Navigating your GYN concerns in our “New Normal”
I’m sure you’re just about ready to never read or hear the words “COVID-19” again. It’s completely turned our lives upside down in so many ways, and has truly become one of the most globally relatable events that has ever happened. Some of you who are reading this have been stricken with this illness, either personally or through a family member or friend. You may have lost your job or taken a serious pay cut due to this disease. Most of you have probably been quarantined at home for over a month now. And many of you are probably considered essential workers and have been battling this illness from the frontlines.
Either way, we all have had to change the way we live our lives due to concerns about the transmission of this virus. However, I’m sure one of the major ways that life has changed for you has been medical care.
Prior to this pandemic, if you had a vaginal itch, yeast infection or your period flow got weird, you could easily call your gynecologist’s office and make an appointment to be seen with minimal friction. Now, you’re concerned about whether or not your gynecologist’s office is even open. And on top of that, you’re worried about literally everything else.
You’re worried about whether it is safe to go outside. You’re worried about whether it’s safe to go to a medical facility at this time. You’re worried about hugging your family – your pet even.
Here’s where I come in. Can I give you medical care through this article? No. But, as medical professionals experiencing this unprecedented pandemic for the first time, we’re all learning how to adapt how we can be a resource and help in any way we can. So while many are suffering from COVID-19, that doesn’t stop the other medical issues that are more commonplace and still happening every single day, but getting neglected due to prioritization of time and resources. Here’s what I can do. I can help you figure out how to navigate the new world we live in.
In the first part of this series, I will talk about some general healthy habits to try to avoid having issues that would necessitate a visit to the gynecologist. At this time, prevention of any medical problems is key, due to the overtaxed medical system. Today, we’re focusing on your SCENT! It can make a big difference in how you feel down there.
Dr. Heather’s Tips to Avoid a Visit to the Gynecologist During Covid-19
Listen up. No one’s judging. Lately, the days are all running into each other, and it’s honestly harder than ever to remember the last time you hopped in the shower. I would recommend bathing regularly. Not only will you smell better for anyone who is self-isolating/quarantining with you, but you are much less likely to brew any vaginal infections while staying hygienic.
Avoid Scented Body Wash
I know this sounds a bit contradictory since I just told you shower so you feel and smell clean, but you should actually avoid scented soaps, body washes, or vaginal washes. As I have mentioned before, your vagina is not meant to smell like a rose. Vaginas are very sensitive and so, if you use any soaps or washes with fragrance, it can cause foul odors, vaginal itching, or discharge. Although you are spending a lot of time at home and may get creative, this is not an experiment worth trying right now.
Avoid scented detergents
Are you picking up on a theme here? Your vagina is sensitive. Don’t put perfumed detergents on your clothes, but more importantly your underwear. If it’s the same detergent you’ve been using forever and have never had a problem, you’re probably okay. But I wouldn’t use this time to go testing new detergents right now. Like I stated above, fragrances can irritate your vagina. If you use detergents with fragrance or fabric softener, these agents can cause a vaginal reaction that can be really uncomfortable! Prevention is key, ladies!
Think twice about landscaping
You may want to reconsider hair removal during this time. While I have plenty of thoughts about pubic hair removal (which I will get into in a later article), when waxing or shaving you actually introduce bacteria to your skin through small cuts. Even if you use a fresh razor or wax strips, you’ll still increase your risk of exposure to infections. And if you’ve ever done pubic hair removal, I’m sure you’ve experienced ingrown hairs which can also become infected and painful. These types of infections are frustrating and uncomfortable to deal with under normal circumstances, so in these times when you’re less likely able to visit with a doctor, it’s probably worth going au naturel.
Probiotics aren’t just for good for digestion
If you’ve had any experience with probiotics, it’s more common knowledge that they are recommended live bacteria and yeast (microorganisms) that live within your GI tract. Did you know these microorganisms also live within our vaginal canals? Over the course of evolution, these bacteria, yeast, and humans have formed a relationship which allows them to live within our bodies and they keep us feeling healthy. If these organisms are out of balance, this can cause either a yeast infection vaginally or a bacterial vaginal infection.
We can consume these bacteria and yeast through the foods we eat. Some examples of foods rich in probiotics are yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchee, and sauerkraut. There are also probiotic supplements that can be found in drugstores and supermarkets (and those are still open!) Maintaining a normal amount of healthy bacteria and yeast not only will help keep your vagina from revolting, but it can help with your digestion and keeping your bowels regular.
Drink up (and no, I don’t mean wine for this use case!)
Not only is water amazing for your complexion, digestion, weight control and so much more, it actually has a major impact on balancing your vaginal pH and keeps you from having pesky itching and odors. I recommend drinking half of your body weight in ounces every day.
Eat a balanced diet
Girl, so I struggle with this daily. I totally understand stress eating, bored eating, eating while watching TV….However, eating a balanced diet can help your general health, which translates into improved GYN health. I am making sure I have vegetables at every meal, and to incorporate various fruits for breakfast or as a snack throughout the day. This really helps me stay on track.
While following these tips will not completely prevent gynecological problems, they can decrease the likelihood that you may experience these common symptoms that I normally treat daily. Consider making some of these changes and hopefully you can keep yourself out of a GYN office until things get a little closer to normal!