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article by our resident Sexual Health Nurse, Laura Pixley.

It’s hot girl summer, and even though we’re in the UK, the warmer(!) temperatures can bring on some of the common afflictions that people with vaginas suffer with.

We’re talking: Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and Yeast Infections.

These issues are all incredibly common and it isn’t a reflection on your ‘cleanliness’ – they’re all simply bacterial imbalances that can be thrown by a million different things, including your body wash and the weather.

To help, we’ve listed a few of the more common issues below to help you figure out which one you have, what to do next and how to lower the risk of getting them in the future.

…and spoiler alert: You should always pee after sex.

Remember if you’re struggling to always seek the advice of your nurse, doctor or pharmacist. If your symptoms persist for over a week, or you have a fever, seek medical attention asap.


Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

BV is a bacterial imbalance or overgrowth of the natural bacteria in the Vagina. Bacterial Vaginosis is not an STI but having it may make you more susceptible to getting an STI. This is because BV makes your vagina less acidic and reduces your natural defences against infection.

Classic Symptoms:

  • Strong smelling, fishy odour, particularly after sex
  • Thin and watery discharge, sometimes grey, green or white in colour
  • It is important to note that half of people who get BV do not have any symptoms

Additional Symptoms:

  • Pain & Cramping
  • Itching

You’re more likely to get BV if:

  • You’re sexually active (however people who have not had sex can still get BV)
  • You have had a change of partner
  • You have an IUD
  • You douche
  • You use scented soaps, perfumed products, body washes or lotions in & around your vagina


BV is treated via prescription antibiotics, so pop along to your doctors if you think you may have. They will prescribe an oral tablet or a gel or cream to be inserted vaginally for up to 7 days. If you have a same-sex partner, they may also require treatment.

Important Note:

It is important to seek treatment if you are pregnant as there is a small chance BV can cause complications.

Future Prevention:

There are a few things you can try to help relieve some of the symptoms and prevent Bacterial Vaginosis returning:

  • Use water & plain soap to wash your genital area
  • Try having showers instead of baths
  • Do not use perfumed soaps, bubble bath, shampoo or shower gel in the bath
  • Do not use vaginal deodorants, washes or douches
  • Do not put antiseptic liquids in the bath
  • Do not use strong detergents to wash your underwear
  • Do no smoke & lead a balanced lifestyle where possible

Medical advice on UTIs from the NHS is available here:


Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

A UTI is a bacterial infection that occurs in any part of the urinary system, but most commonly occurs in the urethra or bladder. More serious infections can affect the kidney. UTIs can occur in everyone, but they are more common in people with vulvas.

Classic Symptoms:

  • An increased feeling in the need to urinate urgently
  • Needing to pee more often at night
  • A burning sensation when you wee

Additional Symptoms:

  • Urine that is cloudy, dark, contains blood or is strong smelling
  • Pain in the pelvis, lower tummy pain or pain in the back
  • High temperature or feeling hot & shivery
  • A very low temperature below 36 degrees Celsius

You’re more likely to get UTIs if:

  • You’re sexually active
  • You use scented soaps, body washes or lotions
  • You are dehydrated
  • You were assigned female at birth
  • You are pregnant


The majority of UTIs will clear up by themselves within 3-5 days. It is advisable to avoid sex and go heavy on the water – stay hydrated friends!

If symptoms persist and do not show improvement after 2 days, seek medical assistance from a doctor as a course of antibiotics may be required to help you clear the infection.

Be sure to seek medical advice if this is the first time you have had a water infection, you’re a male with symptoms of a UTI, you’re pregnant, you have symptoms of a UTI after surgery, or your symptoms have come back after previous treatment.

Future Prevention:

There are a few things you can try to help relieve some of the symptoms and prevent UTIs returning:

  • Wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet
  • Keep your genitals clean & dry
  • Drink plenty of fluids to help you wee regularly throughout the day and avoid feeling thirsty
  • Wash the skin around the vagina with water before & after sex
  • Pee as soon as possible after sex
  • Promptly change incontinence pads if soiled
  • Do not use perfumed soaps, bubble bath, shampoo or shower gel in the bath
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks as it irritates the bladder
  • Avoid sugary drinks & foods as they encourage bacteria to grow

Medical advice on UTIs from the NHS is available here: 


Yeast Infections

A Yeast Infection is a fungal imbalance in the vagina. This is typically caused by candida, a type of yeast in the body. Occasionally this yeast can rapidly grow out of balance with your body and this causes irritation know as a Yeast Infection.

Yeast infections are not STIs, but they are often triggered by sex.

Classic Symptoms – Vulva owners:

  • Thick or chunky discharge – it could be grey or white in colour
  • Pain or Itching around the vulva and vaginal opening
  • Soreness or stinging during sex or when you wee
  • Red & swollen vagina
  • Watery discharge

Classic Symptoms – Penis owners:

  • Irritation, burning & redness around the head of the penis and under the foreskin.
  • An unpleasant smell
  • White discharge (like cottage cheese)
  • Difficulty pulling back the foreskin

You’re more likely to get Yeast Infection if:

  • You’re sexually active
  • You’re taking anti-biotics
  • You’re having Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
  • You’re pregnant
  • You have a weakended immune system
  • You have poorly controlled diabetes
  • Your skin is irritated or damaged
  • You sit in wet or sweaty clothing for extended periods of time


Yeast infections can be treated with anti-fungal medications which are available over-to-counter via a pharmacist. These treatments come in many forms, mainly suppositories to help address the fungal imbalance and a supporting cream to help with the itching & burning sensations. Yeast infections should clear within 7-14 days from starting treatment.

Visit your GP if your Yeast Infection keeps reoccurring to ensure an appropriate treatment can be prescribed.

You should also speak to a medical professional if it is the first time you have had a yeast infection, if you are under 16 or over 60, pregnant or breastfeeding or you have a weakened immune system.

Future Prevention:

There are a few things you can try to help relieve some of the symptoms and prevent Yeast Infection returning:

  • Do use water & an emollient (like E45 cream) instead of soap to wash the affected area
  • Dry properly after washing
  • Wear Cotton underwear
  • Avoid sex until your Yeast Infection has cleared up if sex is uncomfortable
  • Do not use soap or shower gel
  • Do not use douches or deodorants on your vagina or penis
  • Do not wear tight underwear or tights

Important note:

Be aware that anti-fungal creams can damage condoms & diaphragms, and therefore may no longer perform effectively.

Medical advice on UTIs from the NHS is available here:


Remember: Sex Toy hygiene is incredibly important. Always remember to properly clean your toys before & after use to help lower the chances of infection. See individual product packaging or the description on for how best to clean your toys.

To help you work out what is causing you discomfort, we’ve created a little chart – remember to always seek the advice of a medical professional if symptoms persist.

Vaginal Infection Matrix - UTIs, BV & Yeast Infections



Photography: @fridacashflow via Instagram

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