Your Vagina Deserves to Live its Best Life, too

Disclaimer: Please be advised that any information shared in this article should be taken as a narrative of my experience and not as medical advice. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or diagnosis, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately. Now that we’ve covered our ass sufficiently, let’s get on to the good stuff.

Illustration by Lindsey Ashley

Illustration by Lindsey Ashley

This is a guide to a thriving vagina.

Do you have a vagina? Great. This article is for you. Vaginas can be hard to maintain. We, vagina-bearing folk, know this. They’re basically the tomato plant of human organs. Personally, I feel like my tomato plant is way more trouble than most folx’ tomato plants. So if you’ve found yourself in a state of exasperation with your hooha, you’ve come to the right place. We’re gonna go deep on how to keep that vertical smile of yours, well, smiling.

Yeast Infections

Alright, we’re gonna get straight into this. The first YIYI I ever got was so bad, my GYGY thought it was CHLAMYDIA. Do you know how traumatizing it is to hear your doctor deliver the news that you, a late bloomer, somehow managed to contract THE CHLAM CHLAM? IT’S MORTIFYING. 

First of all, at that point in my life, I had no idea what a yeast infection looked like. I’d spent the last fifteen years of my life in a damp leotard without contracting a ghat-damn yeast infection. Why would I get one now?? (Spoiler alert, teens and twenty-somethings: hormones mess with your clam’s pH, permitting yeast that you already have down there to bloom--which is gross and uncomfortable but a natural phenomenon).

Let’s skid that record for a second and talk about STIs for a minute while we’re here. If you ever get an STI, know this: shit happens. Getting an STI is not a mark on your character. You did not do anything to DESERVE an STI, no matter what slut-shaming culture may tell you. I know this is easier said than done, but try not to freak if it happens to you. Many STIs are curable and those that aren’t are, at least, manageable with medication nowadays. I promise this diagnosis won’t ruin your life and you won’t be exiled to a sexless island to stew in your misery. 

Alright, back to the matter of yeast infections. To sum up my first experience with a yeast infection: it was gross, smelled bad and itched like crazy (sorry for the graphic detail/not sorry bc talking about vaginal health should not be taboo). My symptoms were so gnarly that my doc thought I had an STI. 

But between the ages of 22 and 25, I learned that not all yeast infections show such overt symptoms. I was hit by infection after infection and there were plenty of times I wasn’t even sure I HAD a yeast infection. I didn’t (and still don’t) know if it was something more serious. Sometimes, your panties can look the same as they do when your hooha’s healthy; things can smell normal AF down there but still be itchy. And introducing a foreign substance like Monistat, anti-itch wipes, and other over-the-counter medications don’t make things better.

After enough trial and error and plenty of trips to the OB/GYN, Planned Parenthood, and walk-in clinics, I figured out what works for me and my vag. What follows are my tried and true methods to keep my coochie comfy.

Here’s how I’ve come to keep the YIYIs away:

  • Cotton full-butt panties. Give up on ya thongs, give up on ya tongas, give up on ya lacy panties and ya polyester panties and get your ass some breathable underpants to prevent bacteria from backing up. Cotton is less likely to irritate than synthetic materials and it also keeps your clam from getting too clammy. Also, any underwear that has the potential to ride forward...and back...and forward and back is just more likely to drag butt bacteria into your front-butt. Granny panties may not be sexy, but you know what? They feel sexier than a yeast infection does.

  • Anti-fungal suppositories: More commonly known by the brand-name Monistat, this is a glorified medicinal egg on the end of a tampon applicator that you shove up your puss-pouch to kill the over bloom of yeast. 1-day Monistat is $5 more than a 3-day or 7-day box, but do you honestly want to be itchy for two more days than you have to? Of course not. Spend the $5. Also, if you go to Monistat.com, they’ve always got a coupon. See: https://www.monistat.com/monistat-coupon.

