Four Common Reproductive Health Issues: Reproductive & Sexual Health Education Series

Part 2: Symptoms and Causes of Four Common Reproductive Health Issues

Today we want to talk about four reproductive health issues that most will go through at some period of time. We know that it can be uncomfortable or scary sometimes to know what to do or who to talk to about what is going on with your body, so we’re sharing a few tips that might come in handy if you experience one of these four common reproductive health issues.

One of the most common reproductive health issues that causes alarm is vaginal discharge.

It is important to know that, most of the time, discharge is normal! The discharge serves as an important housekeeping function for your reproductive health system; the fluid excreted by your glands inside the vagina and cervix carry away dead cells and excesses of bacteria.

When you are on your menstrual cycle, it is likely that you will have more discharge.

Image from Medical News Today

If the color, smell or consistency seems quite different than usual, especially if this is coupled with any itching or burning, you could be dealing with a more serious condition. When in doubt, it is always best to see your doctor!

This vaginal infection is caused by changes in the vagina’s healthy bacteria — most often when a strain of bacteria called Gardnerella vaginalis outnumbers another strain called Lactobacillus, causing the vagina’s normal pH levels to shift.

Image from CDC Factsheet

Symptoms:

  • White, gray or yellow discharge with fishy odor
  • Itching or burning, redness and swelling of the vagina or vulva
  • Many women with BV have no symptoms at all

When to see the Doctor?

If your vaginal discharge is different than normal, you have a history of UTIs or other vaginal infections, you have multiple sex partners or a new partner, and/or you have self-treated for a yeast infection and the symptoms still persist, you should see a doctor.

When you visit a doctor, they will check your vulva and vagina and take a sample (swab) that will be tested to see if you have BV. Some doctors may also check for BV by checking the pH of your vagina with a simple pH-strip test.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal problem for women ages 15 to 44. In fact, an estimated one in three American women will get BV. The rate is higher in black women. — Cleveland Clinic

Your vagina contains healthy balance of bacteria and yeast. The hormone estrogen helps to keep the bacteria in balance. When something happens to tip your hormonal balance, you are more susceptible to this infection, as a fungus called candida can grow out of control.

Symptoms:

  • Burning, redness and swelling of vagina and vulva
  • Thick, white discharge, like cottage cheese
  • Pain or burning when you pee and pain during sex
  • Symptoms are similar to common STIS and bacterial vaginosis

Treatment:

  • See your doctor! When you a visit a doctor for a possible yeast infection they will likely do a pelvic exam. They will examine the vulva and vagina to see if either are red or swollen. The doctor may also take a swab sample to send to a lab for testing.
Image from Very Well Health

UTIs are more common in women and girls because their urethras are shorter and closer to the rectum, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the urinary tract. — CDC

Underlying cause:

  • Infection in any part of your urinary system including kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra — when bacteria from the large intestine moves into urethrae — causes include genes, diabetes, hormone changes, and kidney stones
Image from HUDA Beauty

Symptoms:

  • Burning feeling when you pee
  • Frequent urge to pee and difficulty peeing
  • Cloudy or strange smelling urine
  • Feeling tired, ever and chills and sometimes even pain

Treatment:

  • Antibiotics are the most common treatment, always see your doctor if you suspect you have a UTI! When you go to the doctor, you will be asked to provide a urine sample. This urine sample is examined for bacteria or white blood cells.
  • Some OTC medications can minimize pain such as AZO urinary pain relief, drink lots of water to help flush out the system!

Check out some additional resources below!

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