It’s not a conversation you have every day – but how do you feel about your vagina? If you’re already blushing or squirming, you’re not alone. New research, released to coincide with Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month in September, found that 65% of women are too embarrassed to say the word “vagina”.
In general, as a nation, we are embarrassed to talk about intimacy and sexual health. And the language we still use to describe a part of the female anatomy certainly doesn’t help us to open-up. But this should now change and we are damaging our health by being so coy.
While it might seem like a trivial issue, there are actually serious implications of women feeling inhibited talking about intimate health. Many common conditions such as recurrent thrush, cystitis, bacterial vaginosis and sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia require people to talk to their Gynaecologist or their GP about genital health. More seriously, this overall shyness or even embarrassment to discuss the vagina can lead to some women avoiding seeking vital advice and tests such as ultrasound scans and cervical smear tests.
One of the major problems is the names we use for the vagina. Unfortunately, traditionally much of the language used is derogatory, with negative connotations – which makes women feel uncomfortable. It began as far back as the ancient Greek Gods, who named the main nerve in the vagina the “pudendal nerve” – which literally translates to the nerve of shame! Also, just think of the word smear! It has negative connotations too. This has led to people, over the years, developing “pet terms” mainly derived from childhood – which seems at odds with the language women need to use to communicate and report vital symptoms.
Also for many women, the effects of childbirth and vaginal delivery can lead to physical trauma to the pelvic floor as well as loss of confidence in their sexuality. Traumatic vaginal birth can result in damage to the fascial and the ligamentous supports of the pelvic organs, weakening the perineal body and potentially triggering the development of vaginal prolapse. Problems such as urogenital prolapse can have a major impact on a woman’s quality of life and can cause psychological symptoms to develop including lack of libido, negative thoughts associated with sex, embarrassment and a fear of incontinence.
And, it’s true to some extent that women are less inhibited following childbirth, but there are still too many who are reluctant to talk about vaginal problems. In a study from St George’s, 85% of postnatal mothers experienced sexual problems at 3 months, dropping to a still significant 64% at 6 months. However, the striking finding in this study is that only 15% of mothers had discussed this with a healthcare professional.
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. myHealthSpecialist makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any of the information in this article, or found by following any link from this article. Please consult a doctor or other healthcare professional for medical advice.
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