Here are 3 small, but incredibly useful additions to your summer holiday medicine kit. They are all ideally sized to throw in your handbag as you rush out of the door after the kids on summer day trips too.
First up is a product to soothe your headache – the Arkopharma Migrastick, an all-natural alternative to conventional painkillers which uses 100% pure and natural essential oils to help relieve pain caused by headaches and migraines.
Simply roll over temples, forehead or nape of the neck using circular massage movements.
The Migrastick with its rollerball
I was a little sceptical, I admit but it has a refreshing smell and is surprisingly cooling and long-lasting when applied to the temples. I think it would certainly help soothe a brewing headache when you are miles away from a pharmacy.
A note of warning though, you cannot use this product if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or if you suffer from epilepsy. And, it’s not for use on children under the age of 12.
Migrastick is small enough to have on you at all times. It’s also reasonably priced at £6.29 and is available from Amazon, Holland & Barrett and selected independent pharmacies and health stores nationwide.
Nausea and travel sickness
If you suffer from traveller’s tummy or are feeling a bit nauseous from too much sun, try The Ginger People’s Gin Gins CARAMEL – Tasty ginger and caramel sweets. They contain a massive 30% ginger per sweet.
Working mainly in the digestive tract, ginger helps to boost digestive fluids and neutralize acids, making it an effective alternative to anti-nausea medication, without the possible unpleasant side effects. These are ideal travel sweets to keep in the car’s glove compartment to calm wobbly tummies without having to break out the travel sickness pills.
Gin Gins from The Ginger People
They taste like a zingy, ginger, more chewy version of Werther’s Originals and certainly have a kick to them. The ginger may also help mums to be fighting morning sickness. Gin Gins Caramel are available from Amazon and Holland & Barrett stores nationwide.
Finally, there is Zap-It! I don’t know about you but mosquitoes and midges seem to love biting me in the hot weather. They have a way of putting a real dampener on things when you’re outside, with their dive-bombing and blood-sucking antics.
So whether you’re backpacking through South America, camping at a festival, out for a run or just barbecuing in your back garden (guess which one I do the most of!), Zap-It! is a handy gadget in your armoury against those big, angry red bites.
It can be used as and when required by all the family, but not on babies less than 2 years of age.
Zap-It! will stop the itching and reduce the swelling of the bite (but note: it will not remove toxins or infection). You simply place the flat end of the gadget on to the bite on your skin, hold the Zap-It! between your first 2 fingers and squeeze the button with your thumb.
Press the button quickly, 5 times or more as soon as possible after being bitten for fast relief. The Zap-It! will also work through light fabrics.
Each Zap-It! will relieve up to 1,000 bites – enough for many years of bites or itches! It is available in different colours from selected health stores, pharmacies, garden centres, all Asda shops and Superdrug. Zap-It! is also available online from Amazon or www.ecobrands.co.uk.
Three cheap, simple items that are easy to throw in your bag. What are your must-have travel health essentials?
The thing about being an ‘older’ mum is that just as you are coming to terms with the end of your fertility, your daughter is approaching the beginning of hers. And while, in many ways, I am thinking “good riddance!” and looking forward to many Feminax-free years (other painkillers are available), Caitlin has all the ‘fun’ of period pain to deal with.
Of course, it’s a natural part of being a woman, but the arrival of menstruation heralds a new phase of life in which nothing is ever quite the same again.
There may be some lucky souls who breeze through it and, as in the Bodyform adverts, find it no impediment to a combat-level workout, or a bar to water skiing across lakes with their long hair streaming like a glossy curtain behind them.
Frankly, I’ve never met one of these women.
‘Monthlies’ have always been more a curse than a blessing, despite the persistent attempts of sanitary protection companies to convince us that life can continue at an even higher octane pace than usual.
No. Anyone who has had the misfortune to wrestle with a Tampax Super Plus in a dank public toilet in Inveraray on a family holiday in the 80s will understand that, rather than being an affirmation of femininity, it’s proof that our creator had a very dodgy sense of humour.
Of course, society, in general, tends to regard the ending of periods as proof of old age. I believe the term ‘dried up’ is often applied.
