What affects the health of the vagina?

What affects the health of the vagina?

Vaginal health affects more than your sex life. Learn more about common vaginal problems and ways to promote vaginal health.
Vaginal health is an important part of women's general health. Vaginal problems can affect fertility, sexual desire, and the ability to have orgasms. Constant vaginal health problems can also cause stress and relationship problems and affect self-confidence. Learn what the signs and symptoms of vaginal problems are and what you can do to protect the health of your vagina.

What affects the health of the vagina?

  • The vagina is a closed muscular canal that extends from the vulva, the outer part of the female genital area, to the cervix. Several factors can affect the health of the vagina, including the following:

  • Sex. Unprotected sex can lead to a sexually transmitted infection. Strong sexual intercourse or injury to the pelvic area can cause vaginal trauma.
  • Some diseases or treatments. Some disorders, such as endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease, may cause pain during sex. Scars from pelvic surgery and some cancer treatments can also cause pain during sex. The use of some antibiotics increases the risk of a vaginal yeast infection.
  • Birth control pills and feminine hygiene products. Barrier contraceptives, such as condoms, diaphragms, and the associated spermicide, can cause vaginal irritation. Using sprays, deodorants, or douches can cause irritation or worsen existing irritation.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth. If you become pregnant, you will stop menstruating until after the baby is born. During pregnancy, vaginal discharge often increases. Vaginal tears are relatively common during labor. In some cases, an episiotomy is necessary, an incision made in the tissue of the vaginal opening during delivery. A vaginal delivery can also reduce muscle tone in the vagina.
  • Psychological problems. Anxiety and depression can contribute to a low level of arousal and, as a result, discomfort or pain during sex. Trauma, like sexual abuse or a painful first sexual experience, can also cause sex-related pain.
  • Hormonal levels. Changes in hormone levels can affect the vagina. For example, estrogen production decreases after menopause and during lactation. Lack of estrogen can cause thinning of the vaginal lining (vaginal atrophy), causing pain during sexual intercourse.

What are the most frequent vaginal problems?

  • Disorders that could affect the vagina include the following:
  • Sexual problems. These could include recurring or persistent pain immediately before, during, or after having sex (dyspareunia). Pain during penetration could be caused by involuntary spasms of the muscles of the vaginal wall (vaginismus). The pelvic floor muscles can become tense, causing chronic pain and pain during sex. Vaginal dryness, which often occurs after menopause, can also cause pain during sex.
  • Sexually transmitted infections. Several sexually transmitted infections can affect the vagina, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts, syphilis, and genital herpes. Signs could include abnormal vaginal discharge or genital sores.
  • Vaginitis. An infection or a change in the normal balance of vaginal fungi or bacteria can cause inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis). Symptoms include vaginal discharge, odor, itching, and pain. Common types of vaginitis include bacterial vaginosis, candidiasis, and trichomoniasis.
  • Relaxation of the pelvic floor. If the supporting ligaments and connective tissues that hold the uterus and vaginal walls in place are weakened, the uterus, bladder, rectum, or vaginal walls may slide downward (prolapse). This could lead to urine leakage when coughing and sneezing or a lump in the vagina.
  • Other rare disorders. Vaginal cysts can cause pain during sexual intercourse or make it difficult to place a tampon. Vaginal cancer, which may initially manifest as vaginal bleeding after menopause or sexual intercourse, is also a rare possibility.

What are the signs or symptoms of vaginal problems?

  • Consult your doctor if you observe:
  • A change in the color, smell, or amount of vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal redness or itching
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex, or after menopause
  • A lump or lump in the vagina
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
You may not need to see your doctor every time you have vaginal irritation and discharge, especially if you have been diagnosed with a vaginal yeast infection in the past and have similar signs and symptoms. However, if you choose to use an over-the-counter medication and your symptoms don't go away, see your doctor.

What can I do to keep the vagina healthy?

  • You can take steps to protect vaginal health and your general health. For example:
  • Be sexually responsible. Use condoms or have a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who doesn't have sexually transmitted infections. If you use sex toys, clean them after each use.
  • Get vaccinated. Vaccines can protect you from HPV, the virus associated with cervical cancer, as well as hepatitis B, a serious liver infection that can be transmitted through sexual contact.
  • Do the Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises can help tone your pelvic floor muscles if you have prolapse, loss of urine, or weak pelvic floor.
  • Know your medications. Talk to your doctor about using medications and possible side effects for the vagina.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink and don't smoke. Chronic alcohol consumption can affect sexual function. Nicotine may inhibit sexual arousal. Drug use could also be associated with poor physical and mental health, which can affect sexual function.
While not all vaginal problems can be prevented, regular checkups can help ensure that problems affecting the vagina are diagnosed as soon as possible. Don't let embarrassment stop you from talking to your doctor about any concerns you may have about your vaginal health

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