The Vagenda

The Front Bottom Buffet

Note: during the following I will endeavor to use as many euphemisms for female genitalia as my brain can conjure up. This is not through fear or distaste at saying ‘vagina’, but because if you use the same word again and again and again in an article it gets boring. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. And one for luck: vagina.
“I read in a book that if you shove a garlic clove up your foof it cures cystitis, so I just did it,” a friend reported from my DM inbox last week. “That’s a new one. Is the smell making you hungry?” I asked. “No but it started burning after an hour, so I took it out again,” she replied. And so on we went with our cranberry-infused lives, I singing The Things We Do for Muff in my head to the tune of 10cc’s The Things We Do for Love. 
Then a few days later, the exact same remedy was recommended by Jessa on Girls – a woman who I’d trust for tubular advice above most others, except perhaps Dr Pixie off Embarrassing Bodies – and it occurred to me just how many of us spend an unholy amount of time nursing our nethers. And not in the fun way.
Endless column inches have been (fairly) devoted to the pubes issue, but while we all wax on about waxing there’s not nearly enough chat about the involuntary parts-pain that so many of us are battling with all the time. Or at least, not enough chat before we’ve learned the hard way that we’re cursed with a short urethra, or more thrush than a rural summer. 
It’s ridiculous that where UTIs and yeast infections are concerned, our education is still in the realms of mythic cures and old wives’ tales; ‘just sit back and pee for England’. I thought I was better informed than most, but after years of necking Ocean Spray by the carton until it left me bilious, someone recently told me that actually all the citric acid makes your pee burn more. Gee thanks, nature.
Amid all the current conversation around sex education, I’d like to request a module on the importance of going to the loo immediately after sex. Come, pee, cuddle, that’s the mantra. While STIs and unwanted pregnancy are still unarguably important topics, it does feel as though the more mundane (and female-oriented) issues are ignored altogether or passed off as lady troubles to be endured, not cured.
Too many of us don’t even know what cystitis is until the first time we’re struck down – by which point, bent double on the toilet for five hours while your bladder goes off like a grenade, phoning your mother to scream “WHY DIDN’T YOU WARN ME?” seems like closing the stable door after the horse has pissed itself on the Northern Line. 
And with the stigma of vag-related ailments still keeping too many of us away from the chemists, DIY cures for ‘down there’ distress are more common than you would think. Who hasn’t, in a combination of desperation, laziness and curiosity, eschewed Canasten for a tampon dipped in natural yoghurt? Then spent an hour reclining at an awkward angle, feeling like the world’s shittest dessert? (NB: Muller crunch corners will provide variety but not relief, do not attempt). 
Besides, Canestan costs more than a Pizza Express dinner. With doughballs. Is it any wonder that in kitchens across the globe, there are women pausing halfway through their breakfast, looking down and thinking “hmm”? Just like tea bags on your eye bags and vinegar rinses on your hair, I’m a sucker for any remedy that can be procured without having to put on shoes and leave the house. There’s something satisfying about lying in a lavender/milk/gravy bath, thinking “this is how our foremothers would have dealt with it in a pre-pharmaceutical age”. Though, crucially, it would be considerably more satisfying if any of it ever worked.
So while my anonymous friend goes back to the drawing board/veg box and we draw up plans for a themed cookbook (‘Come Vagina With Me’? ‘The Front Bottom Buffet’?), I urge you to teach your real or future offspring the ins and outs of vaginal care. And if you hear that putting broccoli up there does anything, let me know.
- LB

38 thoughts on “The Front Bottom Buffet

  1. This is brilliant. There does need to be a module about the importance of peeing after sex. I think Come, Pee, Cuddle would make a good slogan for a T Shirt campaign! ;) Cystitis is evil. If men suffered with it, they’d be a (tax free) cure by now.

  2. Last year I had to buy thrush medication on my birthday. I was (still am) so broke that I had to use most of the £20 that my Dad stuck in my card to get it. The only thing my local chemist stocked was a pessary, which refused to dissolve in my apparently desert-like love canal, resulting in uncured thrush, and a week of chalk slowly sliding out of me every time I showered.

    And I have never told anyone, except my thankfully very-progressive and totally-unflappable boyfriend. Because ‘malfunctioning vagina shame’.

