4 Min ReadHealth 16 September 2020
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:
- Can I speak to you for a few moments about my sexual activity? (Now is the time to cover any issues or concerns with sexual activity overall, orientation, satisfaction, sexually transmitted diseases and/or dysfunction)
- What do you recommend to women who want to experience greater sexual satisfaction?
- Can we discuss my vulvar hygiene and practices to ensure I'm taking the right steps to care for myself?
- How will I know if I have an infection or an allergy? What signs should I be watching for?
- What can I do to create a harmonious environment for good bacteria in my vagina?
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.
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist