Navigating Vaginal Health: From Misinformation to Empowerment

Navigating Vaginal Health: From Misinformation to Empowerment

Unveiling the Truth: Understanding Vaginal Health Beyond Internet Myths

By: Flo Oliveira

Although the language of vulva and vagina is used throughout this article, I want to be very clear that these body parts do not define my gender nor the gender of other folks. Gender is not to be defined by our genitals.  - Flo Oliveira

In the fully dark room of my childhood bedroom, I lay surrounded by piles of my latest to-do’s: laundry, books, and old assignments. Instead of tackling the items as intended, my eyes remained glued to my phone. As I searched for answers to questions like “why is my vagina itchy? Or “Is vaginal discharge normal? I was presented with the same information so many other teenagers find on the internet. A myriad of google answers that euphemize, mystify and often confuse folks about what could actually be going on with their vaginal health.

Misinformation exacerbates the very typical coming of age narratives for folks with vulvas: periods, boobs, your first kiss, and the loss of your virginity (no particular order). As we grow closer to puberty we often hear about these topics not only from our peers, but our religious and educational systems. This often means we are exposed to various beliefs about our bodies, rather than the facts or science that can help us address an issue if one may arise. That being said, when a teenager experiences their first UTI or Yeast infection, accessible answers can sometimes hurt us more than they help us.

Read more: Shedding sexual shame after really bad sex ed

According to the research done by the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health in 2010-2011, there was no coverage of UTI's and Yeast Infections in any of the 33 California Public Schools that participated in the research.  These staggering statistics show that not only are UTI’s and Yeast Infections under researched but they are topics EXCLUDED from public sex education.

Teenagers experiencing their first UTI or Yeast infections with symptoms like itching, burning, bladder pain, irritation or changes in discharge and urine are often left confused, embarrassed, and anxious about the changes in their bodies. And when teenagers are scared into thinking these symptoms are associated with “bad behaviors” or “uncleanliness” that concerned kiddo will most likely turn to the internet before involving their parents. 


Nurturing teens: a guide into the exploration of vulva and vaginal care


And if you doubt that, well I was that kiddo. I laid there in the dark for hours, typing every symptom I had into the search bar until I came across what I thought might be a good solution for my vulva and vaginal pain. Yogurt pads and tampons. Now, I am not sure if you have had the pleasure of filling your vagina with various kitchen items, but let me be the first to say, this is not the recommendation of any medical professional, nor myself. Had I known that the fiery feeling would only multiply in the weeks to come, I would have reconsidered taking Dr. Google’s advice of using yogurt covered pads and headed straight to the Gynecologist. 

We recommend making an appointment with your Doctor or heading to your nearest Planned Parenthood if this is your first time experiencing any sort of irregular vulva or vaginal symptoms. 


Guide: First time at the OBGYN


Yeast Infections and UTI’s can often be mistaken for one another because they share some similar symptoms like general pelvic pain and discomfort when urinating. However a clear indicator of a yeast infection is white, clumpy discharge and often a UTI can come with flu like symptoms such a fever, chills, and nausea. 

Let’s dig in..

What are the differences between yeast infections and urinary tract infections?

Urinary tract infections are just what they sound like: an infection involving any part of your urinary system. They occur when a bacteria enters your urinary system and causes an infection that can attack your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. UTI’s can happen due to coming into contact with stool (poop), holding urine frequently, STI’s, or bodily reactions to certain forms of contraceptives. 

Yeast Infections are an overgrowth of the fungus candida. Keep in mind we can get yeast infections in other parts of our bodies. However a vaginal yeast infection causes the skin around your vagina to burn and itch, and it may change the consistency of your vaginal discharge.

Some things that may cause yeast infections are using antibiotics, birth control pills, being pregnant, having a health condition that weakens your immune system or having unmanaged diabetes. Certain lifestyle risk factors also increase your risk of a vaginal yeast infection, such as: sitting in a wet bathing suit, not changing out of sweaty clothes, or wearing scented tampons or using a vaginal deodorant.

Read: Comparing 3 Common Vaginal Infections

Thankfully, at 25, I now look back at those moments and comfortably laugh.  After having several UTI’s and later developing years of recurrent yeast infections, I use these 7 hacks to prevent UTI’s and Yeast Infections 

How to prevent UTI’s and Yeast Infections

  1. Wear underwear as little as possible and when you have to wear it, make sure they are 100% cotton.
  2. Never, ever, ever insert anything in your vagina that is not made to be inserted in the vagina
  3. Always pee after sex
  4. Use salve at the first sign of any discomfort or if you are experiencing something that may be a trigger
  5. Minimize contact with stool in the vulvar area, meaning wipe from front to back 
  6. Take your daily probiotics! Adding them to your routine is an important part of improving your vaginal health. 
  7. Take a daily supplement for Bladder and Urinary Health. I use Momotaro Apothecas Super Supplement found here 

Taking the steps to improve your vaginal health

Misinformation compounds the already complex journey of puberty for individuals with vulvas, overshadowing crucial topics like menstruation, sexual activity, and hygiene. Despite the prevalence of these discussions among peers, religious teachings, and school curriculums, factual and scientific information often takes a backseat. Consequently, when faced with common issues like UTIs or yeast infections, teenagers are left bewildered and anxious, turning to unreliable online sources for guidance.

Empowerment lies in education and proactive healthcare. By fostering open conversations and prioritizing reliable information, we can empower individuals to embrace their intimate health journey with confidence and clarity.

Further Reading

D-mannose and Cranberries for UTIs?

My Battle With Chronic Yeast Infections and The Magic Salve that save me

10 Tips For Improving Your Vaginal Health

My Experience With Chronic UTIs

Questions About UTIs You're Too Afraid to Ask

5 UTI facts you should know

Navigating Yeast Infections, everything you need to know

Flo Oliveira (they/them)  is a Marriage and Family Therapist who works with clients on non-monogamy, kink, BDSM, and sexual health.

They have worked as a therapist with a specialty in sex since 2021, and have been educating via  instagram on their account , @Lifewflo, since 2019. In their writings and work, they often lean into  my personal life to share stories about growing up as a confused queer, non-binary, Afro-Latinx immigrant.  

If you (and/ or your partner) need interpersonal support within the topics of sex, mental health, and relationships, be sure to book a therapy appointment with them here. You can also find them at

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