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Five gynae red flags women should never ignore

We shouldn't let fear stop us seeking help for our intimate health

We shouldn't let fear stop us seeking help for our intimate health© Provided by The Telegraph

The average woman outlives her male counterpart when it comes to longevity, but no one claims we have it easy when it comes to our health. 

From having to deal with periods and childbirth to the heartbreak of infertility and the inconvenience of menopause symptoms, much of our intimate health is sensitive to discuss, if not downright taboo. But we shouldn’t let fear of embarrassment or judgement stop us seeking help.

Here are five symptoms you shouldn’t ignore. And don’t worry, your GP will have seen them all before...

Abnormal vaginal bleeding

Any bleeding between periods, following sex, or after menopause needs checking out. Various things can cause irregular bleeding – ranging from hormonal contraception-related issues, gynaecological conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), sexually transmitted infections, ovarian cysts, benign lumps and bumps, to some cancers of the cervix or womb. Sometimes there’s a simple explanation which is easy to solve, but it’s important to rule out anything more serious. Post-menopausal bleeding always needs reviewing by a doctor.

Deep pelvic pain or painful sex 

Pelvic pain is common (approximately one in six women in the UK report it), yet it doesn’t mean it should be tolerated without investigation. Deep pelvic pain during sex could indicate conditions such as endometriosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Appropriate management is available, so don’t feel embarrassed talking to your GP.

Dr Frankie: 'Getting peace of mind is always the best option' - Rii Schroer© Provided by The Telegraph

Abnormal vaginal discharge 

Vaginal discharge is physiologically normal: most women experience it but don’t like talking about it. A thin, watery discharge keeps the vagina moist and protected from infections. But, if a change is noticed in the consistency, colour, smell or texture, then you might have a common infection such as thrush or bacterial vaginosis. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – if untreated – can develop into PID and/or and affect fertility, so a diagnosis from a doctor will lead to the best treatment. 

Cervical cancer is rarer, but can also present with a change in vaginal discharge, so it’s best to be vigilant.

Any new lumps or bumps 

Know what’s normal for you. This way you will know if any new lumps, bumps or ulcers that you find will need to get checked. Vulval cancers often present as new lumps or ulcers on the skin, which might be noticed as an unusual sensation when using the loo, when walking and or sitting. Vaginal prolapses – which feel as a lump or dragging sensation down below – become more common with age. New lumps in the tummy area should also spark attention. Any persistent lump (which doesn’t go away after one or two weeks) needs to be checked. 

Persistent abdominal bloating 

Bloating is common, particularly after a big or fibre-rich meal, and if it’s happening consistently can be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome. However, persistent bloating beyond two weeks – especially in women over 50 years – and in combination with other symptoms such as reduced appetite, feeling quickly full after eating, unintentional weight loss, change in bowel habits, urinary urgency/frequency, then it should be investigated. Ovarian cancer often presents with vague, non-specific symptoms which can be masked with digestive issues. 

It can feel daunting talking about these personal topics, but getting peace of mind that it’s nothing serious, or timely management if it is, is always the best option. 


Everything you need to know about UTIs: from spotting the symptoms to fixing it

Story by Dr Francesca Jackson-Spence: The Telegraph: 

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