Yeast and Bladder Infections
Most women have had to deal with a yeast and/or bladder infection (commonly known in the US as a UTI) at least once by the time they are in their twenties. I don't remember which I got first but they are as normal and natural as the common cold.
Yeast infections are caused by candida albicans, bacteria naturally present on our skin and in our bodies. When our PH levels are off we react most commonly in the mouth on the skin or in the vagina- anywhere where it's nice and moist and warm. Our vulvas can get red, itchy, sting when peeing and our vaginas can secrete a thick white or yellowish discharge sometimes ( and I always hated this description) resembling cottage cheese ( more like ricotta I say). It IS possible that it can spread to the mouth of someone performing oral sex on you.
There are a number of causes of yeast infections. Diet ( the candida diet, as the remedy is called, is a daunting task indeed), tight clothing, glycerin and other ingredients in personal products and soap, injury, sexual contact and the one that almost guarantees a yeast infection for me- antibiotics. Fortunately they are easy to treat. Yogurt, both eaten and applied topically balances our PH and provides relief from itching, while topical creams and ovules for insertion into the vagina are sold commercially either over the counter or by prescription. There are now the same options for an oral 1 to 3 day pill.
Preventative measures are also possible. Sea kelp and carageenan promote natural healthy microflora. Eden sells a wonderful lube called Intimate Organics Defense which really does help keep your PH level even and your body yeast infection free. Finding which works for you and your lifestyle is the key.
Bladder infections are just as common though not contagious. For me they are extremely painful. The doctor will ask if you have to urinate frequently and my answer is always "well it feels like I need to but it hurts so darn much and so little comes out that I force myself not to.” It really feels like my urethra is being pinched hard. To help I drink as much unsweetened pure cranberry juice as possible. It hurts my stomach but it works really well. There are a few antibiotics as well. Some work for me while others do not. I always get a yeast infection from them, though. You can also take cranberry extract in gel cap or chewable form every day. They are packed full of vitamin C, too, so you’re killing two birds with one stone. I asked many doctors what was causing these infections. I even suggested a few things like "I masturbate a lot and my g-spot is right against my urethra, do you think I'm giving myself UTIs by doing it too much?" They just looked uncomfortable when I asked that. Finally one woman doctor told me the answer I was looking for… wash your ass before you get it on! Apparently microscopic bacteria can move from your anus to your vagina causing infection. This was one of those moments where I felt really stupid for not realizing that before. I used to get them as often as every month. I've only had one in 6 months now that I'm extra clean and chew my cranberry pills. After taking antibiotics it’s a good idea to replete your system with probiotics, or more specifically acidophilus, to replace the healthy bacteria. This also helps prevent the above mentioned yeast infections.
I was 16 and my boyfriend was 14 (I had a tendency to go for younger guys in high school as the hot ones loved the idea of an older chick even if she wasn't equally as hot). We had just decided to start using the pill instead of condoms.
My doctor, this neat OBGYN that my mom had actually interviewed before referring me to her, said that 60% of college age women that were her patients had chlamydia and were not aware of it as they did not have any symptoms. So we went ahead with the test as I picked up the prescription. I was warned to keep using condoms anyway as the birth control pill take a full month to fully kick in.
A week later I'm sitting in class and my name gets called over the loud speaker. I go down to the office and one of the secretaries proceeds to tell me that I have to call my doctor’s office right away that it's an emergency. This was Sept. ’92, right after my 16th birthday. I started panicking. What was wrong with me? Was I pregnant? What was I going to tell my mom? The lady bought me condoms for Valentine’s Day for Pete's sake (as my mom would say).
I calmed down enough to call the clinic with shaky hands and my heart in my throat. What if I was HIV positive? Horrors start filling my head of my whole life being over. I called the office and the nurse told me that I had chlamydia. Instantly, even though I had been bombarded with safe sex and STD info beginning at 5 years old, I began to wrongly picture pus and rotting genitalia. That was my idea of what STDs were like. But I had no symptoms! Even worse it was time to tell my boyfriend - who was a virgin when we met. I put it off until I could talk directly to my doctor.
The next day she gives me a prescription for a week of tetracycline and explained the reality of chlamydia. Men can have symptoms such as burning while urinating or a milky discharge. They can also get it in their mouth, which is called thrush. In the mouth it creates ulcers. Even if they have no symptoms they should still be tested. Basically some cells in your reproduction system have gone awry.
