Spotlight On Your Vaginal Healthcare
Recently Adcock Ingram featured its GynaGuard feminine hygiene products, at their activation ‘The Vagina Shop’, which took place at both Wits and Univesity of Johannesburg. The idea was to provide female students with a safe and relaxed environment to educate them on understand the importance of feminine hygiene. Mamabua Molepo, Brand manager at Adcock Ingram explains the activations aim to assist women ‘to find out more about the overall care of their vaginas and how it should fit into a daily hygiene routine’.
Says Malopo, “The idea also is to change ‘negative perceptions around feminine hygiene. For too long, young girls and women have been ignored when it comes to vaginal health and the impact that everything from diet and the kind of underwear they wear to the type of soap they use to wash can have an impact on their hygiene.”
Guest speaker at the activation was Dr Tebatso Tebeila, who spoke about vaginal health care, and we chatted to her to find out more about the issues surrounding the importance of women looking after their bodies:
At what age do you think girls should learn about vaginal health care?
As soon as young ladies become aware of their sexuality, they should be exposed to education and awareness around vaginal health care.
Do you think that it should be incorporated with sex education?
It is key for girls to be exposed from a young age to topics such as their sexuality, aspects of hygiene as well as sex education. With so many sexual health concerns that plague young women, it is important for us as a society to break away from the belief that it is taboo to talk to children about sexual health and the changes that they undergo when developing into teenagers and young adults. There seems to still be a stigma that parents attach to talking to their children about their bodies and even more with sexual behaviour. The aim here is to demystify these kinds of discussions so that they become an easy and very comfortable conversation to have.
Do you feel that because sex and vaginal health are not often discussed in society, young women can end up with STIs, cervical cancer or HIV? The sooner we embrace these uncomfortable discussions, the more empowered young women will feel about their bodies and learn how to protect themselves
What can be done to change that?
One of the key platforms that will aid these young women in protecting themselves and assist them in making wiser choices, is education.
What are unhealthy feminine hygiene methods?
One of the most prominent areas of concern is around unsafe sexual behavior. Debunking myths relating to sexual behaviour and ensuring that credible and correct information is provided to young women, is one of the ways to reduce risk. Making use of harsh and heavily perfumed products for intimate areas should be a concern. Due to the lack of information, many young women do not understand that the vagina has to remain at a certain pH level and by using inappropriate products, the pH can be altered, which then poses a risk of possible infection. The vagina has the ability to clean itself and the external area only needs to be cleaned with suitable products. Products specially formulated for intimate areas may be considered for use.
What are typical symptoms of cervical cancer that someone could pick up.
Symptoms of cervical cancer are varied and can sometimes be non-specific, but pain in the pelvic area, abnormal vaginal discharge and sometimes abnormal bleeding can be the common symptoms. It is therefore advisable to see a doctor when one notices any of these symptoms. It is important for all young women to understand that early detection can help save their lives and as soon as they become sexually active, it is advisable to have a pap smear done on a yearly basis.
What are typical symptoms of STIs that someone could pick up?
The transmission of STIs is more likely during unprotected sexual encounters and can be reduced to some extent if a condom is used. Symptoms can include abnormal discharge, unusual colour and unpleasant smell. These are very often accompanied by itching and discomfort. A visit to the doctor will identify whether a STI is present and appropriate treatment should be prescribed.
Where can women in the townships go to have checkups if they cannot afford to go to a gynaecologist?
Local government clinics are very helpful in the management of simple gynecological conditions. However, anything more complicated will need to be referred to a hospital for further management.
Concludes Dr Tebatso: “This is not something that should be talked about in hushed tones but should be done in a way to give women confidence in their own bodies and empower them with the knowledge they need to stay healthy.”