The words 'vagina' and 'exercise' don't tend to be used in the same sentence — unless you're talking about Fifty Shades Freed or strengthening your pelvic floor muscles with some Kegel exercises — but it's about time they were.
Vagina sporting injuries can be as common as a sprained ankle or a pulled hamstring, but they're often hushed up out of embarrassment leaving vaginal soreness a taboo subject.
Here, we're lifting the lid on four things that can happen to your vagina during exercise and how to prevent them.
Yeast thrives in warm, moist environments making post-workout — when you're in damp, sweaty clothes and underwear — a prime time for fungal infections to develop.
While yeast is naturally occurring in the vagina, an increase in temperature and moisture (sweat) can cause an imbalance that makes it multiply and overgrow, resulting in thrush.
It's not an excuse to skip the gym (sorry) but it is a reason to wear moisture-wicking or cotton-based workout gear (that's not skin tight) and to shower and change into fresh clothes and undies straight after your gym class. Visit your GP if you do notice any vaginal discomfort or a thick, white discharge. They can prescribe anti-fungal cream or oral medication to treat thrush, leaving you free to perfect your Warrior 1 pose.
Know this: every vagina has its own scent. A sentiment echoed by gynaecologist Dr. Althea O'Shaughnessy who says we should be guided by "what smells normal to you" when it comes to working out what's going on 'down there'.
Everything from medications to fabrics, diet, hygiene, periods, sex and, yes, exercise can affect your vagina's odour, but it's important to know that slight changes in odour are normal.
If you're conscious of vaginal odour and like to feel fresh at all times, particularly after exercising, keep some Vagisil Fresh Plus Wash in your gym bag or bathroom. It's infused with patented odour control technology which doesn't just mask odour with a fragrance, it actually helps prevent odour. Be sure to see your doctor if you notice any strong changes in odour as this can be a sign of infection.
If you're a fan of spin, saddle sores — painful, inflamed skin caused by aggressive hill riding or really pumping the legs in the themed ride — aren't your only concern.
A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that cycling can desensitise your vagina leading to less satisfaction in the bedroom. But don't despair, spin doesn't have to wreck your sex life. You just have to change your bike setup, especially if you're a regular rider — ensure your handlebars are at the same height or higher than your saddle. This means less pressure on your vagina (particularly on the delicate labia majora and minora) and less desensitisation. Time to get back on the bike!
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge in women of childbearing age in Australia — and exercise can be a big trigger.
Not exactly sure what BV is? It's a bacterial infection caused by the imbalance of "good" and "bad" bacteria in the vagina that causes the pH level of the vagina to rise to alkaline levels (a healthy vagina has an acidic pH level of around 4.0).
Living in tight-fitting leggings, doing extra-long workouts, skipping the post-class shower and re-wearing workout clothes can all increase your chance of developing BV so next time you think 'I'll just shower at home' or 'I'll just pull on these gym shorts again' think twice. While BV doesn't always show symptoms, often you'll notice a strong 'fishy' odour — that's your cue to head to the doctors for a course of antibiotics.
Brought to you by Vagisil. Shameless about vaginal health.