Your Most Urgent ‘Down There’ Questions Answered By Experts

Tada! We asked the experts to tend to your most pressing sexual health questions so you can’t stop shooting in the dark or wondering if there’s something wrong with you. Given the sensitivity of the vaginal region and the important role it plays in reproduction, we really cannot afford to take any chances when it comes to anything sexual health. From STI symptoms, how often to use pantyliners, pre- and post-period diarrhoea to HPV screening and period syncing, find your answers below so you can finally be at ease or know if it’s time to take the next step.

READ MORE: What’s The Difference Between STDs And STIs?

Should I be using a pantyliner daily or not?

“Similarly to how the eye cleanses itself by producing tears, the vagina also produces discharge for the same reason,” says Dr Esther Rockson, a specialist obstetrician, gynaecologist and aesthetic gynaecologist. Naturally, she adds, some women produce excess discharge – a condition known as leukorrhea. Those women may prefer to use pantyliners daily. But hold up! “Always choose a breathable, unscented, cotton-based pantyliner.”

Word of caution: change your pantyliner at least thrice daily to prevent cross-infection between the anus and the vagina. “These two areas share a short distance, so there’s a risk of getting UTIs from E. coli, a bacteria found in our poo.” Remember to always wipe from the front to back! Not much discharge? There’s no need to wear a pantyliner, advises Dr Rockson.

Why do I get diarrhoea before and after my period?

Relax, it’s all down to the hormonal changes in our bodies during this time. Progesterone, a sex hormone released by ovaries after ovulation usually decreases just before your period starts. These low levels speed up bowels, giving way to changes in your digestive system i.e. loose stools, sometimes passed frequently, agree experts. Then there are prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds that are released during your period. They are responsible for period cramping and also cause the gut muscles to contract intensely, thereby resulting in diarrhoea.

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What should I use to wash my va-jay-jay?

“The inside of a vagina isn’t meant to be washed with products, so water and just your finger will do. For the vulva (the outer part), plain water will also do, but you may also use a mild, non-acidic soap that doesn’t irritate the skin,” says Dr Rockson.

How often should I go for a pap smear?

Cape Town-based obs-gyn registrar Dr Rendani Maboko says SA’s current guidelines recommend that Pap smears be done from the age of 21. A Pap smear is recommended every five years and every three years in HIV-positive women. “We are currently pushing to screen yearly on HIV-positive patients,” she says. For the general population, adds Dr Maboko, women who are sexually active should start HPV screening at age 30. “We recommend 30 because HPV has a high prevalence and can be quite transient in nature, especially in younger women,” she explains.

READ MORE: There Are Actually Some Pretty Big Misconceptions About Egg Freezing In South Africa

Is period syncing a real thing?

You’ve just been camping with your girls and now your period’s early. Period syncing stems from the idea that the menstrual cycles of women who spend a lot of time together usually end up aligning. “However, to date, no scientific study has been able to prove that period syncing is actually a real phenomenon,” says Dr Maboko.

What are the telltale signs of an STI?

Discomfort as well as a change in the colour and smell of your discharge are some of the earliest signs. “A grey-coloured or yellowy, frothy discharge that smells fishy. Or you could develop ulcers or a rash around the area which could be a sign of herpes. The later signs will be genital warts and the likes,” says Dr Rockson.



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