There’s always that segment of a sex ed unit that’s dedicated to being educational while also making sex seem like the most terrifying thing on the planet. This is usually done by talking at length about–and showing graphic photos of–STDs and STIs. Vaginal warts, oozing penises…the kind of images that are relentlessly seared into your brain for the rest of forever. But this can leave some with a false association between a genital infection and sex. “My vagina smells kind of fishy right now, but I’ve never had sex/haven’t had sex in months so maybe it’s nothing.” Wrong assumption, dude.
Honestly, we should probably learn more about this kind of stuff in health class, but given the fact that many of us have to learn about something as common as vaginal discharge on our own, it’s no surprise that there’s a lack of focus on vaginal infections that aren’t sex related. But don’t get it twisted, vaginal infections aren’t just a result of coming into contact with a “dirty dick.” You know about sexually transmitted infections like herpes, HPV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, but do you know much about bacterial vaginosis or even a basic yeast infection, which usually occur without any sexual contact whatsoever? Probably not. Here are six ways you can get a vaginal infection without having sex. Check ’em out and check out your vagina for good measure too.
AntibioticsOn an antibiotic? Don't be surprised if you end up getting a yeast infection while you're on it. Here's why: Antibiotics treat infections by targeting bacteria, but they have a hard time differentiating between bad bacteria and good bacteria. So, while the bad bacteria might be eradicated, some good bacteria likely bit the dust, too. Good bacteria in the vagina helps keeps the amount of vaginal yeast--known as candida--in check, but without that good bacteria, your vaginal yeast can multiply and go ape. That leads to an overproduction of yeast and--BAM--you're dealing with a full blown yeast infection. Yeah, it sucks when something that's supposed to help you can cause some nasty side effects, but if this happens do you, just try to nip it in the bud ASAP. iStock
SmokingYou can now include your vagina in the running tally of body parts that tobacco ruins. Research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information indicates that smoking can cause bacterial vaginosis. In fact, women who smoke are twice as likely to contact bacterial vaginosis as non-smokers. Just a reminder: Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the number of good bacteria in your vagina, known as lactobacilli, drops. It's replaced with bad bacteria, most often one that goes by the name of Gardnerella. Basically, there's a new sheriff in town, and it causes thick, fishy smelling discharge. Yikes. Heathers
Excess Heat And Moisture Down SouthDo you know what your vaginal yeast loves more than anything? Heat and moisture in a tightly confined space. Unfortunately, constantly wearing skinny jeans, tights or leggings or even lounging around in bathing suit bottoms post swim can cause your vaginal yeast to go wild, multiply, and prompt a yeast infection. The solution is simple: Let your vag breathe. Start wearing looser pants and don't wear underwear unless you need to (and when you do, make sure they're made of breathable cotton). Baby steps! iStock
DouchingHopefully you know that douching is bad for your vagina, but in case you didn't know that, attention: Douching is bad for your vagina. Douching liquid can alter the PH balance of your vagina, which can lead to bacterial overgrowth, which can lead to a nasty case of bacterial vaginosis (AKA fishy vag). Avoid at all costs! Pinterest
Scented ProductsExperiencing itching and burning in or around your vag? You might be worried that you're dealing with a yeast infection or STI when you're actually just dealing with non-infectious vaginitis. Yes, you read that right, it's not an infection, but it can cause vaginal irritation so I figured it was worth mentioning. Fragrance heavy products like scented tampons, feminine hygiene sprays, bath soap, or even laundry detergent can cause non-infectious vaginitis. So, if your vulva feels like it's on fire and you use any of the aformentioned items, consider cutting them out of your routine before making an appointment with a doctor. Also, keep this in mind: Your vagina doesn't have to smell like a flower. Cool it with the scented garbage. Pinterest
DiabetesIf you have diabetes, keep an eye out for the signs of a yeast infection, like abnormal discharge and vaginal itching or burning. Uncontrolled blood sugar can trigger yeast infections, so if you have diabetes and have a lot of yeast infections, consider contacting your doctor; your diabetes treatment night need some tweaking. iStock
Did you learn about vaginal infections that weren’t necessarily sex related in school? Tell us in the comments!