Written by Mr Nicholas Morris for Doctify

It’s not a conversation you have every day – but how do you feel about your vagina? If you’re already blushing or squirming, you’re not alone. New research, released to coincide with Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month last month, found that 65 per cent of women are too embarrassed to say the word “vagina”.

In general, as a nation, we are embarrassed to talk about intimacy and sexual health. And the language we still use to describe a part of the female anatomy certainly doesn’t help us to open-up. But one Gynaecologist thinks that should now change and that we are damaging our health by being so coy.

Mr Nicholas Morris, Consultant Gynaecologist at The Wellington Hospital and one of London Medical Concierge’s network of specialists is here to educate us.

Why is it important to talk about vaginas?

While it might seem like a trivial issue, there are actually serious implications of women feeling inhibited talking about intimate health. Many common conditions such as recurrent thrush, cystitis, bacterial vaginosis and sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia require people to talk to their Gynaecologist or their GP about genital health.  More seriously, this overall shyness or even embarrassment to discuss the vagina, can lead to some women avoiding seeking vital advice and tests such as ultrasound scans and cervical smear tests.

Why do you think people struggle?

“One of the major problems is the names we use for the vagina. Unfortunately, traditionally much of the language used is derogatory, with negative connotations – which makes women feel uncomfortable.  It began as far back as the ancient Greek Gods, who named the main nerve in the vagina the “pudendal nerve” – which literally translates to the nerve of shame!

Also, just think of the word smear!!! It has negative connotations too. This has led to people, over the years, developing “pet terms” mainly derived from childhood – which seem at odds with the language women need to use to communicate and report vital symptoms.

Does this happen even with older women?

For many women, the effects of childbirth and vaginal delivery can lead to physical trauma to the pelvic floor as well as loss of confidence in their sexuality. Traumatic vaginal birth can result in damage to the fascial and the ligamentous supports of the pelvic organs, weakening the perineal body and potentially triggering the development of vaginal prolapse. Problems such as urogenital prolapse can have a major impact on a woman’s quality of life and can cause psychological symptoms to develop including lack of libido, negative thoughts associated with sex, embarrassment and a fear of incontinence.

And, it’s true to some extent that women are less inhibited following childbirth, there are still too many who are reluctant to talk about vaginal problems. In a study from St George’s, 85 per cent of postnatal mothers experienced sexual problems at three months, dropping to a still significant 64 per cent at six months. However, the striking finding in this study is that only 15 per cent of mothers had discussed this with a health care professional.

 


 

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