Nobody, you’ll notice talks about the withering shrinkage which affects older men. I can’t ever remember hearing the phrase ‘withered old bachelor’.
But, because I have a 12-year-old daughter, I have to put a brave face (or foof) on things and pretend it’s all a glorious adventure.
In all seriousness though, our daughters are lucky to have access to sanitary protection and medical care which is severely lacking in poorer countries. And I once read of a woman who used to buy old handbags and fill them with personal hygiene supplies such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and tampons to give out to the homeless women she found in her city centre. What a brilliant idea.
Menstruation is as much a political as a biological issue in some quarters but that is a topic for another post.
But I digress. I have compiled a few snippets of advice which I will pass on when needed.
Tips for coping with periods and period pain
Always carry sanitary protection with you
Because periods are often irregular and will catch you out. The wrapping of many sanitary towels will rustle louder than a Roman legion marching up a gravel path so it’s pointless to try to conceal the noise.
Try to stop period pain as soon as you can
If you have period pain, try to stop it in its tracks before it gets worse. Painkillers (Feminax was always my saviour), a hot water bottle and a nap work wonders.
Tell your employer if it’s becoming a problem
Should employers allow women with period pain sick leave? That’s tricky but I’ve always felt that if you suffer from the kind of dragging period pain that floors you then you should be able to stay home. Sometimes, of course, you can’t but if you genuinely can’t perform then I think you should at least explain your predicament to HR.
If your period pain is frequently bad, see your GP
If your period pain is that bad, you should see a doctor. The most common treatment used to be the prescribing of the contraceptive pill but you should get yourself checked out for other causes of extreme pain such as cysts or endometriosis.
The contraceptive pill, of course, comes with its own set of risks so you will need to carefully weigh up the pros and cons.
Some mums might not be too happy about their young daughters taking the pill which is understandable but if it helps them to cope with the extreme pain I think it is worth considering, on the basis that there are regular GP check-ups, particularly for blood pressure.
I have never liked tampons and given the risks of Toxic Shock Syndrome, I am surprised more women don’t avoid them.
Toxic shock syndrome is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. It’s often associated with tampon use in young women and it can get worse very quickly and even be fatal if not treated promptly.
The old joke is that a woman with PMS needs chocolate or carbs to help her feel better. I’ve always found my appetite would increase significantly and, as long as you don’t go mad, the odd chocolatey treat won’t hurt. By this I mean a Twix or two and not three pounds of Hotel Chocolat’s finest.
Expect some mood swings
Crying at random stuff is normal during your time of the month. Nature documentaries, sad words on Countdown, missing your bus, insufficient choice of sarnie for your Boots Meal Deal – there really is no telling what might set you off. But it’s all completely normal.
Spots and break-outs are common around the time of your period. Much pocket money was spent on Clearasil and Neutrogena, both of which were great at dealing with oily, spotty skin. Later came the Clinique 3 Step regime and their trusty concealer which I use to this day.
Gentle exercise will help
Particularly to get things flowing and to help ease that horrid dragging feeling. Just a gentle 30-minute walk will help.
Try to stay regular
Make sure you are not constipated as this seems to make the pain worse. Bran flakes or a high fibre cereal every day from the middle of your cycle onwards may help avoid this.
Nappy sacks might be a life saver
Bear with me but since having kids I’ve realised that nappy sacks (plastic bags designed to help dispose of soiled nappies) are great to use a sanitary bags if you are out and about and there is no sanitary towel bin – and let’s be honest, most of these are not emptied anywhere near as often as they should be.
Brands DO make a difference
If there is one area where paying that little bit more makes a difference, it is with sanitary protection (as it also is with nappies!).
If you’re not sure which absorbancy towel or tampon to buy, buy one level higher than you think you’ll need. It’s always good to keep a stash of lighter absorbency towels or panty liners for those days when you’re just about to start or your flow is tailing off.
Your cycle will vary
If you’re stressed or lose a lot of weight, for example, your cycle may vary dramatically. A classic example of this is when you are studying for exams or an equally challenging life event.
You may also find that stressing about getting pregnant may not only prevent you conceiving but may affect your cycle so much you don’t know where you are with it!
You should also see a GP if you suffer from a very heavy flow.
