Symptom Checker

Are You Confident or Coy When it Comes to Intimate Health?

New research by Balance Activ reveals more than half of us would wait a week or two to see if a health issue would go away before taking other action, and we are more likely to confide in our partner than our GP about intimate health issues.

Let’s face it, most of us would rather not talk about our vaginal health, and most of the time your vagina takes care of itself. The survey, carried out among 1,000 men and 1,000 women across the UK revealed that most people are a little confused about their intimate health – in fact more than one in five women were not definitely sure what a smear test is for and more than one third were not confident when asked what their ovaries do – and the fact we are reluctant to talk about it does not help.

Balance Activ are working with the Intimate Health Taskforce, a group of healthcare professionals and women who have experience of BV, to encourage women to talk more openly about their vaginal health and help them find the right advice. Taskforce members Nicola Smith and Natasha Gowardun share their experience of having bacterial vaginosis (BV) – and how talking about it has helped them. Click here to listen.

A little bit of understanding can go a long way when it comes to our vaginal health, and 95 per cent of those questioned said that knowing how your body functions is important to staying healthy. Although over half of women surveyed claimed they do check themselves for lumps and abnormalities, six out of ten of those questioned do not know what bacterial vaginosis is even though it is twice as prevalent as thrush, and one in three women will have BV at some point in their lives. BV is caused when the delicate balance of bacteria inside the vagina is disrupted – this can be by something as simple as taking a hot bath or using perfumed soap to wash down below, and can often be triggered by having sex without a condom as semen is alkaline and the environment inside the vagina wants to be slightly acidic.

BV and Thrush symptoms include changes to the vaginal discharge – if you notice a fishy smell and/or your discharge is thin and watery, even a little grey, the chances are it’s BV. The survey revealed that fewer than one in ten women would talk to someone straight away about a change in vaginal conditions, with nearly half opting to look online first. When it comes to intimate health, women are less likely than men to talk to their partner or GP first, but much more likely to confide in their best friend or their mum than men – the more women know about their own vaginal health, the more they can share their knowledge when their friends or their daughters need to know.

Vaginal conditions such as BV and thrush are very different and all require different treatments, so it’s important that women are able to understand their symptoms to find the right treatment. The Intimate Health Taskforce recently launched an online symptom checker and Ask the Expert service so that women can find out more information online about their condition. Women can also talk to their pharmacist or make an appointment with their GP or Sexual health clinic.