Three in ten women too embarrassed to see healthcare expert about private parts

A gynaecologist has urged women not to feel embarrassed to talk about their private parts – as a study revealed that almost a third (30%) would rather seek advice from the internet than a healthcare expert.

Nearly half of women (46%) would rather turn to online shopping when it comes to needing to buy intimate products, instead of picking them up over the counter.

But when they do order such items from a pharmacy counter, 21% will speak in a hushed tone or a whisper – as four in ten believe there is a lack of privacy when buying from a shop.

A poll of 5,000 women, who took part in the UK's largest “vagina study”, found that 42% are even too embarrassed to discuss private matters about their body with their close friends – including STIs, discharge, and even common medical problems such as bacterial vaginosis, or thrush.

And the top reason given for shying away from such subjects is that 74% believe females are taught from an early age to hide their experiences, and “be discreet” when referencing anything to do with their bodily functions.

Dr Shazia Malik, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, who is working with women’s intimate healthcare brand Balance Activ, said: “It’s clear there is a lack of education about intimate health from a young age, leading women to feel too embarrassed to even consult a healthcare professional.

“Some things need to change, and we can start doing this now by educating ourselves and others.

“It’s really important for women to be able to spot the signs of any changes in the vagina or vulva, which is why it’s great that there are tools and support out there to help and encourage women to speak more openly.”

The study found that over a quarter (28%) of those aged 45-55 even have a “name” for their lady bits, and prefer using that over vagina or vulva.

And even though seven in ten know what they go through is completely natural, they’d rather minimise it as much as possible.

While younger women, aged 18 to 24, said that they learnt a little about their biology at school (47%), more than half (57%) feel clueless about what their body constantly throws at them.

Just under half (46%) believe there is a stigma around talking about your private parts because there is fear of being judged, while 40% think it’s embarrassing – and 39% said it’s because their parents didn’t talk about it enough.

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And of those who would never ask for intimate products over the counter, 39% feel embarrassed or ashamed to do so.

But more than three in ten (31%) feel uncomfortable seeking help for their private parts when they’re experiencing discomfort.

And following this, 44% said they aren’t confident in knowing what the symptoms are for bacterial vaginosis – although 76% believe they would be able to identify thrush.

A quarter of ladies aged 25-34 would miss work if they were experiencing a strong vaginal odour – compared to just 16% of those aged 45-54, according to the data.

Intimacy expert Charlene Douglas, for Balance Activ, added: “While the female anatomy is a private area, we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about the issues we face.

“There is a lot of help and guidance around intimate health that can help people better understand what is going on with their bodies.

“But they say a problem shared is a problem halved, so opening up and having discussions with friends and those close to you could help you realise that what you might be experiencing is actually completely normal, and might help others open up too.”

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