Somewhere along the line in my pursuit of helping women have more sexual satisfaction and pleasure, I began to understand that the triad of sexual dysfunction issues that millions of women struggle with – vaginal dryness, lack of libido, and painful sex – are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to vaginal health.
The more I’ve learned about vaginal pain and disorders, the more committed I have become to offering real solutions for sustainable women’s health. Our board of women’s health experts, comprised of leading vulvovaginal specialists, naturopathic and integrative care physicians, pelvic floor therapists, and renowned biophysicists, is learning more every day about the complexity of enduring vaginal health issues. They also bring light to what can only be described as a lagging scientific inquiry into the root causes of these issues.
Vaginal Disorders Are Often Overlooked or Misdiagnosed
A study in Sex and Relationship Therapy found that “35 percent of women reported having over 15 appointments and 37 percent of women indicating it took over 36 months to receive a correct diagnosis” of their vaginal disorder. Extremely common reproductive health issues like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, lichen sclerosis, and even recurrent bacterial vaginosis not only go undiagnosed for months or years in many cases, but are treated with a medical standard of care that has remained static for decades.
The continued use of antibiotics and steroids as staples of vaginal care ignores the abundance of new research on the vaginal biome in much the same way that the gut biome was once overrun by antibiotic use. It took 20 years, but now most physicians are reticent to overprescribe antibiotics and routinely prescribe probiotics as a means to rebalance the critical gut-brain.
Although we are just at the beginning of this new vaginal biome science, we are seeing innovations among all kinds of practitioners – referrals from OB/GYNs to pelvic floor therapists as a means of unraveling complex conditions, and new mobile apps that teach mothers and daughters to talk about excessive early period pain and bleeding are just a couple of examples.
Acknowledging When Something Is “Off”
Likewise recognizing what a healthy vagina feels and smells like is critical early learning. Too many women have gone for far too long feeling ashamed of their vaginal odors, discharges, and discomforts without being able to distinguish between what feels and smells normal to them. These are signs that every girl and woman should be able to self-interpret.
A healthy vaginal biome creates a balanced vaginal odor, one that is attractive to oneself and others. But many conditions and scenarios – including bacterial vaginitis, post-sexual and menstrual days, peri- and post-menopause, repeated courses of antibiotics, and the challenges of post-oncology treatment are among those that can create an imbalance in the vaginal biome. This imbalance, especially when it is ongoing and not diagnosed, results in an unnatural discharge, discomfort, and an unusual odor – the most common symptoms that present for recurrent bacterial vaginosis and super yeast infections.
Supporting healthy vaginal care and calling out the need to recognize and honor our discomfort and odors is not some form of misogyny; rather, it is the foundation of innovative vaginal biome science that needs to be better understood and communicated by physicians to their patients.
Biome Care Is Self-Care
What a gift it would be to encourage women when they smell “off” from their natural odor to not experience a lack of self-esteem, but rather serve as a signal for self-care and agency. These vaginal symptoms that are understood as a strong indicator that one’s vaginal biome is overrun by unhealthy bacteria deserve intervention, not shame. I was so fortunate to have so many good teachers and so many customers that shared their experiences of pain and healing with us that I know that our vaginal biome care is among the most effective available anywhere.
Good Clean Love's Bio-Match® line of vaginal care products is formulated to support vaginal biome balance and health. In fact, this product is sampled by thousands of doctors to patients with a variety of vaginal biome issues, and we donate more than 1 million free product samples each year.
The research and development for our newest product BioNourish™ Ultra Moisturizing Vaginal Gel with Hyaluronic Acid, for example, began in a conversation with one of the leading gynecological oncologists who shared horror stories of her patients who had no palliative care. The powerful combination of hyaluronic acid with our Bio-Match gel promises relief and ongoing biome well being.
Learn more about the scientific research behind our line at shwi.org.