I have been waiting to tell you all this story for many months but needed to wait for the conclusion. I wanted to report a happy ending! It’s a personal story. If you’ve watched the video of my story then you know that I invented She*Pak out of my own chronic vaginitis issues. I have not had a yeast infection in many, many years with the things I have learned, but fell prey to one last September 2016. I had a series of health issues where I ended up on 3 different antibiotics in the span of 6 weeks. Yes, I then got a yeast infection.
This yeast infection was so bad that I my own invention gave me such short term relief (when it used to “nip it in the bud” and get me long lasting relief). It was so bad that the over the counter yeast infection medication burned so badly for hours that I had to cleanse it out of me. This one was one of the worst I have ever had.
In October, I went to my OB/Gyn department, saw a nurse practitioner, and got a prescription for diflucan (fluconazole), an oral anti-fungal. Many women respond to one dose followed by one more dose. She tested my vaginal pH, which was at a good level, so that wasn’t off. I had an initial response to the medication but it all came back.
In early November, I went back and saw an MD in my OB/Gyn department, and he prescribed a month long regimen of the diflucan. I took a dose ever other day for 1 week followed by one dose once a week. I got 30% better. I was able to tolerate a round of the OTC yeast infection medication. Then I got worse.
In December, I had had enough! While I used She*Pak for some temporary relief, I was getting mad that none of what “they” told me to do was working. I resorted to douching with various solutions, which I know is a “no, no” but it got me some relief. I tried inoculating my vagina with healthy bacteria by applying some plain yogurt there. Maybe at best I was down to 50% better. But it was the holiday season and I didn’t want to make the time to go.
In January, I came across some educational paper work from one of my urgent care visits in September, and at the bottom there was a recommendation for using boric acid pills for both bacterial and yeast infections and odor. I found it online and there was actually some good research published to support this. I ordered it off of Amazon. Again, a little bit better but still feeling raw and itchy. I was so hopeful for this to work for me, but again, not any better in a way that “stuck.”
Late January, I saw another NP in my OB/Gyn department, and this time she did some further tests that they don’t necessarily need to run on folks. These tests revealed that I had both a yeast infection AND a bacterial infection that PROMOTES the yeast infection! The sneaky bacteria that help the yeast in this case is gardnerella vaginalis. I had only ever had one side of the equation treated at any one time! She placed me on antibiotics and a 6 month fluconazole course. She said that I also qualified for a referral to the “vulvar pain clinic”. What? We have a vulvar pain clinc?! Yes, please let me see them. First let me say that the treatment worked and got ride of 60-75% of my symptoms. I could tell that I wasn’t outright infected, but still had irritation and soreness, especially after sex. Second, the vulvar pain clinic was run by one of our OB/Gyn MDs and her specially trained nurses only two days per month. For that reason, I couldn’t get in until early April. Oh my goodness, the amount of “are you kidding me?” that went through my head.
I lurked with that last 25% through February, but in mid-March it increased back to 40% of my symptoms. I got nervous that I was infected again, and saw any available OB/Gyn MD. In her exam she felt that I didn’t look infected, but she ran tests to be sure. They were negative. She felt that my tissues had been through so much that they had thinned and were more sensitive than usual. She gave me a list of new do’s and don’t’s.
- No soap for me anywhere near my vagina. None used on my partner’s penis.
- No douching, of course.
- No shaving with a razor. Clippers allowed.
- No shaving cream.
- Do apply a small amount of plain yogurt
- No sex for two weeks
- Sleep without bottoms on
I did them and wow! My symptoms were so much less and felt different! Yes, there was some slight irritation left but this was noticeably different.
I finally make it to the specialized OB/Gyn MD in April. Phew! This MD could see that I still had some irritation. She ran even more specialized tests, and thankfully I had no infections going on. I got a whole education in vaginal hygiene from her and her nurse. She confirmed that while the active infections were gone, the tissues were thinned and needed to build. They explained how soaps, detergents, shaving creams, and perfumes irritate the internal and external genitalia. I will share the further list of things to do for vaginal hygiene in my next blog, but know that I am now symptom free and able to have sex without any other issues!
I made it!
What did I learn? What do I want women out there to know?
- Keep pushing for further testing and a good diagnosis. If you don’t get relief from the first or second interaction with your professional, and you are falling outside the “norm,” see if your health system or clinic has a specialist for this. Whether you have an infection, or other chronic vaginal or vulvar pain issue, ask for someone in the practice or for a referral outside the practice for chronic issues.
- Know that not all OB/Gyn professionals are trained in chronic vaginal pain and irritation. I know that sounds weird, but the field is actually large, and many focus more on obstetrics, than understand pudenal nerve inflammation, clitorodynia, vulvodynia, vestibulodynia, etc.
- There is a whole environment in the vagina of good bacteria (and who knows what else) that is normal and keeps yeast in check. Some bacteria, like STI’s, are bad. But I never knew that there is a sneaky bacteria that promotes yeast infections, out there, and you need to treat both sides of the equation, if you test positive for it.
- You may need to change your vaginal hygiene habits for a period of time to let the tissue rebuild in order to be free of all irritation, and feel good after sex. I will talk about these habits in my next blog post!
- While I did use She*Pak throughout this process, (and yes, I disinfected it to be sure not to reinoculate myself), if symptoms don’t go away, we need to seek medical care. She*Pak is about relief and management of symptoms. It is a useful tool as part of a whole treatment plan, but it is not a cure.
I hope this helps someone out there. Here’s to happier vaginas!