5 Mistakes You Might Be Making When It Comes To Down-There Healthcare - Vogue.co.uk

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When it comes to looking after our personal health, the path isn't always that clear. The stigma that surrounds how best to care for vaginas and all that comes with owning one can often leave most of us keeping our problems to ourselves, frantically Googling symptoms without having open conversations that could provide the clarity required.

5 Mistakes You Might Be Making When It Comes To Down-There Healthcare - Vogue.co.uk5 Mistakes You Might Be Making When It Comes To Down-There Healthcare - Vogue.co.uk

Miss Gloria @missgloriadesign

In order to bust some myths and lay down the medical guidelines, we approached Dr Anita Mitra aka The Gynae Geek. Not just a doctor who specialises in obstetrics and gynaecology, Dr Antia is a contributor to hormone and cycle tracking app Moody Month[1] and author of The Gynae Geek[2] book. This lady knows her stuff.

It's time for us all to learn, understand and follow the truths, debunk the myths and listen to our bodies. Here, Dr Anita talks us through:

1. You will feel the same throughout your menstrual cycle

It's totally normal for your mood to fluctuate throughout the month as your hormones are changing by the hour, meaning you'll be in totally different "chemical states". It doesn't mean you necessarily feel different from one day to the next, but when you compare Monday on week one to Monday on week two, you could feel like a different human. It's not just our mood that is affected by our female hormones. They can influence pretty much every tissue in our body causing symptoms like headaches, breast changes, appetite fluctuations, exercise performance and even digestive problems, including diarrohea (yep, those period poops are a thing).

Being able to track your moods and hormones with apps like Moody Month allows us to understand our bodies better. It's important to have a log of information and insight about your own body - how do you feel before your period, why is a particular symptom occurring and how is it making you feel?

A Period Emoji Has Received The Go-Ahead[3]


2. Using soaps and washes is the only way to keep your vagina healthy

The vagina cleans itself and you shouldn't be putting any products up there to clean it, while the vulva only needs a gentle rinse with warm water. The skin is very sensitive and much more prone to irritation than skin in other parts of your body. Healthy bacteria that live in your vagina and on the skin of your vulva help to protect you from infections like thrush and bacterial vaginosis. Washes and wipes can wash away that good bacteria making irritation worse, or actually cause it if you never had it in the first place. I've never had a patient who told me that they used any of these products to make their symptoms better, but I've had plenty who told me their irritation and discharge got better when they stopped using it. There are times in your cycle when your oestrogen levels are low, that can make you more likely to experience irritation, but it should go in a few days as oestrogen levels eventually rise. Apps are helping to bridge this gap. Moody Month encourages you to log any pattern to your irritation or discharge. If it's bad enough that you think it needs treatment, this is most effectively done using specific medication. Over-the-counter thrush medication is effective if you're sure that you have a case of it, but if you're unsure or do not see it improving, head straight to your GP. Bacterial vaginosis is best treated using prescription medication from your doctor.

3. Period pain is normal, you just need to let it pass

It's normal to experience some pain with your period as your womb contains a muscular layer which squeezes to help get the period blood out. The level of the pain that would be deemed normal is that that can be treated with a few painkillers, such as a paracetamol and ibuprofen, which can be bought over the counter and used together. However, if the pain is so severe that it disrupts you then it is worth taking a trip to your GP.

There are studies to show that poor sleep, stress and lack of exercise can make period pain worse and ultimately there needs to be a more 360 approach to healthcare. Discovering what your triggers are will give you pointers for areas that you could work on to help your symptoms, the femtech space is aiming to bridge this gap, with teams of women from all fields coming together to provide solutions for their peers.

The Digi Diary: March[4]

With your period, if there is an underlying condition, such as endometriosis or adenomyosis, you may find it difficult to rectify things with lifestyle modification on its own. Tracking the pain can provide helpful information for your doctor to help them make a diagnosis and to suggest the best kind of treatment for you.

4. Some of us get heavy periods, that's just the way it is

What constitutes heavy? The textbooks say 80ml, but I prefer the definition from NICE - The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence - which is: "Any excessive menstrual blood loss which interferes with the woman's physical, emotional, social and material quality of life, and which can occur alone or in combination with other symptoms". People with heavy periods are quite often anaemic due to the excess blood loss which means you can feel physically drained and exhausted on a frequent basis and can even limit your physical activity. This is one of the reasons why heavy periods should not be ignored, but also because there are ways they can be treated. It's always useful to be able to give your doctor an idea of how much you bleed, and we often ask the number of pads or tampons that you would use on an average heavy day to try and calculate. If you're tracking this, you may also be able to notice patterns regarding how external factors, such as stress, can affect how heavy your flow is. In about half of women seeing their doctor about heavy periods, no specific cause is found. However, this absolutely does not mean they can't be treated. Whether we work out the cause or not, there is usually a way of reducing the bleeding using various different types of medication.

British Girls Are Skipping School Because Of Their Periods[5]

5. Irregular periods are common

The 'textbook menstrual cycle' is 28 days long, but anything from 21-35 days is considered normal. There are just so so many external factors that can affect the timing of our periods - ranging from lack of sleep and stress to jet lag and even the seasons. It can be frustrating if you never know when your period is going to arrive and using a tracking app is a great way to look out for any potential triggers that you could work on.

It's also important to point out that there are some underlying medical conditions that can impact the timing of your period, including polycystic ovarian syndrome and thyroid disease. These, along with a whole host of other conditions, can be tested for by your doctor, and that's why it is a good idea to check things out from the start, to make sure you know what you're dealing with. Having an idea of how long your cycle typically lasts for, along with any patterns that you've noticed will be useful when you go to see them to discuss this. It's so helpful when my patients come armed with this information, and I usually breathe a sigh of relief when they get an app out to show me exactly what's going on.

References

  1. ^Moody Month (moodymonth.com)
  2. ^The Gynae Geek (www.amazon.co.uk)
  3. ^A Period Emoji Has Received The Go-Ahead (www.vogue.co.uk)
  4. ^The Digi Diary: March (www.vogue.co.uk)
  5. ^British Girls Are Skipping School Because Of Their Periods (www.vogue.co.uk)
5 Mistakes You Might Be Making When It Comes To Down-There Healthcare - Vogue.co.uk

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