Discussing intimate health is something that a lot of us struggle with. Perhaps you grew up in a family or culture where private parts were never metaphorically on the table (not literally obviously - would be weird) or perhaps you personally just struggled with opening up about your worries.
I know that when I was younger, even though I had a close relationship with my Mum and my twin sister, there were certain elements of my vaginal health that I was just too shy to discuss.
That's why I was so excited to hear that Vagisil were also encouraging women to be 'Fearless about Vaginal Health' on their new campaign platform.
Vagisil have been working with women for over 40 years and have seen first-hand that women who take charge and are fearless when discussing their intimate health are more confident and comfortable in other aspects of their lives too.
Society, schooling and relationships are SO different in 2018 than they were when I was growing up. Vagina was a dirty word. Sex education never showed you what a clitoris actually looked like and sanitary adverts were stuffed with shame.
But as times are changing - so should we. So here are a few intimate health worries I've had over the years (and I'm sure you've had them too) with some advice on what to do so that we can ALL be more fearless about vaginal health.
My Vagina Smells
I was 14. I was sat in my secondary school Science classroom. The boys had been separated into another room and our male deputy head was about to take a lesson on periods.
Every sentence there is so wrong isn't it?
Why did I only hear about periods at 14 when I had started at 11? Why weren't the boys learning about periods? And why was I being taught by someone who had never had one?
I don't remember learning about cycles, flows or the best products to use. I do remember the following statement, 'On your period your vagina will smell more than usual.'
That single statement then followed me for a lot longer than I'd like to admit.
I was now not only terrified of smelling whilst on my period, but off it too.
Immature boys discussing 'fishy fingers' and other myths about girls perpetuated this fear. My vagina smelled bad.
I'd take products out with me to mask the, 'smell'. I'd spray deodorant directly onto my pants gusset. I'd throw pants away whilst out shopping if I got too self-conscious. The worry was haunting.
How To Be Fearless: I *wish* I'd had someone to tell me a few things at 14 (and younger). That vaginal odour is normal - it's not bad. That if I'm worried I could talk to other women about it who would relate. That if I was REALLY concerned that I could see a doctor who would assure me that the smell changes throughout my cycle and is usually normal but that they could do an infection test to make sure.
It's scary to broach this subject but with the internet as a mine of information and mates who are all more open about discussing their intimate health - we should all take the leap to discuss this issue more.
My Bits Itch
It's crabs. It MUST be crabs. Again, those awful sex education lessons that taught us 3 things about sex - how to put a condom on a banana, babies are gross and you can get ACTUAL animals living in your pubes - came back to haunt me every time I need to scratch *down there*.
Being itchy is embarrassing because you worry that it means you're unclean, sweaty or carrying an STD - because we are taught these are the only awful reasons.
And then when you research an itchy vag, you're met with tons of search results varying from an awful, AWFUL disease to just, 'give it a rinse once in a while mate.' It's so easy to feel lost and scared. And even easier to feel too embarrassed to bring it up incase a) your Mum thinks you caught the Herp or b) your mates think you're dirty.
How To Be Fearless: With anything that involves a body worry the best thing to do is always get it checked out. But if you're sure the itch is down to normal symptoms such as; perspiration, your period, some detergents and even a bit of intimacy then why not stock up on the Vagisil Itch Relief Intimate Wipes (£4.50 and I recently took these on holiday because long walks, tight shorts and 45 degree heat are not conducive to a fresh and irritation-free vag)?
My Vagina Causes Me Discomfort
As a woman who menstruates, I take for granted the hell my body goes through. Period pains, headaches and other vagina-related woes are all part and parcel of having a monthly cycle. So whenever my vagina caused me discomfort, I just used to brush it off as a side effect of this rather than being fearless enough to open up.
After a day of wearing tight fitting pants or clothes, using scented bath products and wiping with sand-paper like toilet roll, I'd often ponder why my vagina was burning.
And then THE FEAR sets in. What if it's something REALLY bad? What if I'm like, dying? It all goes through your head! And what do you do?
Well you *could* be fearless and ask a mate, or go to the doctor or use Vagisil's Medicated Creme (only £4.35 and offers quick relief from burning, itch and irritation) OR you could do what I used to do - nothing.
Because what's better than getting to the root of the problem and solving it? IGNORING IT OF COURSE.
In all seriousness though...
How To Be Fearless: There are lots of ways you can prevent your vagina from causing you discomfort, including; wearing loose fitting clothes, not using scented products or changing your soap/detergent but if these things aren't possible, it's always worth keeping some Vagisil products to hand. They are fast acting and can soothe most irritations straight away.
Our intimate health will always be something we'd prefer to keep private and battle with on our own but I really encourage you to be Fearless. Talk to friends, family, trusted adults and medical professionals. Share your methods for battling these common ailments but most importantly - never feel ashamed for wanting or needing to discuss your vagina.
In this day and age we should all be encouraging women to break down taboos and have more conversations around their intimate health and its impact on everyday life.
You can also read this post here - all about what I'd told my 18-year-old-self when it comes to body and image worries.
So will you join me in becoming Fearless About Vaginal Health? Please let me know on Twitter, or in the comments how you plan on combatting any fears you have!