With International Women’s Day right around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to share something I’ve noticed throughout my years of practice and how this can be addressed to improve the quality of life for women in the future.
So, what is this thing I’m talking about… our own lack of knowledge about our own bodies. And now you might be wondering if this is really that critical of an issue. Yes, yes it is. Let me start with one of the fundamental things we learn as little girls in regards to personal hygiene.
How many times have you cleaned your self-cleaning oven with heavily scented, antibacterial soap? Like many, we are taught to believe that we must smell like flowers or tropical fruit. Well, this behaviour results in the elimination of your bacteria (including your good bacteria) and leaves you at increased risk of a yeast infection. There is a reason it is referred to as a self-cleaning oven. It has a very special bacterial environment that requires a certain level of bacteria and pH level that is completely different to the rest of the body. So it cannot be treated the same. This is especially important for those that have dealt with multiple yeast infections in the past. But we’ll get to the “why” piece later.
Next, periods. How many of you think taking multiple painkillers, using a heat pack and curling-up in bed is a normal part of menstruation? This is the mentality many of us have grown up with, including myself, and it is one of the many reasons that women have delayed diagnoses of pelvic pain disorders, such as endometriosis and adenomyosis. What if we learned from the very beginning what a normal period was? What if we had the opportunity to speak with someone about your pain without it being dismissed as PMS or normal? It’s time for us to speak with our mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, friends, etc. about periods. Why should this be something you have to hide? This is a shared experience that women have and yet we are ashamed to talk about something that we don’t have any control over. Let’s start talking about periods!
Now, pregnancy and childbirth. First, don’t be afraid to look at your vulva (what people know as their vagina) BEFORE you give birth. Most women feel that childbirth has “ruined” their lady bits. Well, when I ask if they looked at their vulva before, they typically say no. Well, how can you know it changed that drastically? This lack of knowledge of the vulva and vagina is unfortunately, quite common. For the majority of women, their lady bits look completely normal after childbirth. But we continue to see this disconnect between women and their bodies before childbirth, where we can sense their embarrassment. But, this shifts for most women after childbirth, where there is an increased level of comfort with their anatomy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for women to appreciate their bodies from the very beginning? To understand what your body is capable of regardless if you want to have children, adopt or neither. The female body is wonderfully complex and we need to learn to love our bodies.
Second, its time we stop normalizing urinary incontinence among postpartum mamas and older women. This is not a part of normal motherhood or aging. If you want to learn more about this, you should come to our information session this Friday, March 8 at 6pm where I will be talking about all things urinary incontinence.
Alright, now back to pelvic pain disorders and over-cleaning the self-cleaning oven. One condition that has been linked to repeated yeast infections is vulvodynia. Vulvodynia is a pain condition that affects the vulva. It is still not well-understood, but we know repeated yeast infections can make the nerves that supply your vulvar tissue more sensitive. This can lead to pain with intercourse, and in more severe cases pain with wearing tight clothing or sitting.
This brings me to my next point, birth control. Regardless of your reasons for using it, it is important you educate yourself on the different forms of birth control, the potential side effects, how it will impact your symptoms, and signs for when a form of birth control is no longer working for you. There have been multiple studies that looked at the association between oral contraceptives and depression and have found some significant correlations. Also, please make note that birth control may not be a cure for your condition, but rather a treatment to reduce your symptoms.
So, on this International Women’s Day, I want you to have a conversation about your lady bits! I want you to learn to love your body regardless of where you are in your health journey. I want you to help de-stigmatize vulvas in our health conversations with young girls. The more knowledge we have about our own bodies, the more power we have to advocate for ourselves.
Until next time,