Vaginal health is an important part of a woman’s overall health. Vaginal problems can affect fertility, desire for sex and ability to reach orgasm, stress or relationship problems and impact self-confidence.
The vagina is a closed muscular canal that extends from the vulva — the outside of the female genital area — to the neck of the uterus (cervix).
FACTORS THAT AFFECT THE HEALTH OF THE VAGINA
*Sex: Unprotected sex can result in a sexually transmitted infection. Forceful sex can results in vagina trauma.
*Certain health conditions or treatments: endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease, might cause painful sex. Scarring from pelvic surgery and certain cancer treatments also can cause painful sex. Abuse of antibiotics increases the risk of a vaginal yeast infection.
*Birth control and feminine-hygiene products:Barrier contraceptives, such as condoms, diaphragms and associated spermicide, can cause vaginal irritation. The use of sprays, deodorants and douches may cause irritation or make existing irritation worse.
*Pregnancy and childbirth: During pregnancy, vaginal discharge often increases. A vaginal delivery can also decrease muscle tone in the vagina.
*Psychological issues: Anxiety and depression contributes to low level of arousal and resulting discomfort or pain during sex. Trauma such as sexual abuse or an initial painful sexual experience also can lead to pain associated with sex.
*Hormone levels: a change in hormonal levels can affect the vagina. For example, estrogen production declines after menopause and during breast feeding. Loss of estrogen can cause the vaginal lining to thin making sex painful.
COMMON VAGINAL PROBLEMS.
Conditions that might affect your vagina includes;
*Sexual problems: These might include persistent or recurrent pain before, during or after sex (dyspareunia). Pain during penetration might be caused by involuntary spasms of the muscles of the vaginal wall (vaginismus). The muscles in the pelvic floor can become tense, causing chronic pain and pain during intercourse. Vaginal dryness, often occurring after menopause and can also cause pain during intercourse.Sexually transmitted infections. Various sexually transmitted infections can affect the vagina, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts, syphilis and genital herpes. Signs might include abnormal vaginal discharge or genital sores.
*Vaginitis: An infection or change in the normal balance of vaginal yeast and bacteria can cause inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis). Symptoms include vaginal discharge, odor, itching and pain. Common types of vaginitis include bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections and trichomoniasis.
*Other rare conditions: Vaginal cysts can cause pain during sex or make it difficult to insert a tampon. Vaginal cancer which might first appear as vaginal bleeding after menopause or bleeding during sex is a rare possibility.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF VAGINAL INFECTIONS
*A change in the color, odor or amount of vaginal discharge
*Vaginal redness or itching
*Vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex or after menopause
*A mass or bulge in your vagina
*Pain during intercourse
WAYS IN KEEPING THE VAGINA HEALTHY.
*Be sexually responsible. Use condoms or maintain a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who is free of sexually transmitted infections. Sex toys should be cleaned after use to prevent infections.
*Get vaccinated. Vaccinations can protect you from HPV, the virus associated with cervical cancer, as well as hepatitis B — a serious liver infection that can spread through sexual contact.
*Do Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises can help tone the pelvic floor muscles if you have prolapse, leaking of urine or weakness of the pelvic floor.
*Knowing your medications. Discuss medication use and possible vaginal side effects with your pharmacist.
*Limit the amount of alcohol and don’t smoke. Chronic alcohol abuse can impair sexual function. Nicotine might inhibit sexual arousal. Substance abuse might also cause poor physical and mental health, which can affect sexual function.
Regular checkups can help ensure that problems affecting the vagina are diagnosed as soon as possible.