Vaginal infections…most of us have had to deal with them at some point or another. In fact, if you haven’t ever had a yeast infection, you’re in the minority (around 75% of all women will have at least one yeast infection at some point in their lives). Vaginal infections such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis are so common that women who are unfamiliar with observing their fertility signs may confuse the presence of healthy cervical fluid each month with a recurring infection! Of course, if you’ve been charting and reading up on the Fertility Awareness Method, you know that the presence of cervical fluid is perfectly normal, and is actually a GOOD thing, as it can clue you in to where you are in your cycle vis-à-vis ovulation.
That being said, there most likely will be times when you really do have a vaginal infection. But although unpleasant, the good news is that vaginal infections are usually easy to treat, and once treated, shouldn’t affect your fertility in the long run. However, if left untreated, vaginal infections can cause longer-term damage to your reproductive health. So if you have an infection, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible.
One of the many benefits of observing changes in your cervical fluid is that if something isn’t right down there, you’ll probably know pretty quickly - the most tell-tale sign of a vaginal infection is often abnormal cervical fluid. Unusual smells or consistencies that you haven’t noticed before, burning and/or itching sensations, or inflammation of the genital region are all common symptoms of an infection.
In some cases, vaginal infections will clear on their own. However, if you think you may have an infection, it’s not a good idea to wait and see if yours goes away. For one, while mild cases of bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections may go away on their own, more severe infections can last a long time, and other infections such as trichomoniasis are less likely to go away without treatment. When left untreated, vaginal infections can make you more susceptible to other sexually transmitted infections and can increase your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Moreover, vaginal infections can often indicate an imbalance in your vaginal pH. If you’re trying to conceive, this means it will be more difficult for sperm to reach the egg.
Luckily, the treatment for vaginal infections is usually simple, painless, and effective, and may include a topical cream and/or antibiotics. And, while vaginal infections are simply unavoidable sometimes, there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting an infection. For one, keep your vaginal area clean, but stay away from douches, sprays, and scented wipes. The feminine hygiene industry may want you to believe that your natural vaginal odor is gross, but DON’T believe them! Your vagina is not actually supposed to smell like a garden of roses, okay? Okay. Second, avoid wearing damp or too-tight pants and underwear for long periods of time, and try to always wear cotton underwear (or at least underwear with a cotton crotch). When going to the bathroom, wipe from front to back, and use soft, undyed tissue. Always use condoms with new sexual partners, and if you currently have an infection, wait to have sex until the infection is gone. Finally, consider using reusable cloth pads, menstrual cups, or organic pads and tampons instead of traditional pads and tampons. Disposable pads and tampons often contain synthetic materials that can irritate the skin and lead to infection.