You’re probably aware of the physical response your body has to stress, be it nausea or sweating, you will likely experience some sort of involuntary response during times of pressure. And boy has 2020 been a year bursting to the seams with stress. So it is expected that you may have suffered more severe acne breakouts or headaches, however, you may not be aware that stress can also affect your vaginal health.
Here are some common symptoms that mean you’re so stressed it’s damaging your between-me-down-there.
Also known as atrophy, vaginal dryness can be caused by excessive stress as stress can reduce the amount of moisture you produce. Whilst on the surface this may seem a harmless inconvenience to those having sex, it can affect your pH balance. If your pH balance is off this can increase your chance of getting bacterial infections and thrush.
An easy fix for this is to make sure you’re hydrated; aim to drink at least 2 litres of water a day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as much as possible as they can exacerbate the situation. If it gets worse you can go to your GP for topical oestrogen cream or take supplements such as Vitamin C or D3 to help vaginal atrophy.
Whilst your libido naturally ebbs and flows over the month in connection with your menstrual cycle and for those of you single this year you may have felt your body go into hibernation mode over lockdown but a low libido is also a sign of a stressed vagina.
When you’re stressed your hormone levels change as your body produces more adrenaline and cortisol rather than testosterone – the driving force behind a libido. If you’re finding you’re lacking your normal drive then maybe an evening of self-care and relaxation might help kick-start those dormant feelings.
Probably the least sexy side effect of a stressed-out vagina; your discharge is crucial to understanding how your vagina is feeling. Sometimes linked to the pH issues mentioned earlier, excessive or smelly discharge can be a sign that your vagina is stressed.
Sometimes stress can interrupt your vagina’s natural cleaning routine causing the discharge to change to reflect this. This can be an isolated problem brought on by stress but if you begin to see further symptoms or the discharge continues to be unusually potent then maybe it’s time to pop to the pharmacy.
Irregular or missed periods
As with your libido, stress can change your hormones and therefore affect your cycle. This is not completely sinister but can cause increased PMS so you may find if your periods are jumping about the cramps that come with are doubly painful.
In the long run, irregularity can cause fertility issues or be a sign of a larger problem like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome so being in touch with your cycle is always a good idea
A tight pelvic floor
Ever felt yourself tensing up as you become stressed? Your vagina does the same. As with all the symptoms, if this is an isolated incident it is not the end of the world but prolonged tension in your pelvic floor can cause incontinence or pelvic prolapse over time.
Watch out for lower back pain, constipation, or painful sex as indicators that your pelvic floor is too tight. As with any muscular issue, relaxing the muscles and doing low impact activities such as swimming or Pilates can put you on the road to recovery in no time.
The main takeaway is to know your body. All of these symptoms are, of course, in relation to your normal base level. If you always have a low libido or tight pelvic floor, due to vaginismus for example, then that doesn’t mean your symptoms are caused by stress. That being said, with the stresses of general life and 2020 put together, maybe a bubble bath and a relaxing evening are what we all need.
Word by Danni Scott, with thanks to Stephanie Taylor of www.kegel8.co.uk.
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