  3. Okay, so this article just made me realise that, at 17, I know fuck all about anything to do with this. So could you please: a) Write an article actually explaining all the lovely infections/situations that can occur and how best to deal with them or b) Point me in the direction of somewhere that I can learn about all this, because, while our sex education nowadays may have progressed from “DON’T DO IT UNLESS YOU WANT TO GO HELL” it is still woefully lacking. Thank-you.

  4. Whilst acknowledging the serious nature of this, this had me in giggles all the way through. It has to be natural (live) yoghurt though, pasteurized doesn’t work lol

    Muller crunch corners….hahaha epic

  5. Yes we do. It felt like trying to pass needles.

    I would never consider dunking my genitals in yoghurt as a cure though. I’ve usually just found that drinking plenty of water helps by at least reducing the acidity of my urine.

  6. At 19 I have just realised exactly the same thing! To be perfectly honest I did not even realise cystitis was anything to do with sex and i have never even thought about peeing after sex. i agree completely, more info is needed!

  7. I have had cystitis for over 10 years (from weird ‘feeling funny after peeing’ to ‘holy shit I’m pissing blood, let’s go hang out in A&E’). I’ve tried cutting things from my diet, adding things to my diet, herbal remedies, all the drugs I can get my grubby hands on and it makes ultimately no difference. Ladies, it’s a shit show and all you can do is swap horror stories and chat about it with your partners and mates. It’s amazing how many people feel alone when it comes to cystitis or thrush (don’t even get me started on Bartholin’s cysts…)

    Come, pee like a race horse from the amount of water you sexily glugged pre-sex (and then glugged post-sex but pre- toilet), cuddle. Just like all those sex scenes in the movies…

  8. Here’s what I know.

    There are loads of STDs that you can get, which tend be covered in a fair amount of detail elsewhere, so I’ll leave those out. (Short story: use condoms). Apart from that, there are (I think) two main vagina troubles you can get, (which can be, but aren’t necessarily) associated with sex. Both are reasonably common.

    1. Cystitis. (A kind of urinary tract infection, aka. a UTI).

    It makes you feel like you need to pee ALL THE TIME. Also, when you do pee, it feels like instead of urine, you are passing razor blades. A nasty combination.

    What people tell you to do: drink cranberry juice.

    What you should actually do: the first time you get it go to the doctors, just to check that is what it is. (Or if you get it more than three times per year). Other than that:
    a) painkillers
    b) drink lots of water (to dilute your urine and make it less acidic, and so less painful). You can also get sachets of cranberry stuff (over the counter) which I think is called something like ‘oasis’ (other brands available, although not at the tesco’s within limping distance of my office) which alter your pee as well.
    c) avoid having sex – friction can aggravate it (like you’d be in the mood anyway).
    If it’s really bad, the doctor might give you antibiotics to make it heal up quicker.

    2. Thrush (A yeast infection, caused by an imbalance of good/bad bacteria in your vagina. Lovely)

    It gives you an itchy, sometimes sore, lady-area, and sometimes you also get a thick and bad-smelling discharge in your knickers.

    What people tell you to do: put food items with anti-bacterial properties (generally live yoghurt and garlic) in and around your vagina.

    What you should actually do: Again, go to the doctor if it’s the first time you’ve got it, to make sure that is in fact what you’ve got. And again, if you get it frequently, go back again (apart from anything else, you’ll want a prescription so the treatment only costs £7, rather than £12+) Apart from that, over the counter treatments come in (I think) three forms. Tablet (oral) or pessary (vaginal) which deal with the internal infection, and creams, which you can put on the external skin to soothe the itchy/soreness.

    Good Vag Habits:
    Both of these delights can be prevented with similar measures, which basically amount to good hygiene (to keep the various kinds of between-the-leg bacteria in the right places, and under control.

    1. Wash your lady parts (to keep them clean) but don’t use perfumed soaps/any sprays (to avoid upsetting the ‘natural balance’ of bacteria that should be there). Gently getting some warm water in and around the area when you shower should be sufficient.

    2. Wipe from front to back after you go to the loo, so any germs get taken backwards to the hardy bum-region, rather than into the more particular areas at the front.

    3. Live by LB’s ‘Come, Pee, Cuddle’ mantra, to flush any bacteria that could have got into the utrethra (pee tube) back out again. (My doctor also suggest peeing before sex if possible).

