharge you might be experiencing. Remember doctors have seen it all before- honestly. And remember our vaginas are pretty amazing. We have put together some helpful tips on how to feel more empowered to discuss your vaginal health.

Our tips..

  1. If you feel like you need some specialist advice, information or even education then speaking to a gynecologist is great place to start. Gynecologists are doctors who specialize in woman’s health issues. If you feel like your regular GP is not taking your issues seriously then get a referral to your nearest clinic to see a specialist. Sometimes you can even self refer which is great. Don’t be afraid to ask those questions you might have on your vaginal health. Gynaecologists, GPs or nurses are usually very happy to chat through anything.
  2. Don’t ask Dr. google for medical advice! Its brilliant to look at different resources and educate yourself on your vagina but its very easy to google symptoms and get sucked into a spiral of anxiety. Always seek out the advice of a real Dr (if you need to). If you do want to check any worrying symptoms we recommend looking at the NHS website for accurate information.
  3. If you are embarrassed or anxious to talk to your doctor about anything then a handy tip we have is to write down your symptoms or worries on a piece of paper to take to your appointment . Having them down a piece of paper means you are less likely to get flustered. Or take a friend in with you!
  4. We love looking at Instagram accounts like @school_sexed who post some amazing content on bodies-normalizing bodies is so important. And of course follow us @lilypads.uk – we are working hard to change the conversation on periods and our bodies so we can all feel more confident discussing those taboo subjects!

Empowerment

Lastly taking care of our own vaginal health can be so empowering. If you do suffer with any irritation or itching then making the switch to our reusable ,eco friendly cloth pads could make a huge difference. Shop our pads here : https://lilypads.org.uk/product-category/reusable-sanitary-pads/

Mhairi and Alison had a chat about vaginal health on their recent time of the week podcast. Stay tuned for it being posted and check out older episodes here.