2. You heard one horror story about toxic shock syndrome (TSS) as a teen and you were never able to get it out of your head.
Don’t worry, gynecologists say it’s safe to sleep with a tampon in overnight — just use the least absorbent tampon you can and don’t forget about it.
Plus, TSS is actually very rare (when it was most prevalent in 1980, the rate was 6-12 per 100,000 menstruating women; but by 1986 it dropped to 1 in 100,000 menstruating women). Still, it’s a life-threatening complication of a bacterial infection (usually Staphylococcus aureus or group A streptococcus) with symptoms like a high fever, vomiting, and a rash; so it makes sense to be terrified of it.
3. The first time you got a UTI you might not have known what it was, but you never forgot it.
Urinary tract infections suck, but they’re super common. They’re caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract through the urethra, which can sometimes happen during sex. And, unfortunately, some people are just particularly susceptible to UTIs.
5. When you first experienced “spotting” you could not have been more confused.
Is it your period? Is it pregnancy? Is it the fact that you didn’t use enough lube? Random vaginal bleeding is so confusing because it can be a sign of so many things. It’s most likely nothing serious, but if it continues or it comes with any other symptoms, check in with your doctor or gynecologist just to be sure.
6. Routine testing can be fueled with anxiety.
While some clinics will call you with your results ASAP, most gynecologists seem to take the “I’ll call you if anything turns up positive” approach, which is literally the worst. We get it, you’re busy, but we’re never not going to think the worst.
If this waiting game freaks you out, just ask about how long it’ll take to get your results back, and give their office a call then. Here are more things your gynecologist really wants you to know.
7. Sometimes you wistfully think that ignoring your problems will make them go away.
Don’t be a hero. If something is up with your general vag area, call up your primary care doctor. Itching, burning, and discomfort are symptoms of so many vagina problems, so you’re better off getting it checked out so you can make it go away faster.
8. But lots of times it turns out to be a pretty easy fix.
It’s really common to get irritation from soaps, lotions, wipes, or whatever hair removal method you swear by. You might also be over-washing your genitals (or washing them incorrectly).
Your actual vagina is like a self-cleaning oven — it can take care of itself — while the vulva (the outer area) can be washed with just water and your hand (or a simple, unscented soap with the least amount of ingredients possible). Here’s more info about cleaning your vulva.
9. You’ve learned from experience not to look up your symptoms online.
The answer will always be pregnancy and/or dying. Don’t do this to yourself. You can find information about common vagina problems here, but you can also just call up your doctor who should be able to pinpoint the issue pretty quickly.
10. You’ve probably laughed off certain products or problems until you actually experienced them.
Like lube, for instance. Dryness is very common and not necessarily a sign that you’re not turned on. Even certain birth control methods and allergy medications can make you dryer than usual. So don’t be afraid to buy lube — otherwise known as a vagina’s best friend. Here’s a guide to buying the right lube for you.
11. You’ve realized that nobody deals with things the same way.
Why is it that the same birth control can be great for one person and a nightmare for another? Because all bodies are weird and unique, and there are tons of factors that influence which method might work best for you. Here’s a guide to help you find your ideal birth control.
12. And that things can be…unpredictable.
On that note, even the same body can react differently from month to month. This is generally normal, but if you’re noticing a big change that persists, bring that up with your doctor.
13. But at least you know you aren’t alone in your struggle.
Literally everyone with a vagina will experience some annoying stuff at some point (some more than others). So if you have a UTI, a yeast infection, an STI, an abnormal Pap smear, a horrible period, or some other random issue in or around your vagina — don’t freak out. Chances are, the same exact thing has happened to a vagina near you.