  • Yeast Infection Tests: If you wanna be sure you have a yeast infection before spending $$$ on an anti-fungal suppository--which might not be a bad idea if your symptoms don’t line up, or you found that Monistat didn’t solve the problem the last time you took it--there are “vaginal health tests” that can be found in the same aisle as your anti-fungal suppositories. These are handy if your symptoms don’t quite check out/you think you’ll probs have to see a doctor anyway/you don’t want to spend $15-$17 on an anti-fungal suppository to find it didn’t work. YI tests are a glorified q-tip that you whisk around your love tunnel to determine if you’ve got a YIYI. You usually get a couple per box.

  • Fluconazole is a magic pill that you need to see a doc to get. It’s a one-pill, one-day solution that can provide relief in a v. short period of time. Sometimes, doctors will prescribe you two doses in case the first doesn’t work. Don’t use the second one unless you absolutely have to; most infections get knocked out with the first pill and that second one can save you a trip to the doctor next time. During my three-year period of multiple YIYIs, my OB/GYN actually gave me a six-er refill so that I didn’t have to keep spending a $40 copay every time I got a yeast infection (because at that point, Monistat was decidedly NOT doing to trick). Might not be a bad idea to stock up on Fluconazole before you travel, too, especially if you’re prone to contracting yeast infections.

  • Azo Yeast Plus: You should always have a box of these on hand. They’re great for when you notice the first symptoms coming on and in my experience, they’ve prevented a flare-up from becoming a full-blown yeast infection.

  • Baby wipes: I could write an entire article about why baby wipes can solve almost any calamity (and one day I will), but for the sake of brevity I shall state the obvious here and say: a clean clam keeps the yeast at bay. If you’ve got a day of traveling or a sweaty day at a festival ahead of you, PACK THESE and swipe front to back 2-3 times during the day.

Urinary Tract Infections

The bane of all vagina-baring folx. People with vaginas are WAAAY more likely to contract a UTI than a penis-weilding person. This is because it’s a lot easier for bacteria to creep up our urethras. 

UTIs are characterized by a burning sensation when you pee, difficulty getting a stream started, dark urine, lower back pain (helloooo kidneys), and the overwhelming sensation that you ALWAYS. HAFTA. PEE. Not everyone will get a UTI in their lifetime, but once you get one, you’re more likely to get another. For some enlightening statistics about UTIs, click here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3749018/.

During my aforementioned personal dark ages, if I got a YI, I would also get a UTI. Alternatively, if I got a UTI, it was always shortly followed by a YI. Talk about living hell. If this happens to you, your doc will usually prescribe you Fluconazole for the YI and an antibiotic for the UTI. They’ll also tell you not to take the Fluconazole until you’ve finished your antibiotics, meaning you have to bare the hell of an itchy cooch until your UTI clears. This is because antibiotics can throw your vaginal flora outta whack and bring the yeast infection back.

Personally, I could never tolerate an itchy itchy yaya (mama), so I would take the Fluconazole as soon as I got it/at the same time as my UTI antibiotics. I’ve never gotten a second yeast infection as a result of the antibiotics. This might not be the case for you bc all vaginas are different (duh).

I am speaking from personal experience here: do not dick around with a UTI. Don’t suck down cranberry juice. Studies are conflicting at best, and the sugar content is through the effing roof and not ideal for fighting infection. (P.S. yeast feeds on sugar. And sugar + a compromised immune system + antibiotics = the recipe for a perfect yeast infection) Don’t waste your time with wives’ tale remedies, either. Get your ass to a doctor, pronto.

I’ve had a staggering amount of UTIs during my twenties. If I notice symptoms of a UTI now or know I’ve engaged in some behaviors that can trigger a UTI, I 1) drink a LOT of water and see if that will “pass” the infection and 2) take AZO Urinary Tract Defense. For me, this combo can keep a UTI from coming on if addressed preemptively. If my symptoms aren’t gone in a day and a half to two days, I get my ass to a doctor.

