When it comes to our health, no questions should be too embarrassing to ask. However, we get that some questions may be harder to ask than others – especially when it comes to intimate queries about our health ‘down there’. We answer some of the most frequently asked questions about women’s vaginal health.
Is it normal for my periods to be painful?
As most ladies are familiar with, menstrual cramps feel like they’re part and parcel of that time of the month. Menstrual cramps should typically only last 1 – 3 days, at the start of your period. Most of us probably have our own ways of dealing with period pains.
However, if your periods are excruciating to the extent that they impede your daily life, it’s best to seek medical help. You don’t have to suffer in silence!
You could have endometriosis or uterine fibroids that are causing the intense period pains. Speaking to a doctor or gynaecologist can help you to accurately determine if you have any underlying medical conditions exacerbating the pain.
How often should I change my pad if I’m on my period?
You should change your pad or tampon once every few hours during the day, even if your period isn’t heavy. This reduces the risk for infections, as moist conditions are a breeding ground for bacteria. It’s also a good hygiene practice to ensure your hands are always clean when you’re changing your pads.
Can I get pregnant when I’m on my period?
Although the odds are lower, you can still get pregnant if you have sexual intercourse during your period!
This is because sperm can survive in your body for a few days, after ejaculation. Depending on when you have unprotected sex, and if you’re ovulating early after your period, there is a slight possibility of pregnancy if you have sex while on your period.
Always remember to use reliable contraception – such as condoms or birth control pills – if you want to avoid pregnancy.
Is my vaginal discharge normal?
If you see a clear or slightly cloudy, non-irritating and odourless discharge on your panties, fret not, it’s completely normal. Your discharge may vary in amount, colour, density and consistency even during a normal menstrual cycle.
Warning signs of an infection are:
- Changes in the smell of your discharge, particularly if it has a fishy odour
- White, clumpy discharge
- Itching in your vaginal area
- A burning sensation when you pee
See a doctor for a check-up and possible treatment options, if you experience any of these symptoms.
Why do I keep getting Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)?
UTIs are caused when bacteria enter your urinary tract. Women are more likely to get UTIs due to our anatomy. Our urethra, the tube that carries urine out of our bodies, is shorter than men’s; and is located near the anus and vagina openings. This increases the chances of bacteria entering our urethra from the anus and vagina, causing an infection.
You may be contracting UTIs more often due to your lifestyle habits, including how you clean up in the bathroom, or because of sexual activity.
To avoid UTIs, practise these good habits:
- Wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet, to prevent bacteria from entering the urethra
- Make sure your genital area is clean and dry before putting on underwear
- Pee as soon as possible after sex
- Practise going to the bathroom regularly instead of holding in your urine
When should I go for a sexual health screening?
Some STIs are silent. This means that their associated symptoms may not show until it’s too late. As such, you should go for regular sexual health screenings if you are sexually active, if you suspect you might be exposed to an infection, or if you have multiple sexual partners. Early detection of STIs can help your doctor treat your condition more effectively.
You should go for a screening as soon as possible if you also notice these symptoms: pain while urinating, abnormal discharge, sores and ulcers or bleeding in your vaginal area.
Can STIs be treated?
It’s not the end of the world if you have an STI. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital warts (the top three STDs in Singapore) are treatable with medication.
However, prevention is always better than cure.
Always practice safe sex by ensuring your partner wears a condom, especially if you’re not with a committed sexual partner. And just so we’re clear – being on monthly birth control pills does not protect you from contracting a STI.
Are birth control pills really that effective?
If taken correctly, birth control pills have an effectiveness of about 99%.
Condoms, on the other hand, have an effectiveness of about 85% in real-world conditions. The effectiveness of condoms depends on multiple factors, such as whether your partner knows how to put the condom on properly, when you put the condom on during intercourse and if the condom breaks during the act.
Although you may experience some side effects when first starting on birth control pills, they are one of the more reliable forms of contraception, especially if you’re having sex regularly.
Do I need to wash my feminine area?
The amazing thing about the vagina is that it is self-cleaning! Vaginal secretions help to keep the environment inside the vagina clean naturally. Avoid cleaning the inside of the vagina, especially with scented products, as this can alter the vagina’s natural bacteria and pH levels. This affects your vagina’s ability to clean itself, leading to infections.
Warm water is enough to wash your vulva (the area outside the vagina). You can also use a mild soap that won’t irritate your skin. When cleaning your vulva, be careful to avoid getting water or soap inside your vagina.
I feel like peeing when I sneeze or laugh! What should I do?
If you’ve ever peed a little after bursting into laughter or finishing a particularly hard workout, you’re not alone! About 15% of women in Singapore suffer from stress urinary incontinence. This occurs when physical movement – such as laughter, sneezing or exercise – puts sudden pressure on our bladder and urethra, causing some urine leakage.
Stress urinary incontinence can happen if your pelvic tissues and muscles are weak or if the muscle controlling your urethra weakens. This can be caused by pregnancy and childbirth, and even ageing. Kegel exercises are a good way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. However, if you have experienced an increase in incontinence, it’s best to see a doctor for in-depth medical advice.
You know your body best – so feel comfortable with voicing out any concerns you have, especially if you notice that something’s different. Our doctors are always here to help. Speak to a doctor discretely anytime over the DA app.