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Happy Veteran’s Day!

Today, we’d like to highlight an important women’s health issue for females serving in the military - a higher risk of developing both vaginal and urinary tract infections while deployed.

Females in the Military

According to the Defense Department, women now make up 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army and almost 9 percent of the Marine Corps. As such a large population, increased awareness and advocacy is needed to ensure that our female troops are getting the best medical care as possible.

Vaginal and Urinary Tract Infections Affect Quality of Life

If you’ve ever had a vaginal or urinary tract infection, you’ll know that the symptoms can be miserable and affect one’s quality of life, ability to concentrate, and their general comfort. If left untreated, vaginal and urinary tract infections can contribute to long-term negative effects on gynecologic and urologic health, including pelvic floor health.

Vaginal Infection

30.1% of surveyed females in the Army and Navy experienced vaginal infections while on active duty (Lowe, 2003). Symptoms experienced included vaginal itching, heavier than usual vaginal discharge, and thick white or thin grayish vaginal discharge. These symptoms are commonly associated with three common vaginal infections (candida, bacterial, and trichomonas vaginitis).

Urinary Tract Infection

18.4% of surveyed females in the Army and Navy reported having urinary tract infections while on active duty (Lowe, 2003). Symptoms experienced included urinary frequency, urgency and pain during urination.

Behaviors to avoid while on duty

The 2003 Lowe study listed several behaviors that women on active duty engage in that increase risk of infection. If at all possible, avoid the following behaviors while on duty:

  • Holding urine: Urinate every 2-4 hours
  • Avoiding liquids: Drink 64 oz of water a day
  • Keeping tampons in too long: Change tampons every 4-6 hours
  • Wearing nylon/latex undergarments: Wear breathable cotton underwear when possible
  • Using feminine hygiene sprays and douching: Avoid using scented items on your vulva, and your vagina is a "self cleaning oven"- you do not need to use douches to clean internally.

Other Factors That Increase Risk

Lowe (2003) also listed the following environmental/situational factors that can contribute to increased risk of infection:

  • Unavailable or inadequate health care resources on the field
  • No laundry facilities: Try to keep underwear clean by changing daily and washing as frequently as possible
  • Limited or no hand washing facilities
  • Increased stress: Practice deep breathing and other stress reduction methods whenever possible
  • Not enough sleep: Prioritize catching up on rest when possible
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Taking antibiotics
  • Taking birth control pills
  • Having sexual intercourse: Make sure you urinate after having sex

What You Can Do Before Deployment

  • Be aware of behaviors and environmental facts that increase risk of infection
  • Educate service members and leaders about hygiene in the field
  • Put together a self-care kit with hygiene and treatment products
    • Hand soap
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Unscented baby wipes
    • Laundry soap
    • Cotton underwear
    • Yeast infection suppository or cream for self treatment
    • UTI treatment/prevention items like cranberry pills and probiotics- consult with a doctor before you go to determine which supplements are appropriate

It’s important for us to take care of our pelvic health, especially for females on active duty.

Resources

Lowe NK, Ryan-Wenger NA: Military women's risk factors for and symptoms of genitourinary infections during deployment. Mil Med 168(7):569, 2003.

More Great Products We Love

When Sex Seems Impossible by Peter Pacik, MD

Have fear and pain stopped you from having intercourse?
Are you unable to use tampons, or feel like they won't fit?
Do you physically withdraw or panic during gynecological exams?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be suffering from vaginismus, a condition that affects millions of women worldwide.

This book offers important medical information and first-person stories, including a new treatment option that has helped over ninety percent of my patients with severe vaginismus overcome this condition to go on to have pain-free, intimate relationships.

My treatment of vaginismus has put me in contact with patients from around the world and many different cultures. While each patient is unique, their stories evoke common themes-the shame of not being able to experience intercourse; guilt over lost relationships; a deep fear that their childbearing years will come and go. The stories shared by these women moved me deeply, and I felt their voices needed to be heard.

When Sex Seems Impossible: Stories of Vaginismus and How You Can Achieve Intimacy provides medical information about this condition and how it can be overcome. Equally important, the book shares the personal experiences of several of my vaginismus patients. These women volunteered to tell their stories in an effort to let their sister sufferers know that they are not alone, and do not need to suffer in silence. I admire them more than I can say.

Testimonials from Patients of Dr. Pacik for the Treatment of Vaginismus:

It has been three weeks and two days since my procedure. I was finally able to achieve intercourse tonight (full penetration)! I have learned so much about myself and my body since the procedure. I woulld highly recommend this treatment to anyone who suffers from vaginismus."

I feel like I have a real marriage now. I feel triumphant!"

Today we finally made love. It was actually incredible. I finally got to connect with him on this amazing level."

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by Jamie M.

I have been going to see Heather for a while now, and I can't tell you enough how much she has improved my quality of life. Heather specializes in issues like pelvic floor, but I see her for other orthopedic issues.

I have a lot of chronic joint pain and dysfunction issues (back, hips, neck) that require that have ongoing physical therapy maintenance. The effects of my problem joints/areas overlap and interconnect with each other in complex ways, so helping me requires really having a complete understanding of the entire skeletal and muscular system. Pain does not always appear where the problem actually is, the human body is a twisty, many-layered puzzle. I have an exercise program I do at home and I am very functional, but there are just something things I need a PT to help me out with.

Read more: Testimonial by Jamie M.

Testimonial by R.S.

I wanted to thank you so much for helping me get through something I thought I may never be able to. We have achieved pain-free intercourse and this has really solidified our marriage. We are so grateful to you for all the work you do! Thank you!!

-- R.S.

Testimonial by M.M.

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

My husband and I were married for 5 years before we were able to have intercourse due to my vaginismus. There was nothing traumatic in my past but for some reason, even though I wanted sex, I mentally avoided "that area" of my body and didn't even admit to myself that there was a problem for a long time, even though I was never able to put tampons in. Once I finally opened my eyes up to the fact that I had a problem, I had a surgery that was supposed to fix the issue.

Read more: Testimonial by M.M.

Testimonial by Carolina J.

I had tried Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy before (with another PT) and I had a really bad (painful) experience. A friend of mine and fellow patient, told me about Heather, Laureen and Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) and I decided to try again. I am so happy I did! Femina PT have, literally, changed my life. I was able to do again things I couldn't do for over 10 years!! Their bedside manners are impeccable, their knowledge and understanding make me feel comfortable to recommend this place to anyone in pain. Specially if you have Endometriosis. 100% recommended!!

-- Carolina J., 12/28/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

Read more: Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

I would like to start off by thanking Heather Jeffcoat for educating me and curing me of Vaginismus. I had been married for almost three years before I was referred to Heather. I never knew about Vaginismus until almost three years into my marriage. I knew something was wrong when I went on my honeymoon and came back a Virgin. I had always imagined how magical my first night would be but boy was I wrong.

Read more: Testimonial by S.P., Age 26

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