When I told him, needless to say, he was pissed. Mostly he was upset about the 'swab'. In order to properly test him he needed a giant Q-tip down his urethra from the tip of his penis. Not fun. I think the doctor ended up skipping the swab and just gave him the treatment anyway. The entire experience pretty much broke us up. His older sister found out, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and threatened me never to speak to him again. We broke up soon after but continued to rendezvous for sex for a couple of years.
So who gave it to me? As best I can figure I just barely had sex one night, I mean like 1 stroke and I changed my mind. It was condom-less which was part of why I said no. I thought that it was on time but I guess not.
Vulvodynia is a blanket term for unexplained pain in the vulva and/or vagina. Symptoms include burning, stinging, swelling or general irritation. It can extend to the clitoris as well and can be a constant or only occur when the vulva is touched, both by you or a partner.
In high school one day after making out with my boyfriend I went to the bathroom and had this odd feeling like my inner labia was 3 times the size that it normally was. I was right. It looked like I had gotten collagen injections in my crotch! Plus it burned when I urinated. This was right before the above mentioned chlamydia issue with the same boyfriend. I was scared and worried about STDs but I had only had sex with 2 other virgins and 1 other person but we used a condom. It hurt so much so I put a cold cloth on it to reduce the swelling and cried quietly. It happened again and again but the doctor couldn't explain it. This was before the Internet when you had to rely on your doctor and other people for all of your info with your only other resource being possibly medical journals at the library. Those didn't help. My doctor informed me that it was probably psychological. Oh great. How do you fix a psychosomatic problem?
Over the years my Vulvodynia has come and gone, but I find it hard to understand as psychological because it bothered me while I was in love yet when I was on the street and involved in prostitution it did not. When it comes to the mind who the heck knows eh?
Some women find that penetration is the only thing that causes it and their doctors suggest using toys to slowly work their way up from small to the average sized penis ( if they are bi or straight) until it doesn't hurt anymore. It's frustrating because other than that there really isn't a treatment for it. Topical anesthetics can be used but are rarely good for you and don't help with swelling. It's not something you can get tested for but rather is what one is left with after ruling out all possibilities of STDs.
Five years later after a bout of scabies and mumps in the rave scene I fell in love. So, apparently, did my 2 best friends (with their own boyfriends not mine). It was and still is the most lustful, sexually intense relationship that I have ever had. For close to a year we had sex every day, sometimes for up to 6 hours. We fell madly in love and planned our futures together which included children but not yet. Back I went to the doctor for birth control. This time all tests were clean.
Everyone we knew, including ourselves, was using a lot of MDMA, also known as Ecstasy. It is made with a cleaning agent harvested from dead fish called methylamine hydrochloride.
One day I was sitting somewhere fully dressed and could smell dead fish. I soon realized that it was coming from between my legs. Scared confused and grossed out, my boyfriend and I soon booked an appointment at planned parenthood, which has all sorts of services including pregnancy and STD tests.
Hand in hand we marched into the office, proud that we were the kind of couple that did this together, we felt very mature and responsible. So we walk into the examining room, and ever the couple that does everything together, he takes his place right beside the nurse to check out what's wrong between my legs. I swing my feet into the stirrups, the nurse walks forward, opens my legs, lifts up my gown- and they both literally gag instantly. I was mortified. As soon as I had noticed the symptoms I had kept my pants on and my legs squeezed shut and breathed out of my mouth. I never expected it to be this bad. It smelled like something had died in my crotch… fish to be exact! I know that some girls are strong smelling but this was ridiculous. No matter how close we were I had made a mistake allowing my boyfriend watch.
Turns out I had something called bacterial vaginosis which I believe was partially linked to way too much Exstacy consumption. I mean it smelled exactly the same as what an ingredient in the stuff is harvested from. The exact same week that we had this experience both of my best friends found out that they we're pregnant and got abortions. If I had been pregnant I would have a 13 year old right now. I honestly almost wish! It would have been much better news than the gag factor. As it was a bacterial infection, it wasn't contagious but was treated with antibiotics. It is still essentially something that affects your sex life and has symptoms similar to an STI. I also had a green discharge.
To make a long story short after my break up with him ( due to drugs) I fell into drugs even harder, trying to numb the pain of losing my relationship with the person I thought I was going to spend my whole life with .
