Life is full of firsts. Your first steps, your first day of school, your first kiss, your first time driving on a highway. But life is also full of unfortunate firsts. The first time your crush doesn’t like you back, the first time you get a parking ticket, the first time you commission a highly regrettable haircut. While I’d love to write a blog about salon mishaps, we’re here to talk about a different unfortunate first - your first vaginal infection.
It can be scary and confusing the first time something feels awry in your vaginal area. We’re here to tell you that what’s happening is okay - and that we’re here to help you get to the bottom of it. The internet is full of helpful tips, but even navigating the different searches can feel overwhelming, and can sometimes lead to a more dramatic and unhelpful confusion. That’s why we're introducing the Stix Comprehensive Guide To Your First Vaginal Infection.
Vaginal infections will impact most people with vaginas at some point in their life, and your first vaginal infection is an important way to learn a little more about your body. While you may just feel pain, burning or inconvenient itchiness right now, try to remember that this infection is giving you a little clue into what works and what doesn’t for your vagina.
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How to Know You Have a Vaginal Infection
While some symptoms of vaginal infections are obvious, others may be more subtle. The first step to seeking care is knowing your body well enough to know that something is different. Some symptoms of vaginal infections are:
Discomfort such as itchiness
Burning while you pee
A new smell
Change in discharge
Pain during sex
Okay - I have a symptom, what could this mean? There are a few reasons why you may be experiencing symptoms in your vagina.
An allergic reaction: Often changes or irritations in your vaginal area are due to an allergic reaction or an irritant to products. Some of these products could include detergents, douches, fabric softeners, perfumed soaps, spermicides or vaginal sprays. If you have started using a new product and are noticing irritations, try stopping that product to see if the symptoms subside.
A change in hormones: Menopause or a surgery such as ovary removal can cause a change in hormones, which can cause the vaginal environment to change. This can result in vaginal dryness. Reach out to your doctor or other women to see if they experienced similar symptoms during menopause or after a procedure.
Change in climate: Hot or humid weather can cause an increase of yeast, which could lead to a yeast infection or unbalanced vaginal pH. These will be covered in greater detail in the following sections.
A sexually transmitted infection (STIs): Common STIs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and viral vaginitis that is caused by herpes simplex virus or human papillomavirus. STI symptoms can be nonexistent or subtle, especially for people with vaginas, and can appear similar to other non-sexually transmitted vaginal infections. If you are sexually active, it is important to schedule regular tests and screening for STIs to assure you’re taking care of your own health and preventing any spread to your partners. Gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis can be treated and usually cured with a full completed course of antibiotics.
A non-sexually transmitted infection: The two most common types of vaginal infection are related to the organisms that live in your vagina. They are known as yeast infections, or vaginal candidiasis, and bacterial vaginosis (BV), and they have very similar symptoms. Candidiasis can also be treated with a course of antifungal medications.
How to Spot Non-sexually Transmitted Vaginal Infections
As mentioned, the two most common types of vaginal infections are yeast infections and BV. Yeast infections are a fungal infection due to an overgrowth of yeast that can cause discharge, irritation and/or intense burning. They are caused by the disruption of good bacteria in your vagina and vulva which can encourage the growth of excess yeast. Some things that cause this disruption are antibiotics, stress, uncontrolled diabetes or wearing wet clothes.
BV is also a fungal infection due to a lack of good bacteria or an infiltration of bad bacteria to your vagina or vulva. BV is classified by thin, grey, white or green vaginal discharge, a foul-smelling or “fishy” vaginal odor, itching or burning during urination. The overgrowh of bad, naturally occuring vaginal bacteria that can cause BV can be due to having multiple or a new sex parter, douching, or a natural lack of good bacteria.
As you can tell, the symptoms of yeast infections and BV are very similar. You can also be infected with BV and a yeast infection at the same time. This is why it’s important to understand the nuanced changes of your body and have a medical provider you can have frank and honest conversations about your symptoms, changes and concerns with.
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The key to proper vaginal infection treatment is proper diagnosis. If you believe it could be a yeast infection, try treating it. Yeast infections can be treated by over the counter oral or suppository medication. If symptoms persist, it is time to contact your medical provider. Additionally, if you have multiple sexual partners or a new sexual partner or if your new vaginal discharge is accompanied by an odor or fever, it’s best to proceed by reaching out to your doctor. With the proper education and support, your first vaginal infection doesn’t need to be as scary as it seems.