I hope you’re sitting comfortably, because today we’re going to talk about yeast infections… Yep, those annoying itchy bouts of thrush that are incredibly common but also incredibly irritating. 75% of women will suffer from thrush at least once in their lives, making it one of the most common infections you can get. You’re more prone to thrush if you’re pregnant, just finished a course of antibiotics, take birth control pills, are on your period or have diabetes (so that’s the majority of us a lot of the time then) and it can cause itching, irritation, swelling of the vagina and surrounding area, and sometimes a creamy white cottage cheese-like discharge. Vaginal thrush is fairly harmless, but it can be uncomfortable; it can also keep returning if you’re a) unlucky or b) don’t sort your symptoms out properly.
So what exactly is thrush, how can it be treated and (maybe more importantly) how can it be avoided? This incredibly common vaginal yeast infection is a type of vaginitis (an inflammation of your vagina.) Both fungus and bacteria naturally live in your noo-nah, but when the fungus Candida Albicans increases it can cause irritation that results in thrush. This fungus may increase when your immune system is weak or when good bacteria (called lactobacilli) can’t keep the fungus under control, but either way the result is symptoms that can include irritation, discharge and swelling. Considering this infection is likely to effect 75% of us at one point or another, it's crazy that it's one of the things as women we don't seem to talk about - at all. It's nothing to be embarrassed about and it's not a sign of having a bit too much fun in the sack, so thrush makes the perfect topic for my #LetsTalkAboutIt series. (It’s important to note that vaginal thrush isn't an STI, but it can be passed on during sex; it's best to avoid doing the deed until you've completed a course of treatment and the infection has cleared up, both for your benefit and his!)
So how can you best avoid picking up a case of thrush? The easiest way is to avoid using perfumed products around your lady garden, as these can upset the pH balance of your intimate area and cause all sorts of problems. There are lots of products including SASS, FemFresh and Vagisil that help to look after your vagina in the best way possible - thanks to their pH neutral and delicate, non-irritating ingredients that won't overload your bits with the scent of candyfloss and meadow flower. Avoiding very hot baths, changing your sanitary products frequently and ensuring you swap your sweaty post-workout underwear for a fresh pair of knickers will also help. There’s also a lot of advice online about avoiding stress, reducing intake of sugary snacks and wiping post-loo from front to back (sorry, but we’re all friends here!) if you suffer from recurring symptoms that are impacting your quality of life. The important thing is to remember to look after your vagina properly, in the same way that you'd look after your eyes if you were prone to conjunctivitis.
It's incredibly easy to tackle the symptoms of thrush, but it's always adviseable that you visit a doctor the first time you think you may be suffering from the condition. (It's easy to mistake the signs of another kind of infection or STI for thrush, so it's better to be safe than sorry; after the initial diagnosis it's easy to treat the symptoms at home yourself.) You may have seen the adverts on telly for things like Canesten, which treats the infection both internally and externally; these work by using the active ingredient clotrimazole or fluconazole to reduce the level of harmful bacteria and restore balance, while an external cream reduces itching. There are many options available, including an oral pill, pessary (a device inserted into the vagina) and internal gel or cream - so the choice is completely up to you and your preference. These are affordable, easy to pick up and get to work incredibly quickly to relieve symptoms in often a matter of hours. I've been lucky enough to only have suffered from thrush once in my life, a long time ago, but I know it's a condition that affects many women on a regular basis. Although I don't expect anyone to openly itch their bits in public and admit they're undergoing a course of Canesten, thrush is incredibly normal and it's about time we stopped the stigma.
Have you suffered from thrush and have any advice on how best to overcome the symptoms, or prevent it re-occuring? Have you ever worried about itching and been too embarrassed to do anything about it? I'd love to hear your stories, opinions and thoughts.
Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.