Let’s talk about…

Things that can cause a UTI:

  • dehydration, i.e.: drinking less water than usual, drinking more alcohol than usual, and/or consuming more caffeine than usual

  • sex; not peeing after sex

  • A yeast infection

  • stress/a compromised immune system

  • shorts/pants/underwear that fit too tight

  • Increase in sugar/carb consumption (SIDE NOTE: INCREASING SUGAR/CARB CONSUMPTION WILL FUEL A YEAST BLOOM)

A GREAT DEAL OF THESE BEHAVIORS CAN BE A BI-PRODUCT OF STRESS. STRESS CAN CAUSE A UTI. STRESS CAN CAUSE A YEAST INFECTION. STRESS, OVERALL, IS TERRIBLE FOR YOUR VAGINA. IF YOU ARE STRESSED, YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO GET A UTI. TAKE THE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS TO PREVENT YOUR STRESS FROM MANIFESTING INTO A UTI. THIS HAS BEEN A PUBIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT.

Just like some yeast infections, though, UTIs can show very few symptoms. If you have an unexplained fever and/or unexplained back pain, get. your. self. to. a. doctor. promptly. Untreated urinary tract infections can lead to bladder infections which can lead to kidney infections, and kidney infections can kill.

As someone who has suffered from Recurring UTIs (or RUTIs), my bladder got way outta whack for a while and was triggering me to pee all the damn time. I still joke about my “tiny chihuahua bladder” when it’s noticeable that I have to pee way more often than anyone else, but having an overactive bladder, even when you don’t have a UTI, can be a huge inconvenience—and can screw with your psyche. To this day, even if I don’t have a UTI and am not at risk of getting a UTI, I still cannot fall asleep unless I have peed immediately before getting into bed. I just get too anxious that I will have to wake up in the middle of the night to pee. 

AZO has a product line called “Bladder Control” that can help with these symptoms. I’ve also had great experience with a prescription called Vesicare. A prescription of this was pricey a few years ago, but it is a one-a-day pill that can really normal out your urge to pee and provide a lot of relief. (NOTE: a walk-in clinic may not be able to prescribe this to you; I’ve been told before that a “specialist” needed to prescribe this. I’ve been able to get this prescription from a urologist and my OB/GYN has been able to write a courtesy refill for me).

More than anything else, though, what has made the most difference in my vaginal health is a bidet (bih-day). A bidet is a glorified shower for your front crack to your back crack. It’s been life changing.

I grew up with a bidet in my childhood home. I didn’t really get what it was for, but I knew it was like a water fountain for my butt and honestly, as a 8-year-old, that was enough for me. Later, as an adult searching for a home with my partner, I jokingly/not jokingly said that if we found a place with a stand-alone bidet, we would be putting an offer in.

We never bought a place, but after we moved into our first apartment together, my partner got me the greatest gift he’s ever given me: a BIDET ATTACHMENT! Since we installed the bidet, my UTI/YI issues have been almost completely wiped out.

 I hop on my bidet after any and all sweaty endeavors. Giving my garden of eden a good hosing prevents bacteria from building up in the first place and alleviates symptoms if I do have an infection. Also great for when you’ve had sex but aren’t able to pee/can’t pee for very long after sex to clear out any bacteria that could have snuck into your urethra.

Bidets are particularly great for a yeast infection, though, because the strong stream of water soothes the itch while also blasting away any yeast thats slipped out of your cooch-cave and onto your vulva--instead of just rubbing it in (ouch/gross). Honestly, I will never live my life sans-bidet ever again.

The bidet that I use is called TUSHY and the company is from the same folx that brought you industry-changing period panties, THINX. It’s a toilet attachment that is easy to install and looks super sleek and minimalist. So, if you want to get your own, Check them out here.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of hooha ailments and cures, I hope what I’ve shared about my experiences may give you insight to navigate your own and empower you to take charge of your reproductive health.