    4. Make sure you’re wet enough before sex (or use lubricant – fun too) to avoid too much friction.

    5. Wear cotton undies in the day, and at night keep it bare and naked (or at least clean and loose-fitting).

    6. Don’t have unprotected sex when you’ve got a bout of either of these, because your partner (of either gender) can become infected. And apart from that not being a nice gift to pass on, if they’ve got it and you’re healed, they can reinfect you back if you have sex again.

    I think that’s probably most of what you need to know. If you haven’t had these things yet, then do your best to follow the preventative tips, but know that you will probably get each of these at least once. It’s kind of a right of passage though, and when you look back on it later it’s (kind of) hilarious. Good luck!

  9. This made me laugh so much! When I was 23 I had a urinary infection that felt like it lasted for months. The doctors kept giving me antibiotics (which FYI can give you Thrush so JACKPOT!), telling me to drink water, pee after sex etc. Offering words of comfort such as “it’s very common for women your age.” Also being told by your mother that I should be having so much rough sex. Ha! Got sent for kidney scans and all sorts until finally it sort of just…disappeared. Strange but please do keep going to the Doctor if it doesn’t clear up. I remember crying in the toilets of Morrisons because it was agony to squeeze out piss that wasn’t there.

    Personal low point.

  10. I’ve had a urinary problem for two years now. It started as a UTI and then developed into a kidney infection which eventually was treated with antibiotics (went through a few different types) but the symptoms remained.

    Basically it never feels like I’ve finished peeing. As soon as I leave the house I have to pee, and it makes me stress out that I’m gonna pee myself. I can’t do the things I used to do because I have panic attacks – no more rides on the bus, trouble being in the car for more than 20 minutes, I had to run out of my lectures a few times an hour just to pee, it’s pretty humiliating. And my second year exams were deferred til the middle of summer. I have like alright days and really bad days when I won’t leave the house at all and I’ll avoid doing anything that might put me in an awkward position if I do pee myself.

    I’ve been dismissed by doctors at uni, but I’ve had two ultrasounds, seen a physio, had countless pee tests and now I’m going to be seeing a psychologist to see if I can prevent the panic attacks that make me worse.

    And it’s not like I’m not careful – I do all the right things vag-wise so I have no idea what’s wrong with me. I think it’s made me depressed, really. I used to be impulsive and fun and now I have to wait an hour after having a cup of tea before I leave the house (even decaff) and I’m just terrified of humiliating myself all the time.

    Makes me wish I had a penis.

  11. What a brilliant, informative post!

    Lube-wise, the stuff like Durex you by in Boots really irritate me and made the problem worse. I recommend one called Yes Yes Yes which is very dear I know, but organic and non-allergenic – and very good.

    Last year I had thrush for about 6 months, so I went to the doctor and they prescribed a 6 month course of Fluconazole (oral pill), which cleared it up.

    Also, wear 100% cotton knickers, and washing powder for sensitive skin.

  12. As someone who is on antibiotics for the next few months, I need a thrush cure that won’t kill the bank account, stat. I had high hopes for yoghurt since my reasoning was it’d be replacing the bacteria that the antibiotics had killed and they would in turn eat the thrush. In the end I’ve been relying on cansten.

    As for UTIs, I find a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a glass of water a few times a day does the same job as sodium citrate at a fraction of the price. It works by making the bladder alkaline which makes it more difficult for the infection to survive. Calms the burning too.

  13. This may just be me but I find the chances of contracting thrush are higher in winter, when you’re wearing more layers/snug clothing and your vagina hasn’t as much room to ‘breathe’.

    Brilliant post and brilliant comment by Jus’sayin’.

    It might be an idea for GPs/local surgeries to hand out information leaflets on this sort of thing. They already address breast self-examinations and birth-control, so why not this? If I recall correctly, 70% of women contract thrush at least once in their lifetime, having information available easily would help immensely.

  14. But what’s important and not often mentioned is this: we get cystitis when faecal bacteria is transferred to the vagina (hence the advise of always wiping front to back). The main way of getting cystitis is (hands, dick, vibe etc) touching the butt area before touching the vaginal area. Being careful with this may mean the sex is less about wild abandon, but it really helps if you are a regular cystitis sufferer. You also tend to get cystitis more with your first sexual encounters or if you haven’t had sex for a long while (called “honeymoon cystitis”).

