#WomensHealthAwareness: What's Going on Down There? Yeast Infections

Intense itching. Burning. Clumpy discharge. The smell of…beer? These are the four things that I noticed while I was taking antibiotics. It was the smell of beer that tipped me off that something was wrong with my vaginal health. After a quick googling of my symptoms, and a mini-episode of panic, I discovered I had a yeast infection.

Not many young women experience a yeast infection until college, like I did. These are kind of intense symptoms and can freak someone out if they don’t know what’s going on. Even googling them can lead to many wrong self-diagnoses and heighten the anxiety surrounding the situation.

Okay, so you think you have a yeast infection and you don’t know what to do. Educate yourself first.

Symptoms

  • Redness or swelling of the vagina
  • Pain/burning when you pee
  • Pain during sex
  • Clumpy discharge similar to cottage cheese
  • Itching
  • The scent of bread or beer

Now, most of the sites that I clicked on while researching my symptoms claim that yeast infections do not give off a distinct odor. However, mine did, and I was really confused. It turns out that yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of yeast that lives in your vagina. Yeast is also part of bread and beer making processes (though a different kind), and that can cause your vagina to smell like bread and beer.

But What Causes Yeast Infections?

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy or while taking birth control pills can change the balance
  • Uncontrolled diabetes can increase sugar in the lining of the vagina and create a space for yeast to grow
  • Antibiotics are doing their job too well and kill off the bacteria that keep the yeast growths in check
  • Douching and vaginal sprays set off the balance in your vagina
  • Weak immune system
  • Sex, even though yeast infections are not an STI, your partner can pass it to you, if they have been with someone who has a yeast infection as well

I Definitely Have a yeast infection…What now?

If this is your first yeast infection, it would be best to go see an OBGYN to confirm what you know and ask questions. For me, it was both my first yeast infection and OBGYN visit, so I’ve been checking a lot off of my adult bucket list. Fortunately, my Campus Health has a gynecology department. If yours does too, I highly recommend going and utilizing the resources available to you. If not, talk to your mom or trusted female elder and see what you could do.

When I saw the doctor, she swabbed me and took a look under a microscope to confirm what I had. She then prescribed me a pill that I was supposed to swallow and it was supposed to take about three days to cure me, but I would be able to feel symptom relief within 24 hours. Since my antibiotics were supposed to run out in three days, she gave me a second pill to take after.

My mom told me I needed to eat a lot of yogurt – NO sugar- and drink a f**k ton of water. Sounds like an old wives' tale but I did it anyway. I didn’t see too much of a change, but at least I was well hydrated.

The symptoms will not go away right off the bat. They will still be there and it will be hell. No matter how much your vagina itches, Do. Not. Scratch. Scratching will not alleviate any itching and can cause fissures (tiny cracks) around your vagina. That was a big issue for me. Taking cold showers helped a little.

You should also keep your vagina dry. If it stays ~moist~ then the yeast will continue to grow. Cotton panties and shorts are your best friends, trust me.

Can I still have sex/masturbate?

Hate to break it to you, but sex with a yeast infection is not recommended. It can not only hurt you or cause discomfort, but you can also give your partner a yeast infection. Men can get it, but it’s rare. Either way, you don’t want to do that.

Masturbation isn't as bad. If you have a medical cream inside of your vagina, putting anything in there is not ideal, since it can be removed and can prolong the healing process. If you are using toys, also heed the medical cream warning. After having some fun, clean your toys appropriately with soap and water.

 

For more information check out WebMD, Healthline, the Planned Parenthood Tumblr, and Everyday Health.