Vaginal health is an important part of a woman’s overall health, says women’s health advisor Marla Ahlgrimm. Vaginal problems can affect a woman’s fertility and her desire for sex. They can also cause stress or relationship problems and impact her self-confidence. Here, Ahlgrimm describes the signs and symptoms of vaginal problems and what a woman can do to protect her vaginal health.
Q: What factors generally affect vaginal health?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Vaginal health depends on various factors. For example, unprotected sex, birth control products, certain health conditions, of course, pregnancy and childbirth. Just getting older is a big factor.
Q: How does getting older make a difference?
Marla Ahlgrimm: As we age, the vagina loses elasticity after menopause. Also, estrogen production declines after menopause, which can cause the vaginal lining to thin — making sex painful.
Q: Is vaginal discharge normal?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Most of the time, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. The amount can vary, as can odor and color depending on the time in the menstrual cycle.
Q: What are signs of abnormal discharge?
Marla Ahlgrimm: If the color, odor, or consistency seems unusual, especially if it’s accompanied by vaginal itching or burning, this could indicate an infection or other condition.
Q: What causes abnormal discharge?
Marla Ahlgrimm: There are several things that can upset the balance of healthy bacteria. Infections, diabetes, antibiotics, birth control pills, and even scented soaps and lotions can cause abnormal discharge.
Q: What treatments are available for those women who experience abnormal discharge?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Treatment will depend on the cause of the problem. Some infections are treated with anti-fungal gels, others with antibiotic pills. The daily use of probiotics is an important step in maintaining vaginal health. Keeping the body clean by washing regularly with a gentle, mild soap and warm water is also an important step in protecting vaginal health.