Sexual health is important for the overall wellbeing of humans. Sexual health is much more than the act of sex. It is interlinked with other types of health, like physical health or mental health. The definition of women’s sexual health is different for each person. It is influenced by a person’s culture, upbringing, religion, values, experiences, and expectations.
As per the World Health Organization, sexual health is a state of mental, emotional, physical, and social wellbeing in relation to sex or sexuality. It isn’t just about the absence of infirmity, dysfunction, or disease. A respectful and positive approach to sexual relationships and sexuality, along with free sexual experiences that are free from coercion, is known as sexual health.
Sexual health is important as a person’s emotional wellbeing is surrounded by intimate relationships. This also allows one to take control of their reproductive health. Healthy and fulfilling sex lives can improve the quality of life and mental health as well.
Vaginal problems can affect women’s sexual health. It may cause discomfort and make it difficult for them to enjoy the sex act. This is against the feeling of good sexual health. Let us explore the reasons or issues that can affect the sexual health of a woman. The following are vaginal problems or issues that can affect a woman’s sexual health.
Types of Vaginal Infections Affecting Women’s Sexual Health
A vaginal infection can cause problems for women, especially during sex. And if you think you have an STI, then its best to abstain from sexual contact. Also, it must avoid douching as it rids the vagina of good bacteria. Also, it may flush an infection up the fallopian tube or uterus. Excess viruses, bacteria, or yeast cells can lead to a vaginal infection. An imbalance of vaginal organisms can cause infections. Symptoms of a vaginal infection include:
- Vaginal odor
- Redness, pain, swelling, and itching
- Change or increase in vaginal discharge (yellow, grey or green discharge)
- Bleeding or pain while having sex
- Burning while urination
Some types of vaginal infection are:
Caused by the Candida albicans fungus, this infection affects around 75 percent of women. This is also known as a yeast infection, and usually, an odorless, thick, and lumpy discharge occurs. It can cause severe itching of the vagina, painful urination and sex, and vulvar redness and swelling. Oral medication or over the counter creams can clear this up. Pregnant women must consult a doctor before considering any treatment. Certain types of infections can affect pregnancy.
Lumps, rashes, sores, blisters
Lump, sores, blister, or rashes in the vulva area can be caused by many things. Common causes can be tight clothes, wet clothes or a new soap. This may require a doctor’s visit, and medical consultation is needed.
Vulvar or vaginal problems
These issues can occur from aging, the use of medicines, or birth control. Issues can include:
- A retained, birth control device, foreign object or tampon
- Bowel changes and urination during to vaginal prolapse
- Vaginal or vulvar injury
- Pressure on the pudendal nerve in the genital region leading to Pudendal neuralgia
Pain and vaginal burning can also lead to such discomfort in a way that a woman can’t sit comfortably, have intercourse or wear tight clothing. Vulvodynia doesn’t have a quick fix. Possible contributors to this condition could be pelvic floor muscle spasms, hypersensitivity to Candida, or injury to the nerves in the vulva. The vulvar vestibulitis syndrome or VVS is the most common form. Treatment options include tricyclic antidepressants, topical estrogen creams, surgery, anesthetics, and anticonvulsants.
Vaginitis doesn’t have any single cause. It occurs due to disruption in the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina. It could happen due to birth control, menopause, hormonal changes, or any chronic medical conditions. Multiple sexual partners and frequent sex is said to cause this. There are four common types of Vaginitis:
- Bacterial Vaginosis – Bacterial vaginosis or BV is a common infection in women of reproductive age. Women with this may be symptom-free or experience lots of greyish-white discharge. Some studies have been seen suggesting that an untreated case of BV can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and then infertility. This can be treated with vaginal or oral antibiotics.
- Atrophic Vaginitis – This happens when there is a fall in estrogen levels. Usually, when a woman is breastfeeding or taking birth control with only progestin. It will feel like an infection with pain, itching, and burning. A vaginal estrogen ring or estrogen creams can help treat this.
- Trichomoniasis is also a kind of Vaginitis and is covered under STI’s below.
In this condition, irritants and allergens like fabric softeners, laundry detergents, deodorized tampons, and body soaps can cause skin thickening, vulvar itching, and a raw feeling. There could be dampness due to “weeping” skin and vulvar irritation. Women may experience during a vaginal exam or sex. It can be managed through steroid treatments or even home remedies such as a lukewarm bath in baking soda mixed with water.
This is a skin condition that affects post-menopausal women and creates smooth, shiny spots on the vulva. The skin tears easily, causing bruises. The scars can narrow the vaginal opening and make sex uncomfortable. Women can experience blisters, bleeding, itching, and pain. Hormones or an over-active immune system can cause this. A visual exam or biopsy can lead to the diagnosis. This isn’t contagious. Skin ointments or cortisone can alleviate itching.
This is a rare condition that affects less than 2% of women in the USA. The muscles around the vagina can tighten very hard, so much that it’s painful to insert a tampon or have sex. The first line of treatments includes therapy and exercise. Dilation, muscle massage, sex therapy, and hypnosis is used to treat this.
Vaginal dryness can be an aftereffect of any of the issues mentioned here. It can cause light bleeding pain or irritation during sex. Medication or breastfeeding can lead to this for premenopausal women, and even chronic medical conditions can result in this. Lubricants, estrogen cream, or rings can make this better.
A vagina can become narrow or less stretchable after pelvic surgeries or radiotherapy in that region. The vaginal walls can stick together or become. Vaginal dilators could be administered to manage this.
Vaginal bleeding or shortening
Surgical removal of the cervix and womb can shorten the vagina, but it can expand when aroused. Women may also experience bleeding if the vaginal walls are fragile.
This may cause leaking during sex and is a turn off for some women. Pelvic surgeries, constipation, surgeries, or pregnancy can cause incontinence. Weakened muscle or structural abnormalities can cause this as well. Some women use a silicone plug just before sex to manage this.
Menopause is common in women and can lead to vaginal dryness. Low estrogen levels decrease the blood supply to the vagina affecting lubrication. This can be managed by hormone replacement therapy.
- Herpes – Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, and the symptoms are shallow and painful lesions on the vulva. These small blisters or pimples can spread to the buttocks and thighs then ca crust over to scab. Flu-like symptoms may also appear initially, and they take around four weeks to heal. Anti-Viral medication can manage the problem, but there is no permanent cure. This is contagious.
- Trichomoniasis – This is a sexually transmitted infection. It usually occurs in sexually active older women. There is itching, pain during sex, swelling, redness, and frequent and painful urination. A foamy, white, green, or yellow vaginal discharge is also common. Antibiotics can treat this easily.
Recommended post: Sexually Transmitted Diseases,
The vagina is a sensitive area for women, and it plays a crucial role in intercourse. However, if women are facing issues with the vagina, then they may not enjoy intercourse. Enjoying sex is important for good sexual health as it can give confidence and make humans feel good. But problems with the vagina are a hindrance to good sex, which in turn has a negative impact on sexual health. Women can manage or seek treatment for vaginal problems to ensure that their sex life doesn’t see a downturn.