The 5 surprising impacts of coronavirus lockdown… on your vagina – and how to treat it
STAYING at home during the coronavirus lockdown appears to have taught us a lot about ourselves.
Some have spent it in comfy clothes slouched on the sofa while others have turned to fitness to find a way of getting out the house.
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There's those who have been getting more action in the bedroom, as some couples were forced apart due to quarantine rules.
And with the pubs shut, some people found themselves drinking less – yet others have boozed more to pass the time.
Whichever camp you fall into, your change in lifestyle may have had an impact on your sensitive lady bits during lockdown.
And with everything that has been going on, some of us could be guilty of ignoring those changes to our intimate health.
Dr Anne Henderson, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist on behalf of Canesten, has identified five lifestyle changes that may have had an impact on your vagina – and how to treat them…
1. Fitness fanatics
Being stuck at home all day has left many looking for excuses to get out or get active.
Whether it's a Joe Wicks home workout or pounding the pavements, some people have found a new passion for fitness.
But for women living in leggings, it's important to know that it could put you at risk of bacterial vaginosis (BV).
It's a fairly common condition that causes a white/grey smelly discharge.
Dr Henderson said: "Sweating and working out in itself, is not harmful, nor is it likely to cause BV.
“If women feel they are sweating more regularly, they may be showering more and using strong soaps and shower gels.
"Further to this, women may be using stronger detergents when washing their exercising clothing or underwear.
“Stronger detergents often have alkaline irritants in them, which can transfer to clothing.
"Therefore, when it comes to wearing knickers and trousers that are of course positioned close to the genitals, this can upset the pH balance in the vaginal area which may contribute to the development of BV.”
She added: “I would recommend using a very mild hypoallergenic washing product, for example Eco Egg, which I think is the only laundry product recommended by British Gynaecological Association.
"Eco Egg is environmentally friendly and unlikely to cause irritation, so great for when washing gym clothes or underwear.”
2. Increased sex
It seems sexual habits have been mixed during lockdown – some are having more than they would while others are virtually celibate.
But if you have been getting hot and steamy more frequently then it could put you at a higher risk of intimate infections, such as cystitis.
Nonetheless, increased sex may but you more at risk of intimate infections.
Dr Henderson says: “Many intimate health conditions can be related to sexual intercourse, whether it's an indirect or a direct cause.
"Not a lot of people know that BV and thrush can be passed from partner to partner, or intercourse can be a stimulant for these infection.
“Sexual intercourse is probably the main trigger for cystitis in women, and it's very easy to understand anatomically why that would be.
"Most women will find that it happens around the time of intercourse or 48-72 hours later, and it's simply a mechanical transfer of the bowel bacteria from the perineum to the bladder.
Dr Henderson says that if intercourse itself isn't an issue for you then it's the post-sex hygiene that's important.
"Women need to empty their bladder if they think they're prone to cystitis. It's an easy thing to do but it definitely works," she says.
3. Boozing more
One in five of us have admitted to drinking more since lockdown, according to a recent YouGov poll.
And with pubs re-opening last weekend, this figure may only increase.
But the high sugar content could cause more problems for our vaginal health, in particular, it can lead to thrush.
“Try and avoid a high sugar diet – refined carbohydrates and sugar are bad for all aspects of health as they raise sugar levels," Dr Henderson says.
"This is then carried throughout the body which can raise the sugar levels in the vaginal tissues, not just the bloodstream and that is very unhealthy.
"Thrush in general, more so than BV, really thrives on high sugar levels in the tissues.”
4. Close shave
With salons closed, those of us with regular waxing appointments may have turned to some DIY treatments to get rid of unwanted hair down there.
While there is nothing wrong with keeping your lady garden trim, shaving or waxing can irritate the sensitive skin and lead to an infection known as cellulitis.
Dr Henerson explained: “Whether a women shaves or waxes doesn’t make her more prone to vaginal infections but shaving in particular, does increase the risk of skin conditions such as cellulitis, which is an inflammation which can cause an infection to the hair root of the follicle.
“That can happen with waxing as well, but it's particularly common with shaving.
"Shaving you're actually removing some of the skin surface hence it can bleed when you shave and can allow infection in and also disrupt the hair follicle itself.
“My advice would be to not shave the genital area, you can easily cut yourself and get an infection.
"If women want to remove hair then it must be done by somebody who's professionally trained in waxing.”
5. Too hygienic
With the government reminding us to regularly wash our hands and disinfect surfaces to stop the spread of coronavirus, we've become a nation of clean freaks.
But Dr Henderson said that over-washing should definitely not apply to our privates as it could lead to a vaginal imbalance.
“If you use perfumed vaginal washes, this will alter the pH balance with your vagina and this affect combined with your menstrual cycle can cause thrush and BV," she says.
“Do as little as possible or in some cases do nothing. Please leave the vagina alone!
"Over washing and using harsh cleaning products, wearing tight clothing can all impact the health of the vagina.
"My best advice would be to wash the vagina with just water, make sure it’s dry after and try and wear loose underwear.”
If you want to check in on your vagina, try Canestest which can tell you if you have BV or thrush.
Dr Henderson added: “It’s really quick and easy to check if you have BV at home, through reliable at home self-testing kits.
"Canestest measures the pH in your vagina and will link these with probable conditions.
"However, you should also use the symptom checker on the pack to help fully identify the changes in your intimate health.”
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