Q: What’s wrong with my vagina?
A: You have a yeast infection. (And that really sucks I’m so sorry).
Itchiness like you’ve never experienced itchiness. I always know I have a yeast infection when I find myself with my hands down my pants half the day trying to scratch that itch. Yeast infections symptoms are itchiness, thick and white discharge and potentially pain in the vaginal opening. Do they make your vagina smell like yeast? The jury is still out.
I’ve had chronic yeast infections for the better part of five years. They started when I was a full time swim instructor– this meant being in water 40 hours a week. This a happy vagina does not make. Our vaginas want to be in dry, warm, breathable environments (basically they want to be naked or in cotton undies all the time. But then again, who doesn’t?) All the pool time started giving me yeast infections, but they never stopped coming even long after the swim gig was up. I would get them after going to the gym, after having sex, but for the most part for no reason at all.
So the search began– how to fend off my constant yeast infections. No doctor I saw had a long term solution. I often left with antibiotics which often worsened the case–antibiotics cause yeast infections in the first place– or a half-hearted suggestion to drink more water and eat less sugar. It was a lot of living in fear and restraining from being in water, working out and sex (wow so fun) and hoping I wouldn’t get one.
After a particularly gruesome August which entailed five yeast infections, six doctor appointments, two ultrasounds and a partridge in a pear tree I gave up on the doctor office route I was on. Antibiotics and every doctor I had seen were no help at all. As a Hail Mary, I booked an acupuncture appointment.
I had my first session which was a total detox of all the antibiotics in my system. The treatment was foreign as it was my first, but very relaxing and exciting all at once. They booked me for another session a week later with a gyno specialist at their practice.
She asked me all the questions no doctor had. What was my diet, what were my stress levels, how well do I sleep? Things that may sound unrelated, but as she asked them I saw she was looking at me as a whole person and not just as an icky vagina.
And that was the biggest relief of them all. She suggested I go on the Whole30 diet to strip out a lot of types of food and then later introduce them to see if any of them directly affect my vaginal wellness: genius. Then she gave me an hour long treatment targeting vaginal wellness (to my comfort, I’m happy to tell you no needles were put in, on or near my vagina. Really wasn’t sure what to expect). She sent me on my merry way with a bottle of yin care herbal wash (go on amazon and buy this right now) which is an all herbal rinse/douche that’s used to fend off oncoming yeast infections. Cut to me months later and well into my bottle of yin care and I haven’t had a yeast infection yet.
Yeast infections are a doozy. Play around with different (and safe!) prevention and treatment techniques. Every body needs a different route of treatment, if one method isn’t working, don’t stick around and wait for it to. Try the next thing, and then the next thing. Do the doctors office, do the “hippie-dippie” stuff, do the garlic clove thing, do the vitamins, do it all. It’s worth trying it all to find exactly what your body wants from you.
Having a vagina is a lifelong process, invest in experimentation to find what makes it happiest.•
Photography by Nylo (@nylo_g)
Molly-Margaret Johnson is a Brooklyn based artist. While she is not a doctor, she is excited to share her vaginal experiences with others in hopes to answer questions and end taboos.