    More details:

  15. 70% is probably even closer to 100% but just goes highly unreported because it’s mild or women don’t realize what it is and are embarassed to get it checked out. It will almost heal on it’s own eventually…

  16. I’ve been having UTIs now and then ever since I started to have sex. By now I’m so used to it happening I have figured out what to do to make it pass. I just grab a glass of water, a book and lock myself into the loo, drinking the whole glass every time I pee even a bit. In about an hour I feel fine, it doesn’t sting anymore and I can get on with my life.

    I first figured it out when I got thinking “I need to pee and there’s nothing coming out, I’d better have some water so the body can at least do its thing.”

    Cranberry juice is also a favourite of mine, or cranberry tea. I don’t know about the ‘makes it sting more’ bit, but I’ve always heard it said it somehow gets rid of the bacteria causing it.

  17. Aw man. Feel for you, this sounds rubbish. I’ve had cystitis a lot and sounds you you constantly have all the symptoms! Can see how stressful it is, I’m normally quite together but remember having it once and hiding in the toilet at work for about an hour crying, before going home (to cry more) without explaining why I was leaving. Saw an episode of embarrassing bodies a while ago about the Atonic Bladder condition – I imagine docs have tested for this but sounds kind of similar.
    Hope you’re fixed/grow a penis soon x

  18. Can you get a repeat prescription? According to NHS website “A three monthly PPC is £29.10. This saves you money if you need four or more items in three months.” x

  19. Ooo I’ll look into the Atonic Bladder condition – so far the guesses are interstitial cystitis which would be crap because there’s no cure, a weakening in the neck of the bladder or just anxiety – fingers crossed I’ll know soon
    Thanks for the support :) xx

  20. Oo – I do the bicarb thing too. I kind of came to it through some amateur science thinking but I’m glad someone else does it too. It tastes disgusting but it seems to work.

  21. Oh god, that sounds terrible! I’ve only had it once for a week or so, so I can’t really compare, but I had a similar experience using a toilet which was only separated from a busy office by a thin wall. I bit my thumb so hard to stop myself from crying audibly that I broke skin.

  22. Update: the oral tablet for thrush (benefits: doesn’t have to be used at night, cheaper, I’ve personally not found the chalk pessary to be effective. Downsides: can’t be used when pregnant, apparently is supposed to be used mainly for recurring thrush – I’m not sure why) is only available in pharmacies. Yesterday morning I trawled through Tescos, Superdrug, and two Boots before I discovered this.

  23. Hmm, wrote a too-long reply that seems to have been lost in the sauce…

    I would get UTIs *all* the time. Nothing seemed to prevent ‘em: peeing after sex, wiping front to back, etc. I was always told “get it checked out, it could be an infection that ends up in your kidneys!” Fair enough.

    Then like Tho, I decided to drink enough so I have enough to pee with. And interestingly, when I went to see the doc once, my symptoms had disappeared. This more naturopath-inclined doc was the one who FINALLY told me that a urinary tract IIRRITATION feels the same as a urinary tract INFECTION. And one could simply avoid irritants, like anything with caffeine (coffee, chocolate, tea, soft drinks), alcohol…

    The one thing he didn’t mention, which I figured out: in sex, the man has to WAIT UNTIL MY BODY IS READY FOR PENETRATION!!! (no wonder they ain’t teaching prevention: that would inconvenience too many impatient lads). Friction = bad! And presto… it seems to work. Unskilled/impatient/uncaring sex partner = UTI.

    Thrush hasn’t affected me as much, though my sister is and swears by cotton undies and not using tampons (bleach in tampon cottons can wreak havoc). Every time I’m given antibiotics, I take large amounts of acidophilus capsules to keep the good bacteria in hooch and intestines, and avoid unpleasantness at both ends, so to speak.

  24. On a quick scan of all the comments, no one seems to have mentioned BV either – bacterial vaginosis. A delightful disease that only made itself aware to my group of friends in our mid twenties. We’d literally never heard of it despite the fact that most of us had had it at some stage!

