My daily work with my gynecology patients has made it apparent that it is time to have a frank talk about sexual health—specifically as it relates to our vaginal anatomy and physiology. For too many women, this topic is avoided and/or misunderstood. As a result, women experience a series of adverse consequences, from poorer health outcomes to lackluster sexual satisfaction.
Even in this modern age of female empowerment and the ongoing drive for equity between the sexes, I still see many women who are embarrassed or even ashamed to discuss their own bodies. We've been misled by society to think that our sexual organs—and our very natural, normal concerns regarding them—are somehow distasteful or disgusting to discuss. Far too many women believe those lies and suffer as a result.
Every woman should know not just the anatomy of her genitals but also the practices that maintain optimal vaginal health—and how that dovetails with sexual satisfaction and well-being. Without this basic understanding and the application of these principles, women cannot achieve their best health and happiness.
My life's work as an OB/GYN is to encourage and equip women to become the CEOs of their own bodies and lives.
To kick off our re-education about the cross-section of sexual and vaginal health, I'll start by saying that the vagina is healthiest in an acidic state. This environment facilitates the growth of good bacteria, which is critically important for vaginal well-being. There are several factors that can either contribute to or deter from that healthy state, including medications, intercourse, hygiene practices, underlying disease and other influences. Maintaining the delicate acidic state of the vagina is critical to the sexual health and overall well-being of the woman and should be a primary topic of conversation in every gynecologist's office.
There is often an easy answer to the problems most commonly discussed in my practice. One of the products I often recommend to my patients is boric acid vaginal suppositories. This is a simple, natural solution for gently restoring an acidic environment in the vagina. It can be a great help to women who are suffering needlessly with odor, irritation and other symptoms.
Without this basic understanding and the application of these principles, women cannot achieve their best health and happiness.
It's well documented that women feel more comfortable discussing sexual practices and satisfaction when their health providers bring up the topic first (Gott M, Galena E, Hinchliff S, Elford H).
However, waiting on a provider to broach the subject when there's a persistent problem or question is setting yourself up for disappointment and inaction. Instead, commit to taking the reins yourself.
At your next doctor's appointment, come prepared with a checklist of discussion items. Have a piece of paper in your hands so that you can literally go down the list. I find that when patients are prepared in advance with their talking points, they feel more comfortable and less embarrassed about these topics. Here are a few potential discussion points to consider including in your chat:
My life's work as an OB/GYN is to encourage and equip women to become the CEOs of their own bodies and lives. Working together with my patients, especially when they're actively advocating for themselves, I've found that we can always find tangible solutions to vaginal and sexual health problems. Together we can affect actual, meaningful change in the health and happiness of their lives. This is the highest goal of my professional existence, because I passionately believe that every woman deserves to be treated with genuine respect and the utmost care.
Let's all start a broader conversation about our female anatomy, sexual satisfaction and health. We deserve it.
WRITTEN BYDr. Ruth Arumala