Speed led to heroin and where there is heroin there is HIV and hepatitus. Being exposed to people infected with both and becoming a street level prostitute made me extremely high risk so I was vaccinated against hepatitis A and B -a simple process. Hepatitis C however does not have this option. I started getting tested a lot more often- every time I thought of it really, approximately every 2-3 months.
I was staying at a woman's shelter and received my results over the phone one day. So used to negative results I started to expect the same positive answer about my negative status, so when I heard "Yes, miss, your HIV results are negative " I said "Thank you" and started to hang up the phone, upon which she raised her voice to make sure that I heard her before I hung up. "Miss you don't understand, I need to inform you that you are HEPC positive". My heart sank. There isn’t any cure for hepatitis C, or so I thought. My life had gone to total shit anyway so just add this to the pile of crap against my name. I soon learned that contrary to popular belief HEPC is NOT an STD. You do not get it from unprotected sex. It requires blood to blood contact, not just fluid contact. You can get it from sharing toothbrushes (gross), razors and even tweezers. The blood can be microscopic, it can even come from a rolled up bill up your nose into open mucous membranes. I figured I was screwed and used it as yet another reason to continue my self-destruction.
Somehow with all of the times that I was too messed up or too scared to insist on using a condom I managed to avoid any major STDS while on the street.
Skip ahead 5 years I'm clean and have totally turned my life around and have yet to see a symptom of HEPC, yet I believe that eventually my liver will be stressed enough that it will become debilitating and I may even need interferon treatments, which are very similar to chemotherapy as they involve trying to kill the virus with poison.
I consider going to school to become a massage therapist but one of the rules is no communicable diseases. My doctor tells me that we should do what's called a “qualitative" test to make sure that I really do have HEPC. I'm confused. Haven't we already done that? Apparently all we have done is a urine sample antibody test which only proves that your body has come into contact with the virus. I cross my fingers and jump for joy when the blood test comes back negative. I am informed that 15% of hepatitis C cases are passed out of the blood stream on their own without infecting anyone. Yes!
My blood will always have the antibodies as this is proof that my body fought off the disease.
HPV and Herpes
Not be confused with HIV, HPV stands for human papilloma virus or genital warts. Currently statistics say that 1 in 2 people will contract HPV in their lifetime. HPV can lead to cervical cancer which can destroy fertility and even cause death.
One day I saw a small raised bump- like a skin tag, on the inside of my leg. I went to the doctor and asked if it was HPV. I had it burned off just in case.
He couldn't say one way or the other. HPV can be internal or external. 75% of all HPV cases clear up on their own. This is not a reason to skip the protection. It was the only one I had and it's been many years since but it's always better safe than sorry. These days you can get a vaccine for HPV called Gardisil. It’s expensive but if you can afford it, it's important. They recently adapted Gardisil so it's available for women of all ages, not just young women.
My relative contracted herpes from wearing her best friend’s underwear. Open sores are a symptom of herpes. Cold sores on the mouth are usually herpes simplex 1 and cannot be passed to genitalia. Simplex 2 is genital herpes but can also be passed to the mouth. Herpes is not curable. 1 in 5 people have it and symptoms will come and go over their lifetime. Herpes is contagious at any time, sore or no sore.
I don't know a lot about gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or syphilis but there are great articles on SexIs. You can also check out an amazing advice column that answers all your sexual health questions called Go Ask Alice.
Every time I have a HIV test, which should be done anytime one has unprotected sex or has their blood stream possibly come into contact with anyone that they are not fluid bonded with, I freak out a little. It can't be tested for with a urine sample or swab like most of the other STDs. Instead you need a blood test. It takes a week or so to get back and remember that it can take up to 7 years to for HIV to show itself. Use a condom and don't share needles, and you should be fine.
These days, condoms are my preferred form of birth control and STD protection. I think that I seriously have horseshoes up my bum or I would not be as healthy today.
Gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis are treatable but not fun. HPV and herpes can be contracted by any genital contact. HIV can lead to AIDS which leads to death. STIs can destroy relationships and wreak havoc on your body. Bladder infections and yeast infections are normal but fairly preventable. Not every symptom is cause for concern. A normal, healthy vagina has a clear or milky discharge but infections and diseases can cause it to change. In males discharge is usually a sign that something is up. Burning while urinating can also be a sign of a problem. Lesions or bumps should always be taken note of. If you notice any changes in the typical state of your nether regions see a doctor ASAP. Early detection prevents spreading and maturing of the problem which prevents even bigger problems down the road.
Sex is healthy and sex is fun. Let's keep it that way.