Why does my vagina smell funny? And other questions you shouldn't be too shy to ask your doctor
Here's why you should not be shy when asking questions about health, hygiene, and sex, according to a gynecologist from Makati Medical Center.
Even with the prevalent social media culture of openness and TMI, we still often feel embarrassed when opening up to our doctor about strange smells, odd bumps, or strange bodily fluids.
But opening up to your gynecologist is important because it could help prevent more serious health problems through early detection.
Here are just some questions you should not be too embarrassed to ask your doctor, according to Dr. Sonia E. Bongala, of the Philippines’ premier healthcare institution, Makati Medical Center.
Why does my vagina smell funny?
Vaginal odor is natural and normal, assures Dr. Bongala. This is because our lady parts “has a balanced combination of both fluid (discharge) and bacteria.” It has the capacity to regulate a healthy acidic level while cleansing itself.
An excessively strong odor, however, could be a red flag signaling a deeper problem.
A pungent fishy smell, for instance, or a runny yellow discharge could be indicative of Bacterial Vaginosis, which is a mild vaginal infection.
“The vagina normally houses healthy bacteria, but when unhealthy bacteria like that of Bacterial Vaginosis takes over, it upsets the balance and can increase risks of other infections,” shares Dr. Bongala. “Bacterial Vaginosis, however, can easily be treated with antibiotics. So, if you start noticing abnormal discharge, consult your doctor right away before it becomes too serious.”
Why are my breasts uneven?
Though some women’s breast unevenness is more pronounced than others, it’s important to know that our breasts rarely symmetrical. According to Dr. Bongala, breast size is affected by a variety of factors: estrogen levels, pregnancy, and bra support, for instance.
“Breasts tend to feel fuller while you are ovulating or are on your period,” says Dr. Bongala. “For moms who are breastfeeding, the breasts also tend to get bigger and heavier because of the milk coming in.”
It’s important to report any significant change in breast size because if one breast suddenly seems too big, it could be a sign of infection, cysts, or even cancer.
Are pantyliners bad for me?
Wearing a liner every day is fine, as long as you choose the breathable, unscented kind without a plastic covering. According to Dr. Bongala, this helps lessen moisture, thereby protecting you from infection.
“Be very vigilant about hygiene, especially during menstruation,” cautions Dr. Bongala. “Wash your hands properly before handling pantyliners and sanitary pads. Avoid wearing tight jeans or leggings for extended periods of time, because these can increase body temperature and moisture around the genitals which could allow bacteria to thrive.”
She also stressed the importance of changing your pantyliner frequently: every 4 to 6 hours, ideally.
Is it safe to use feminine wash regularly?
“Some feminine wash have very strong formulations which can actually kill the good bacteria in the vagina and change vaginal acidity. I’d like to reiterate that an adequate amount of good bacteria (vaginal flora) is needed to maintain a healthy vaginal acidity,” says Dr. Bongala, adding that using feminine wash for a prolonged time could make you more susceptible to vaginal infections.
Though there are mild formulations, it is still not advised to use feminine wash daily. It’s safer to use it a few times a week. To keep your vagina clean and smelling fresh, use a mild soap and water every day, instead.
Should I consider using tampons?
Though tampons are still not that widely used in the Philippines, a lot more women are becoming more open to the idea. It’s important to choose a non-fragrant type of tampon to avoid infection or allergic reactions.
Ideally, tampons should be changed every 4 to 6 hours, just like liners or sanitary pads. Not changing tampons frequently has also been known to heighten the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), which is a potentially fatal disease caused by bacterial infections.
Is it safe to have sex while I’m on my period?
“Sex is a part of life and yes, women can still engage in and enjoy intercourse even while on their period,” assures Dr. Bongala. “Studies also show that sex can soothe menstrual cramps and headaches. You just need to ensure that you are practicing safe sex.”
She does caution, however, that the vagina’s pH level becomes more alkaline, making it more prone to yeast infections. It’s also worth noting that bodily fluid carries HIV and during your period, your cervix is more prone to contracting viruses.
Dr. Bongala clarifies that sex during menstruation is not a form of birth control.
“Pregnancy is still possible during menstruation as well, especially if you have sex towards the end of your period, because sperm can still be viable for 3 to 5 days.”
Do you have burning questions you’ve been too shy to ask? Don’t be! Your health could depend on it. In closing, Dr. Bongala assures us: “Don’t be shy! We are here to help.”
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