During pregnancy your body goes through many different changes - what was once your own body has now been taken over by a little mini you.
Often, we notice these changes dramatically - I mean - it's hard not to notice your lovely bump! But what about your intimate areas? Our vaginas can also experience many changes throughout pregnancy but understanding what is and isn't normal is beneficial to both you and baby.
Gynaecologist - Dr Anne Henderson - is working alongside Canesten's campaign 'Summer of Self-Love' and wants to encourage pregnant women and women in general, to be more self-aware of their vaginal health.
What age do women start to get vaginal infections?
It varies but it can happen at any age, it’s more common in pregnancy. Pregnant women are going to be more prone to all kinds of infections, including thrush.
How does the vagina change with age? E.g. during 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s
The classical changes are the ones during pregnancy because of the immunosuppression and the change in blood flow to the vagina. This is when women are much more likely to experience increased discharge, risk of infection and other intimate problems.
How can vaginal discharge change and what does this mean e.g. ovulation vs infection?
The classical change at ovulation which most women, particularly those trying to get pregnant become aware of, is that there's a huge increase in discharge around ovulation. It becomes less gelatinous and more liquid. The liquid nature of the discharge helps sperm penetrate through the cervix, into the uterus to fertilize the egg. The odour will change slightly, largely because the pH level changes and the whole consistency of the mucus change.
It is worth noting that infected discharge doesn't change. Once you've got an infection, whether it's thrush or BV, your discharge will remain consistent until you treat it; it doesn't change from day to day. If you've got thrush, it's pretty much there unless it's treated.
However, if you don’t have an infection, due to natural hormonal changes, your discharge will frequently change; after two or three days it will change. It may get thicker, thinner, change in consistency, then it will change later on again in the cycle.
It would be completely illogical for an infection to change unless it's actually being eradicated. So that's quite a good sign for women, if the discharge is day in, day out and it's a nuisance then the chances are it's probably an infection.
What are the most common vaginal health concerns women present in your clinic?
There is a huge focus on discharge and why we have it. It is worth noting that it is quite abnormal for women to have no discharge at all. The difference is when the discharge steps across the boundary from being a healthy physiological discharge which has antibacterial and antifungal properties to when the discharge becomes more harmful.
It sweeps bacteria away from the vagina and keeps it healthy, but problems can start when you have an overgrowth of certain bacteria or pathogens.
It can be very difficult for women to understand what's physiological and doesn't need treatment and what is abnormal and does need treatment. Worries normally arise if you are suffering with symptoms such as pain, burning and itching in and around the vagina.
I frequently hear women asking what is a normal vagina, is it normal for your vagina to smell and does odour change during the month.
For more information on vaginal health, visit https://www.canesten.co.uk/intimate-health