According to Canesten®'s 'Intimate Knowledge' research released by Bayer, almost half (46%) of Australian women admitted they would delay or stop asking for advice from a pharmacist or GP on vaginal health concerns, as it is too embarrassing. Also, one in two (47%) said that they are too embarrassed to speak to their friends about their vaginal health symptoms. This is despite the majority (98%) of Australian women stating that their intimate health is important to them.
Katie Williams, Aussie influencer and female health advocate said, "As women, when we think of maintaining our health, we often associate this with nutrition and exercise. However, to be in control of our health holistically, we need to address all areas of our wellbeing, including our intimate health, despite how uncomfortable it may be. We shouldn't let embarrassment and stigma hold us back from diagnosing and treating intimate health issues. It's great that we now have a tool that empowers women to help self-diagnose common vaginal infections, like thrush, by linking vaginal pH and symptoms, to support us in seeking the right treatment."
Reluctance to speak up about intimate health issues results in women turning to less reliable sources of information. Almost one in two (41%) women admitted that they first learned about vaginal thrush on the internet, as opposed to only 16% that found out about it from a pharmacist.
The Intimate Knowledge research shows a shocking 47% of women wrongly think that they can get rid of vaginal thrush by washing their vagina with soap, 43% incorrectly think that vaginal thrush can never be cured and 25% think that their symptoms will go away without treatment. Over a third (38%) incorrectly think that natural treatments, including topical application of a natural yoghurt and tea tree oil, can treat vaginal thrush. Additionally, over a third (34%) of women aged 18-24 inaccurately think that vaginal thrush can be associated with having sex too frequently.
These findings coincide with Bayer announcing the launch of the Canesten® Vaginal pH Self Test, which aims to empower women to take control of their intimate health. Almost nine in ten women (89%) believe that an at-home self-test used to help self-diagnose common vaginal infections, like thrush, would help them to approach a pharmacist or doctor for treatment.
The Canesten® Vaginal pH Self Test, a unique, easy to use swab test, enables women who are experiencing unusual vaginal symptoms to self-diagnose the cause, such as thrush. Canesten® Vaginal pH Self Test measures vaginal pH levels and delivers results in as little as 10 seconds, with more than 90% accuracy. Combining this result with symptoms experienced will help women self-diagnose what condition they have in order to guide them on seeking treatment options.
Shazia Ahmad, Head of Medical for Consumer Health, Bayer Australia & New Zealand said, "As our Intimate Knowledge research shows, discussing intimate health concerns can be difficult for women. At Bayer, we want women to feel empowered and take charge of their self-care, that's why we have launched Canesten® Vaginal pH Self Test – a unique, at home self-diagnosis test that can help determine if women are experiencing thrush or something else and help provide treatment guidance, putting women back in control of their intimate health."
The Canesten® Vaginal pH Self Test RRP is $14.95 and is available on shelf in pharmacy.
For more information visit www.canesten.com.au
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use.
Question: Are you surprised that 46% of women are embarrassed by their vaginal health concerns; so much so they'd postpone visiting the GP?
Katie Williams: Most definitely, the high statistic scares me as vaginal health is so important to our reproductive and overall health. We all have our periods and want to fall pregnant, one day - which is why our reproductive health is so important. 46% is a high statistic particularly as it's because of just embarrassment – it's only one emotion that gets in the way of our health.
Question: How can we break down the stigma associated with intimate health issues?
Katie Williams: My family and I and my girlfriends and I are all very open; I speak to my brother's girlfriend, my Mum and my friends about my health concerns. If I have a health concern that I'm not ready to go to the Doctor for, immediately, I speak with my Mum and girlfriends and ask "has this happened to you?"
When I was young, a lot of my girlfriends had thrush and it's comforting for friends to lean on each other and ask "have you also had this?" We can break the stigma by talking to people we trust and are comfortable with. Consider how common thrush is, so many women have had it, it doesn't make it embarrassing it makes it normal. If more people have had thrush, than haven't – it's normal and comfortable.
Question: What practices can we implement into our everyday life to prioritise our health including intimate health?
Katie Williams: The most important practice in regards to health as a whole is getting the basics right, first. The basics include:
Making sure you're getting adequate sleep.
Managing your stress well (I meditate and exercise every day to manage my stress).
And, having a well-balanced diet.
When looking at intimate health, specifically, the basics include:
Getting regular health checks, with a Doctor.
Wearing cotton underwear especially when exercising. I know a lot of females will not wear underwear as it is visible when wearing tights – but you want to wear breathable, comfortable, cotton underwear to avoid sweat and overheating of the body.
Change your tampons and pads regularly.
Keep your intimate area clean, I use fragrance-free products like Sorbolene rather than soap as it's a very delicate area, that can easily be upset.
Question: How do you find motivation to continue working out during the cooler months?
Katie Williams: There are three things I do and suggest:
Understand what habits serve and what habits limit you or negatively affect your life. I think it's important to write a list of your bad habits that aren't in line with my goals, they could be: drinking too much wine or coffee and then a list of your good habits: drinking lots of water, doing yoga, eating well and practicing mindfulness. If the good habits out way the bad, you're on track. Then, look at how you can add one good habit a week – if you introduce one health habit a week you're less like to cave and will have 52 new good habits, at the end of the year.
Choosing discipline over motivation. The word discipline doesn't have to be a negative, for me self-discipline = self-love. When I am disciplined with my training and diet I don't miss out on things that I want to do. I am disciplined because if I trained only when I felt like it or was motivated to, it would only be half the time. Motivation is situational and not many are motivated to get out of bed at 4am to train, especially in Winter, but discipline will carry you. To enforce discipline you could create a training guide and on a Sunday you could write what you are training and when to use discipline and structure.
Have an accountability partner. An accountability partner is a trainer, nutritionist or a friend you meet at the gym. I have a few accountability partners for business, personal life and training. I have people I train with, on certain days; I know on Monday at 6am I meet my friend Jac at the gym and on Thursday I meet Sally for Boxing. Friends are great accountability partners because you won't cancel on a friend.
Question: Can you tell us about your PodCast, Better For It?
Katie Williams: Better For It is a In Conversation With Podcast within the health and wellness space. I chat to real people who are thought-leaders that initiation change and influence the world around them. The whole point of Better For It is to encourage people to think differently, understand themselves better and perhaps question what they think they know whether that is limited beliefs or values. The guests are extremely motivational and have amazing stories.
I have interviewed Action Alexa and we spoke about her fitness, losing her mum and her alcoholism. I also spoke with Steph Claire Smith and we spoke about online bullying, trolling, self-esteem and body image in the modeling industry. Simon Hill spoke about why he is a plant-based vegan and what that means for his body. Drew Harrisberg spoke about adversity and his type 1 diabetes.
Every guest is qualified in their own field and has a different story. Each episode has a different theme as I want people to understand that health is multi-faceted and layered which means our own health needs to be dissected. I hope to educate listeners to make the right decisions for their own health.
Interview by Brooke Hunter