    Nether region health is a constant struggle and as such, all the ins and outs (pun intended) should be addressed in the early teens. It would stop many girls freaking out, feeling embarrassed or ending up in A&E when on holiday with their dad due to cystitis so bad it turned into a kidney infection!

  25. I’m sorry to hear your plight, but believe me having a penis doesn’t solve the problem. I’ve had a few bouts since elementary/primary school, and some of them were in the “can’t get off the toilet because I still need to pee” category.

  26. The trouble with all these vag-related misdemeanours is that you don’t know they’re coming until it’s too late.

    I’ve found that – as well as the patented ‘come, pee, cuddle’ technique – popping a few cranberry tablets as a pre-emptive strike works a treat. I keep a hoard of them stashed under the bed. It’s probably not the sexiest thing to be all over a bottle of pills like dogs on a meat sofa immediately after sex – but the alternative is a scene far uglier.

    I completely agree with what a lot of these comments are saying – this should be taught in schools. It’s not like you get a users guide. I recall the eye roll I gave my mother when she condemned my choice of thongs as being “asking for trouble, and thrush”… alas, she was right.

  27. Love this post. Ever since I started having sex I’ve discovered a veritable smörgåsbord of vag-related ailments firsthand. The “come, pee, cuddle” has become an integral part of my sex life.

    I developed recurrent thrush about two years ago which led to a couple changes in my life on the advice of my awesome helpful doctor. I started using Boots’ “Cottons” range of pads and tampons. They’re totally natural cotton and aren’t bleached so help with the irritation.

    I also began to find normal lube to be irritating so my doctor suggested Durex’ “Sensilube” as it isn’t as sticky and sickeningly sweet as others. It’s amazing and actually feels natural.

    Also since thick nylon tights are perfect incubators for thrush in the winter I started wearing thick stockings/hold ups so my foof could breathe. Sexy and practical!

  28. Why on earth don’t we talk about vagina malfunction more? It’s utterly essential! At various times I’ve shoved enough gunk up my chuff to feel like a walking salad dressing.

    I did all the things you’re supposed to: no perfumed baths or hair washing in the bath, no douching unless it’s the occasional water/cider vinegar malarky, weeing after sex, cranberry capsules etc.

    Eventually I discovered I was allergic to condom lubricants, and sensitive to washing powder. I’m now a pant boiler, no relation to my bunny cooking cousins.

    If you need help for bacterial vaginosis, thrush, cystitis or any other downstairs kinds of problem (except flooded cellars) I’d heartily recommend the Vulvapedia run by the Vagina Pagina community.

  29. Thank god someone is writing about this…it’s one thing I don’t think many of us like sharing but it’s something most of us go through at one point or another :-)

  30. Love this article! What a great way to explain the crap us poor girls have to go through! I first had cystitis when I was 16 and had a part time job at sainsburys while at college, and had to “explain myself” to my manager when I called in sick – at the time I was so embarrassed, I ended up creating some elaborate story!! Now I’m older and wiser through years of cystitis experience (urgh), I realise I should have just come out with it – it shouldn’t be a taboo subject.

    A couple of tips for cystitis I’ve found help me over the years…

    - When you have cystitis, avoid caffeine and alcohol!! A hangover is NOT what you want when you are peeing Satan’s tears

    - If you wear tights a lot, this can be a cause too… let your vajajay have some breezey fresh air from time to time

    - Cranberry juice won’t help you if it’s in a carton from Tesco/any old supermarket! This juice is from concentrate so won’t have the really good stuff in it as it’s diluted; what you need is to get down to a herbal store and get some cranberry capsules, or you can buy PURE cranberry juice and won’t have any preservative crap in it

    - A hot water bottle between your legs works a TREAT! mmmm toasty…

    To those who haven’t ever had it – be strong :) our bodies can endure a LOT and you will get through it! Don’t ever worry (like I did) that “this is it for the rest of my life. OH MY GAAAAD” as it will go away one way or another – drugs or copious amounts of water!

  31. I had cystitis for YEARS, went to all sorts of scans and was poked and prodded by innumerable doctors who essentially just told me to pee and get on with it – “this is just what happens when you have sex” – before prescribing a shit tonne of antibiotics (thrush ahoy!)

    Buuut the thing that ultimately, totally got rid of it was cranberry capsules! They are super super concentrated cranberry extract and I haven’t had cystitis since!