Erasing The Stigma Around Women's Sexual Health

My personal story with Bacterial Vaginosis.

Photo by Francesca Zama from Pexels

Physicians don't always know everything. I found this out the hard way last year when I was dealing with what I thought was just a yeast infection. It was going on for months. No matter what I did, it wouldn't go away. I had never had a yeast infection, so I thought it was normal to have them repeatedly. 

After seeing 3 different doctors and getting no new advice, I started to feel hopeless. Each time I went to a new clinic, they said the same thing. "Well, if it sounds like a yeast infection and looks like a yeast infection, it must be a yeast infection!" They repeated these words to me over and over, prescribing the same ineffective treatment each time. 

Months went by without anything changing. Sometimes, it was so painful I couldn't even sleep because it felt like part of my body was literally on fire. Almost every day I would think to myself, Was I going to have to live with this for the rest of my life? 

Finally, while talking to my friend at a party, I learned that she had been going through the same thing, except for one key difference. She didn't have a yeast infection. She had a recurring case of Bacterial Vaginosis.

I was bewildered. I have never even heard of it, but once she introduced me to the symptoms I realized everything lined up perfectly. The physicians I had seen were wrong the entire time. 

Thanks to that friend, I was able to go to a clinic and at last, ask for the right tests and correct treatment. 

What is Bacterial Vaginosis? 

Bacterial Vaginosis is a common condition where an excess of bacteria grows in the vagina. This bacteria causes swelling and pain down there that can be excruciating.

Trust me, I lived with it for six long months and I would never wish it on anyone else.

Here are the symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis: 

  • Excess Discharge
  • Itching or Burning 
  • Vaginal Irritation 

If you haven't noticed, it sounds a lot like a yeast infection. In fact, many women mistakenly diagnose themselves with that and they buy over the counter medicine to solve the problem. Unfortunately, it's a completely different problem and it needs a more rigorous treatment. Instead of a single-dose pill, you have to see a doctor and get a prescription for a week's worth of antibiotics. 

Another issue is that Bacterial Vaginosis is far more common than a simple yeast infection. Still, hardly any of the women in my life have heard of it, which is astounding. Marketing by big brands have focused heavily on yeast infections, to the point doctors and patients are being treated for the wrong condition. That leads me to the point of this article.  

Why Women Need to Talk About Sexual Health

If I hadn't casually mentioned my problem to my friend, it would have taken me a lot longer to find out the cause of my suffering. Even so, I had no idea what it was for half a year. That is a length of time that is not only absurd but dangerous. 

Women need to erase the stigma of talking about our sexual health as women because if they don't do so and the sexual health issue is left untreated then women would be putting their own lives at risk. 

When left untreated, Bacterial Vaginosis can lead to worse conditions like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) as well as an increase in the chance of getting various Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Both of those conditions are valid concerns that need to be taken seriously. 

Luckily, I saved myself time and energy solving the mystery of what was causing my problem by talking to a friend about it. However, many women still don't know about this. As such, if you find yourself in the same boat I hope this article helps you find the solution sooner than I did. Hopefully, we can address the stigma we face in society as women and help each other by talking freely about our bodies. 

If you found this story helpful, then I'd be honored if you share it with the women in your life so we can start this conversation. As women, we need to be more comfortable in ourselves and our bodies. Our health and wellness depend on it. 

Writer, podcaster, and nerd. BFA in Psych and Creative Writing. Follow along for Humour, Health & Wellness, Pop culture and my Opinions.

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