The vagina happens to be one of those parts of the body that are referred to as sensitive. We are taught from a young age how to care for our vaginas and how to keep clear of infections.
So what happens when you do get an infection? You might have done all you could but you still develop an infection. What’s worse is when you are thinking of conceiving and wondering if the infection could get in the way. The truth is, most vaginal infections do not harm your fertility except for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
There are lots of myths and misconceptions about fertility and vaginal infections. To know the facts we first need to understand vaginal infections.
What is considered a vaginal infection?
A vaginal infection occurs when the environment in the vagina that has existing good bacteria is disturbed. The disturbance causes bacteria to grow in an unwanted manner that alters the normal vaginal pH balance. This usually manifests itself in symptoms such as itching. A vaginal infection can either be bacterial or viral and sexually transmitted.
What are the types of vaginal infections?
Now that we know what it is, let’s discuss the various types. There are numerous types of vaginal infections but the most common are:
What are the signs and symptoms of vaginal infections?
Here are some common signs and symptoms to look out for:
Unusual discharge - The discharge can have a green, yellow or grey colour, wet and watery texture, and in some cases, a bad smell.
What causes it?
For anyone who has had a vaginal infection, one can easily relate to how uncomfortable these signs and symptoms can be.
Most vaginal infections are caused by changes in vaginal bacteria. Which include:
Washing of the vagina using soap
A new sexual partner who is infected
Hormonal changes during pregnancy, breastfeeding or menopause
Certain medications can also change the pH of the vagina and cause an infection
Can Vaginal infections affect fertility/conception?
Yes, some vaginal infections can cause fertility issues that could delay pregnancy. Although it’s rare that infections have a negative impact on fertility there are a few things to be aware of. For instance, a yeast infection won't cause infertility or cause danger to pregnancy. However, it is common to find that most women would not enjoy sexual intercourse during a yeast infection. For a couple trying to conceive, it can be difficult to have sex during your fertile window while suffering from the discomfort and pain of a yeast infection and this creates a missed opportunity.
In addition to that, Candida is highly unlikely to affect fertility, pregnancy or menopause but it can present itself as a disturbing infection in daily life and sexual activities.
Bacterial vaginosis in rare cases causes premature delivery but it has not been linked to infertility. Having bacterial vaginosis, vaginal surgery or inserting an IUD while suffering from an infection can cause problematic infections in the uterus. This would require treating the infection before any vaginal intervention.
STIs like Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea can cause infertility if not medically treated. It is important to note that most vaginal infections make the mucous membranes(the part that produces cervical mucus/discharge) in the vagina fragile which in turn makes it easy to contract other infections such as HIV.
How can I prevent vaginal infections?
Different vaginal infections can be prevented in different ways and some of them can be easier to prevent than others. What’s most important is: Don't use soap when washing the vagina and don't try to wash inside the vagina! Using only water or maybe some oil, like olive oil to wash the outer parts of the vagina will prevent vaginal infections. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on the way into menopause, your vaginal easily gets dry and more likely to catch infections. Take care of your personal hygiene but be careful not to dry the mucous membrane out. Be careful if having a dry sensation when having sex and use some creme or gel to prevent dry rubbing in the vagina that will cause wounds in the vagina. You can learn more from our Menstrual health and hygiene guide.
Preventing STIs is very easy; using a condom will prevent you from all sexually transmitted infections!
Vaginal infections are caused by several reasons, some of them can cause more damage than others. The infections show in various ways, the most common are different colours, textures or odours in your discharge. Treatment depends on the kind of infection and in the case of STI’s, it’s advisable to get your partner treated as well or you might suffer a reinfection.
Remember never to self diagnose and when symptoms persist seek medical attention.
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