How to build a women’s health toolkit during the COVID-19 crisis
(BPT) – Want an appointment for your vaginal health issues? Many doctors’ offices are shutting down for anything other than emergency care or diagnosing and treating people for COVID-19. This leaves many women with a lack of access to their doctors when experiencing non-urgent, but highly uncomfortable issues.
Lauren Streicher, MD, OB/GYN at Northwestern University, encourages patients experiencing gynecologic issues during COVID restrictions to contact their health care provider if they have a gynecologic concern. Many clinicians can connect by phone or video and give recommendations and call in prescriptions. However, if medical care for non-urgent issues is not readily available, she suggests women prepare to care for their common health issues at home.
“Even with mandates to ‘shelter in place,’ women can safely and effectively take care of many common health issues right at home,” says Streicher. “But still, it is important to know when something does require immediate medical attention.”
Streicher offers the following tips to help women prepare their own at-home feminine health toolkit to address common issues and help stay healthy:
Prescriptions: If possible, get a 3-month supply of prescriptions such as birth control pills.
Safe sex: Stock up on condoms and keep emergency contraception on hand. In the U.S., there are two FDA-approved over-the-counter forms of emergency contraception, and the sooner you take emergency contraception, the more effectively it works.
UTI: If possible, have antibiotics on hand if you get a UTI. Additionally, studies show that if you increase your daily fluid intake of water to 2-3 liters on a regular basis, you can flush out bad bacteria. An oral vaginal probiotic like Pro-B may keep yeast and bacteria balanced every day by increasing vaginal lactobacilli and preventing the colonization of vaginal E.coli finding its way into the urinary tract.
Vaginal discharge and odor: Know how to determine if it is yeast or bacterial vaginosis so you know which product to use. For example, keep pH-balancing RepHresh Gel on hand for after sex and menstruation.
Pelvic floor PT: If you are going to stick to kegel exercises, make sure you are doing them correctly. Also, there are over-the-counter, at-home devices like Attain developed in conjunction with pelvic floor physical therapists that are FDA cleared for the treatment of both urinary and fecal incontinence.
Painful sex: Stock up on Replens Moisturizer to help eliminate vaginal dryness and painful sex, especially for women who are breastfeeding, in cancer treatment or in menopause. Additionally, remember to have a good silicone lube on hand to use for intercourse.
Vitamins: Stock up on vitamin D because it facilitates the absorption of calcium that can decrease bone loss and reduce your risk of breaking a bone. They are easy to take, especially a gummy vitamin-like vitafusion.
Pregnancy pain: This could be due to an ectopic pregnancy, which is potentially life-threatening and demands attention. Call your health care provider immediately.
“Check out my website at DrStreicher.com. It is the go-to women’s health site for reliable, up-to-date information about what to do in almost every circumstance when you are stuck at home and can’t reach your own doctor,” adds Dr. Streicher.