‘Self-care’ includes feminine health, focusing on the most intimate part of women – the vagina. Feminine health is centered on personal hygiene – specifically vaginal health, that all women should be aware of. This has been a great step towards making women feel empowered instead of being embarrassed about caring for their vagina.
Many are using the incorrect terminology when referring to the female genital anatomy, so let us set the record straight. The Vagina is the tube between the vulva and the cervix and, it is where babies exit through during childbirth. The outer region – the vulva, includes the glans clitoris, labia minora and majora, opening of the urethra and vagina and the surrounding tissue.
When referring to feminine health, it is the vulva that needs maintenance not the vagina. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ with the help of natural discharge so there is little to be done to keep it clean. However, the vulva is not, therefore feminine hygiene products are needed for this area.
Doctors have observed an average of a 20 per cent increase in women seeking help for vaginal health concerns. These concerns include vagina laxity, urinary leakage and dryness.
Vaginal laxity is the “looseness” that is caused by childbirth, aging and menopause. Research show that over 50% of 400 women who had vaginal birth experienced vaginal laxity. At some point, approximately 76% of women will experience this condition.
SUI is a condition where there is involuntary leakage from the urethra and is frequently linked to vaginal laxity. Reports show that SUI affects approximately 35% women worldwide. Childbirth, age, hysterectomy, medications and lifestyle could cause a loss of strength within the vaginal wall. As a result, women may experience SUI – where involuntary urine loss occurs when there is an increase in intra-abdominal pressure such as sneezing, coughing or lifting.
As women age and reach menopause, a decrease in levels of the female hormone estrogen causes vaginal atrophy. This condition is also known as atrophic vaginitis and it affects approximately 50% of women during menopause. Estrogen helps to keep the vaginal tissue lubricated and healthy. When estrogen levels fall, vaginal tissue becomes thin, dry and shrunken.
Women who experience vaginal laxity may also experience pelvic organ prolapse. The bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum are held in place by the pelvic floor. Due to childbirth, aging and menopause, pelvic floor muscles are weakened causing the uterus or bladder to drop from its normal position to press on the vagina walls. As a result, there is an uncomfortable bulge within the vagina. For some, the bulge may droop lower out of the opening of the vagina.
As mentioned, the vagina is self-cleaning but the vulva is not. Warm water is sufficient to cleanse the vulva and if you prefer to use feminine products, choose one that is acidic – low pH value of 3.5 – 4.5, hypoallergenic and fragrance free.
There is no need to remove pubic hair, this is up to your personal preference. Shaving is one of the easiest ways, remember to use a new razor and use shaving cream while shaving in the direction of hair growth. However, shaving may cause ingrown hairs and irritation to the skin. For a more permanent solution, Intense Pulse Light (IPL) hair removal provides effective and long-term reduction of unwanted hair.
For women who are seeking to lighten the skin around the vulva, the Pink Intimate treatment at Ageless Medi-Aesthetics can help with that. The treatment features a cocktail of lightening and soothing essences to soften and brighten skin.
For those experiencing vagina laxity and stress urinary incontinence, the Exillis Ultra 360 Femme can help to firm and tone the vaginal (internal) and vulvar (external) areas. In addition, it can also improve the aesthetics of the labia by tightening loose and stretched skin in that area. For milder symptoms, pelvic floor exercises will also be able to help improve vaginal laxity and urinary incontinence. Working with a doctor is recommended to isolate and exercise the right muscles.
For women experiencing vagina atrophy, treatment includes over the counter moisturizers or lubricants to reduce the dryness. In some cases, estrogen replacement may be needed. As for pelvic organ prolapse, nonsurgical treatments such as pelvic floor exercises or a vaginal pessary is inserted to relieve the symptoms. For women who are not planning for children in the future, surgical options are available to lift the prolapse organs back in place.
Ongoing vaginal issues can cause stress and negatively impact self-confidence and relationships. It is therefore important for women to know the signs and what can be done about feminine health. Regular screenings should be scheduled to ensure that symptoms are being diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Do not be embarrassed about any concerns you might be having, speak with your doctor so that you can get treated quickly.
To find out more about our treatments, please contact the doctor or therapist at Ageless Medical.