How stress can affect your intimate health
By Stephanie Taylor, Managing Director of Kegel8
Studies have confirmed that stress and anxiety can have a very real impact on your physical health; from stomach cramps, headaches and nausea to dizziness, chest pain and insomnia - the effects of stress on the body can be powerful.
But have you considered how stress can impact your intimate health?
For Stress Awareness Month, Pelvic Health Expert and Managing Director of Kegel8, Stephanie Taylor reveals the tell-tale signs your vagina may be stressed…
Vaginal dryness (atrophy)
Chronic stress (stress that stays with you for longer than it should), can reduce the amount of moisture in your vagina.
Vaginal dryness (also known as atrophy) could feel like a sore or itchy sensation around your vagina or pain and discomfort during sex, which, in turn, can stop you from reaching orgasm or put you off sex completely.
Pay attention to what you’re drinking, as alcohol and caffeine can exacerbate the problem. If you aren’t properly hydrated, you’re likely to see signs around your vagina. Aim to drink at least two litres of water a day.
You can also use a topical oestrogen cream (prescribed by your GP) and take special supplements for vaginal atrophy, rich in Vitamin D3, Vitamin C, Beta Carotene (provitamin A) and Power Dophilus.
Libido is a sensitive thing that you can lose quite easily. When under pressure, your testosterone levels dip as stress-related hormone levels like cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine rise. Testosterone is also a big driver behind getting turned on, so chronic stress can see your sexual urges drop or disappear.
Some lifestyle changes, such as - getting more sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and giving up smoking, can help boost your libido. While researchers have found these lifestyle changes can benefit your sexual wellbeing, it may take some time to notice changes.
You could consider kickstarting your libido for more immediate results. Some natural remedies, such as maca, ginseng and fenugreek, have shown to be beneficial in boosting libido.
For those who prefer practical advice, consider testing out a new lubricant or masturbating - to help with arousal.
Stress and anxiety can result in inflammation and a weakened response to fighting infections in all areas of your body, including your vagina, which can put you at a higher risk of contracting bacterial infections and thrush.
Healthy vaginal discharge doesn’t have a pungent odour. It should be clear or milky fluid or mucus that keeps your vagina clean and moist to protect it from infection.
However, a change in the appearance, smell and texture of discharge can be a tell-tale sign of an infection which can be treated with over-the-counter remedies. But if your stress levels are high, this could be the culprit, which means it could return.
Irregular or missed periods
Stress tampers with our hormone production, so it’s no surprise that this can wreak havoc with your period - which relies on hormones throughout the cycle.
Irregular periods aren’t so sinister but can be an inconvenience. One study found that those who are more stressed are up to four times more likely to experience moderate to severe PMS symptoms. Symptoms can include water retention or bloating, strong stomach cramps and severe mood swings.
Cycle changes can also cause fertility issues, often through a chain reaction, as irregular periods distress our ovulation schedules, and combined with reduced libido, getting pregnant can be more difficult.
A tight pelvic floor
Stress can make us physically seize up. We all know that jaw clenching feeling, right? If you’re excessively worked up, this could cause the tension to travel from your mind to your pelvic floor and cause complications. Pelvic prolapse and incontinence have been associated with a stressed, overactive pelvis, so try to spot the signs early to avoid long term damage. Constipation, pain during sex and lower back pain are some of the first warning signs.
If you’re experiencing these side effects, try to relax your pelvic floor. Low impact exercises like swimming and Pilates are a great way to strengthen the core and pelvis without causing more damage.
For more extreme cases, using an electric pelvic toner can help the most damaged pelvic muscles on their road to recovery.