Vulvovaginal Candidiasis (Yeast Infection)
What is this?
A yeast infection is one of the most common vaginal infections women get. It is not a sexually transmitted infection. Yeast is present in every women’s vagina, however sometimes is grows more than it should. This causes irritation to the cells lining your vagina and vulva.
What are the symptoms?
Intense itching of vulva (outer genitals)
Increased discharge that may with white/gray and clumpy (cottage cheese)
May have pain with peeing
Painful sex or penetration
What caused this?
The majority of cases have no known cause. Some women notice them after they wear pants or underwear that don’t breath, or sit in wet bathing suits for hours at a time. However, there are several factors that could put you at increased risk of developing a yeast infection. These include:
· Recent antibiotic use
· Pregnancy or estrogen therapy
How can I treat this myself?
· Avoid tight fitting, non breathable clothing
· Wash anything that enters your vagina with soap and water to prevent re-infection (ie. Penis, dildo etc.)
· Do not douche (clean out your vagina)- this can push the infection higher
· If you do not have any of the above risk factors, you can go to a drug store to purchase a topical antifungal treatment. Products that are used topically by insertion into the vagina work faster and have fewer side effects. Read the product instructions on how to use. Topical treatment is safe for breastfeeding women.
· Discuss with physician or naturopath the use of probiotics to treat/prevent yeast infections.
When should I see a health practitioner?
· If you have any of the above risk factors.
· If symptoms do not resolve 48 hours after using an over-the-counter product.
· If you have more 3 or more yeast infections per year.
· If your symptoms do not perfectly match the above list. There are many other things that can cause itching and discharge.
· If you are uncertain about your diagnosis or using medications.
· If you get yeast infections after antibiotic use. This can be prevented, ask your doctor how.
Vulvar Vaginal Hygiene
What’s the best way to care for your vulva? Here’s the deal. The vagina and vulva are SELF-CLEANING parts. We don’t need to scrub them, douche, them, scent them, sanitize them, steam, them or otherwise. In fact, over-cleaning can get rid of the healthy bacteria and organisms that are needed to keep it well, and cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria leading to odor, fungus or yeast growth or infection. Here are our favorite tips on vulvar/vaginal hygiene.
1. Just use WATER. Your vulva doesn’t need soap or wipes. If you absolutely must use a soap, ensure it’s fragrance free, a gentle cleanser and NOT antibacterial.
2. Wear breathable cotton underwear or go commando. Ditch the synthetic undies and thongs. Give your vulva some breathing room at night (no undies) and pat dry then air dry after a shower. Please don’t blow dry your vulva.
3. Breastfeeding, intercourse, chronic stress, menopause, menstruating, and SOAP all change the normal acidic pH level of the vulva and could potentially increase the chance of developing a vulvar irritation or yeast infection. During these times, be extra aware of good hygiene practices.
4. Period considerations: having persistent moisture touching our vulvar tissue could be an irritant especially for those on the edge of a healthy pH or with low hormones (more on that later). Your best bet for menstrual products would first be a menstrual cup (if you need options, send us a message) or organic, non-scented/non-bleached tampons changed every 4 hours, then a natural menstrual pad that pulls moisture away from the tissue. Try and stay away from the super thin plasticy weave pads that are full of chemicals, glue and tend to hold moisture.
5. Healthy hormones: Did you know that one area we SEE the affects of hormone changes is the vulvar tissues? Women with low hormone levels often have increased sensitivity and irritation of their vulvar and vaginal tissue. This could include post-menopausal, women who are breastfeeding, long-term use of oral contraception, or even different times during your cycle especially those who are peri menopausal. Some women may need a local topical hormone cream to give a little extra boost and healing to vulvar tissues.
6. Vaginas shouldn’t smell like flowers, or fresh rain, or mountain breezes. So just stop with those things. What SHOULD your vulva smell like? It kinda depends on you and where you’re at in life. If you’d like a full read on this, head to https://pelvicpainrehab.com/female-pelvic-pain/2478/vagina-supposed-smell/ . Long story short, a slightly sweet and pungent, sometimes musky, sometimes a little malty smell are all normal.
We want to preserve a health vaginal flora. As was mentioned above, when we upset the pH or strip away the good bacteria, we’re setting ourselves up for trouble. Some women may need to work to improve their gut/vaginal microbiome to restore the healthy bacteria. This takes some time, but is definitely doable.
Elle Physiotherapy and Pelvic Health