Women: What Your Sex Life Says About Your Health
Women and Sexual Health: Page 3
Sex scene #6: You've begun making excuses because you're embarrassed about a weird vaginal odor.
It might be: Bacterial vaginosis (BV) Bacterial vaginosis is the leading cause of vaginal complaints in the United States, says gynecologist Elizabeth G. Stewart. "It's often mistaken for a yeast infection," she says. "It's not an infection, but an imbalance in the bacteria normally found in the vagina." Lactobacilli, normally the predominant bacteria found in the vagina, disappear for reasons that aren't yet well understood, and other types of bacteria overgrow. This changes the acid-base balance of the vagina to an alkaline one, and the elevated pH is accompanied by protein concentrations that, well, smell. "A mild form smells like ammonia," Stewart says. "A bad case smells like dead fish." Yeast infections can also cause an off-smelling discharge, but this is less common. In addition, combo yeast-BV infections can occur.
What to do: Report the symptom to your gynecologist. In fact, it's usually wiser to get a suspected yeast infection checked by a doctor, too, rather than self-treating with over-the-counter products, Stewart says, since the two conditions are often mixed up and OTC yeast cures won't affect BV. Untreated BV can lead to complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease and preterm delivery in pregnant women. The usual treatment -- prescription antibiotics that come in both oral and vaginal forms -- seems to be equally effective, Stewart says. But even when treated, BV can return in up to a third of women, who will need retreatment.
Sex scene #7: Urine leaks out when you have sex.
It might be: Stress incontinence, caused by weakened or damaged muscles Some women wet themselves a little at orgasm -- and wonder sheepishly if this isn't just part of the excitement run amok. It's not. "Peeing at any point during sex, whether foreplay, intercourse, or climax, is not normal," Herbenick says. Leaking is a form of stress incontinence, the most common form of incontinence in women. It's caused by a weakened or damaged pelvic structure. Childbirth, especially multiple pregnancies and vaginal deliveries, is a leading risk factor. Other risk factors include getting older, smoking, obesity, and having COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or asthma, which cause chronic coughing. For as many as one in three women with stress incontinence, anxiety about future episodes is enough to make them avoid having sex altogether.
What to do: Fortunately, there are many ways to stop urinary incontinence from sabotaging your sex life. The simplest include avoiding liquids for several hours before sex and voiding both immediately before and during sex play. Sexual positions can also make a difference, as rear or side entry, for example, take pressure off a woman's bladder and urethra. A urologist who specializes in incontinence can guide you to pelvic floor exercises and medications, or possibly a surgical fix.