Health is wealth, really. When in good health, we seem to take things for granted but when an ailment comes up, we suddenly realise how fragile this life is.
You may wonder why I’m being so serious, considering the title above. You will soon find out, but you know what? A pain in any part of our body can make life pretty difficult, until that pain goes away.
I met an old, old family friend sometime this past week. I didn’t recognise her at all. She did recognise me first, and asked that I come over. I obliged and then she said my name. At that moment, I could swear I had never met her before in my life.
But the truth was I had met her. She had been there when I was born, and I had grown up knowing her entire family. My childhood had witnessed the anguish her family had gone through, when her younger sister had died.
Soon after that death, they had left my family church and eventually the neighbourhood. It must be over 20 years since I have seen her, and she not only recognised my face but also, my name. We hugged and I kept looking at her like “Woah, mehn, you look good.” Yes, for a woman, who should be in her early 40s, she looked amazing.
I will call her Nkechi. I tried to catch up on the gist of what had been going on in her life over the years, and she mine and my family. But we had met in a place for a reason, we were in the hospital. Nkechi had brought her baby sister, who had been born in the years we lost contact. I had brought myself for a routine appointment.
Her sister could barely talk to me, as she was in pain. She was in a wheelchair, for ease of navigation. Nkechi was the one who told me her sister had suddenly developed cramps that refused to go. Her groans of pain that kept them awake throughout the night and they rushed to the hospital as soon as they could the next morning.
She was examined, she was asked some questions, but nothing was established. She was just given something for the pain, and asked to go and run some tests. They were still in the lab, when Nkechi’s sister started to complain of the cramps again.
When they got back the General Practice doctor, who had ordered the tests, they were referred to a Gynaecologist, and that was how we ended up in the same clinic.
It was like a replay of what happened to me last year August, and this was the second person I was seeing, who had gone through that experience of incapacitating cramps. And that got me thinking. If I could identify 3 ladies, who ended up in the hospital unexpectedly over cramps that are often traceable to gynaecological issues, then there are probably a lot more women going through this stuff, hence the need for more enlightenment about women’s health issues.
I knew I wasn’t going to die, but the amount of pain I went through for almost 48 hours almost made me wish I was. I just wanted it to stop.
Before it gets to that stage, here are a few signs that we ladies need to see our gynaecologist.
- Your period is unbearably painful
No two women’s cramps are the same, and it’s almost normal for most women to feel some pain during their period. However, if your cramps leave you incapacitated and unable to function for days, then they may be a sign that something bigger is the issue.
If your cramps have been bad, since you started menstruation, chances are it’s less clinically significant. If they start later in life, or the pain worsens or changes over time, that’s of more concern. It could mean you’ve developed a condition, such as fibroids or endometriosis.
Whatever be the case, you should still see your doctor, as there’s no reason you need to suffer through debilitating pain once a month.
- You smell funky down there
A normal vaginal discharge is mostly odourless. So, if you notice a slight change in the way your vagina or discharge smells, that’s totally normal.
What’s not normal is a sudden foul or fishy smell, which is often accompanied by changes in discharge colour, irritation, or itchiness.
This smell also indicates signs of an infection like bacterial vaginosis, trichonomoniasis (a common STI), or a yeast infection.
- Your period has stopped
This one is of great concern, as often times when periods stop, it also means that ovulation did not take place, and even if it did, it can only be picked if there is some form of tracking involved, like the use of OPKs.
Hormonal imbalance, physical or emotional stress, illness, and pregnancy are some of the reasons your period might cease.
While it could also just be a side effect of the Pill or other medications, lack of period can also be a sign of an ovulatory disorder like PCOS, or in rare cases, premature ovarian failure (which leads to early menopause)
- Sex hurts, but not in a good way
Experiencing pain during sexual intercourse is actually pretty common, and most of the time, can be fixed by changing positions or introduction of lubricants.
However, if the pain is still present, then it may be a sign something’s going on internally.
According to Gynaecologists, deep pain can mean endometriosis, and a sudden, sharp pain could be a ruptured ovarian cyst, or Fibroids, or the inflammation of the cervix caused by an STI or other infection (like yeast).
If the pain is more of a burning or stabbing around the opening of the vagina, it could signal a condition called vulvodynia; pain with insertion (or inability to insert anything into the vagina) may be a condition called vaginismus, which causes involuntary muscle spasms.
- You have trouble getting aroused or reaching orgasm
You may wonder if this is something you should talk to your Gynae about? Of course, it is still about your reproductive health.
While this condition isn’t a life-threatening problem, it can stop you from being intimate with your partner and experiencing pleasure.
If you still think that it’s an intimate issue that you are supposed to figure out on your own, remember that, according to the Mayo clinic, an online medical resource, “Up to 20 percent of women don’t get orgasms, and most women can’t achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration alone.”
Your Ob/Gyn can help diagnose and treat any underlying conditions that may be stopping you from reaching cloud nine.
- Your PMS is on another level
I particularly get antsy before, and during, my period. Everything just irritates me, but there is a condition called premenstrual dysmorphic disorder which is a form of severe PMS marked by extreme mood swings—anger, irritability, decreased interest in activities—and physical symptoms like horrible cramps, breast tenderness, bloating and lethargy.
There is help for it, but you have to meet your Gynae, who will be able to help you settle on a course of treatment that will work for you.
These are some of the signs that should warrant you seeking out your doctor as soon as is possible. No delays, no procrastination.
Your health is your wealth, your gynaecological health is your future…guard it.
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