Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by Ochsner Baton Rouge and written by Dr. Ryan Dickerson.
What is Female Intimate Wellness?
Female intimate wellness is a term that encompasses different aspects of a woman’s reproductive and sexual health. Female intimate wellness can refer to a variety of health conditions, including the following:
- Female sexual dysfunction is an umbrella term for recurring problems with experiencing sexual desire, the inability to orgasm, painful penetrative sex, low sex drive or other issues with the sexual response that causes distress for you. Sexual dysfunction can also cause difficulties in the woman’s relationship with her partner.
- Female orgasmic disorder is the inability or difficulty to reach orgasm (sexual climax) despite sufficient sexual stimulation and arousal (mentally, emotionally and physically).
- Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This is an infection passed on through sexual contact with another person. Common STIs are human papillomavirus (HPV), genital herpes, syphilis, hepatitis, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- Urinary tract infections are usually caused by Escherichia coli, a bacterium that lives in the intestinal system. If E. coli are carried from the rectum to the vagina, they can enter the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder) and infect the bladder. You might feel a frequent urgency to urinate yet pass little urine when you go. You may also notice your urine is cloudy, blood-tinged and has a strong smell. For 25% to 30% of women who’ve had urinary tract infections, the infection returns within six months. Frequent urinary tract infections may require a visit with a urologist.
- Vaginal yeast infection, also known as vaginal candidiasis, is a fungal infection that can cause discomfort, itchiness and discharge of the vagina and vulva (the external part of the female genitalia). The common infection occurs when the balance of normal bacteria and yeast is disrupted, causing yeast cells to multiply and kickstart symptoms. Risk factors for developing yeast infections include certain antibiotics (broad-spectrum), a weakened immune system, uncontrolled diabetes, sexual activity, contraceptive devices such as IUDs, vaginal sponges and diaphragms, and anything that increases levels of estrogen in our bodies, such as pregnancy.
- Vaginal dryness can happen at any age but is common with menopause. Symptoms include itching and dryness around and inside of the vagina. Painful sex and bleeding can also occur. In addition to menopause, this condition can be a symptom of various underlying causes such as recent childbirth, breastfeeding, douching, illness, certain medications, cigarette smoking or other factors.
- Pelvic floor dysfunctionoccurs if there is either weakness or spasm in the muscles of your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles found at the base of your pelvis. It supports several organs, including the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum. Some pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms include pain when the vagina is penetrated and pain in your lower back, pelvic region, genitals and rectum. You may also experience fecal or urinary incontinence.
- Pelvic organ prolapse happens when the muscles and tissues supporting the pelvic organs (uterus, bladder or rectum) weaken and allow one or more of the pelvic organs to drop or press into or out of the vagina. This condition’s symptoms include difficulty urinating, frequent urination, heaviness or pain in the pelvic area or lower back, painful sex, difficulty inserting tampons and feeling or seeing something bulging through the vaginal opening.
- Urinary incontinence or loss of bladder control can result in leaking urine. There are various types of urinary incontinence, and this condition may be temporary or may persist for a long time.
- Interstitial cystitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is a chronic bladder condition resulting in recurring discomfort or pain in the bladder or surrounding pelvic region. People with this condition usually have inflamed or irritated bladder walls, which can cause scarring and stiffening of the bladder. This condition affects both women and men, but it is more common in women.
Women’s intimate wellness is a wide-reaching and important topic. If you have concerns about any of the above conditions or female intimate wellness in general, reach out to your OB/GYN or primary care physician to learn more about prevention and treatment options.
About the author
Ryan Dickerson, MD currently practices at Louisiana Women’s Healthcare in Baton Rouge. Dr. Ryan Dickerson, OB/GYN graduated from Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans in 2002. He then went on to complete his residency at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Dickerson is interested in all aspects of obstetrics and gynecology. His passions include delivering babies and assisting infertile couples. He also specializes in using robotics, which increases the ability to remove uterine fibroids and surgically treat other gynecologic conditions without significant incisions. Dr. Dickerson serves as a diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and is a member of the Louisiana State Medical Society. In his free time, Dr. Dickerson enjoys spending time with his wife, a dermatologist, and their two children.