So there you have it. While it would be great to pretend it’s all hearts and butterflies, I think it’s better to prepare our tween / teenage daughters for what is to come.
It’s hard, isn’t it to know exactly when to broach the subject of menstruation with your tween daughter – or sex come to that. My parents bought me a book about fruit flies. Truth. It’s OK though. I think the fruit flies really loved each other.
Have you discussed menstruation with your daughters? How did you approach it? And for those of you with sons, did you explain it to them too?
This is the story of what happened when I received an abnormal smear test result.
It’s fair to say that the husband is fully familiar with many of the University Hospital of Wales gynaecological corridors. (That’s not a euphemism by the way). A while ago he was there to hold my hand (or at least read a book on complex computer coding in the same room) whilst I had a colposcopy.
An abnormal smear test result meant I had to attend for an examination of my cervix. Now, lest you think this is all too much information – and I have to say I feel slightly squeamish even writing about it, I want to make a very important point – of which more later.
Leaving aside the fear engendered by a typically uninformative NHS letter (dear blah, you may, or may not have something wrong with you and in order to avoid any medical negligence claim whatsoever, we’re not about to indicate what your results really were, leaving you to worry just a teensy weensy bit), the thought that the old bod might be even more defective than even my legendary pessimism accounted for, threw me into a tailspin of gloom.
And of course, I did the worse possible thing – I googled it.
Attending the hospital appointment with designs for a huge Victorian marble mausoleum swirling in my head (if you’re going to go, go in style I say) and having extracted a promise from my sister that she would ensure my tomb would be kept pristine white (although she did mutter about being “out of vim”), I sat like a naughty child in front of the headmistress, awaiting my fate.
What I had not been told (and frankly I thought I should have) was that since my abnormal cells were glandular, I would automatically have to have a Lletz treatment where a patch of abnormal cells are removed using an electrified hook and then sent off to a lab for a biopsy. The two nurses couldn’t have been nicer although the procedure is not entirely without discomfort, despite the administration of local anaesthetic (the same dentists use apparently).
What was relevant though for women everywhere is that because I had not missed a single smear, my results were there for the colposcopist to see and she could tell that any changes were recent.
If you have an abnormal smear test result, it does NOT mean that you have cancer, merely that there are changes to your cervical cells which may become cancerous over time.
If you do not attend for your smear (and I was told that some women have as much as a ten year gap between smears), you could effectively be playing Russian Roulette with your health. Because, the quicker an abnormal result is identified, the quicker any potential dealings with the ‘Big C’ can be dealt with.
I know that having a smear is not always a pleasant experience but compared to later medical intervention, it’s really not so much of an effort, is it?
We are lucky in the UK to have a system which identifies and deals with changes before they become real problems and I have never understood why women baulk at taking advantage of this.
I had to wait a few weeks for the results of my biopsy but the staff told me that the prognosis was good.
I will be honest and say that I did not enjoy the waiting period and found it hard not to give in to rather black thoughts but I was comforted by the fact that the likelihood of there being anything really horrible present was very low.
On the other hand, if I had NOT gone for a smear and these changes had not been picked up, this could have been a far more gloomy post altogether.
PLEASE GO FOR YOUR SMEAR!
Update: It turned out I had a benign cyst on my cervix which was affecting the result of my smear. This was removed via a day surgery procedure under general anaesthetic and I am now fine.
I ask this simply because, since I married in 2011, I have put on 20 lbs which are currently sitting comfortably around my stomach (the kids call it a ‘podge’), hips and thighs. Possibly this is menopause weight gain; equally possible is that my sedentary lifestyle is starting to catch up with me.
In the bad old days of wall to wall diet books, there was a new diet every week – usually featuring one star ingredient like pineapples or a ghastly cabbage soup. But it isn’t quite as easy to talk about dieting any more, is it?
Now my ideal weight is, according to the generally unreliable but prevalent medical charts (actually devised for insurance, and not medical purposes by the way), around 9 st 9lbs.
Don’t ask me to go metric. I’m happy with Imperial measurements thank you very much.
This, I appreciate is clearly a “first world problem” which could be easily solved by not stuffing so much food in my face and joining the rapidly growing cult of “sitting is the new smoking”.
But everywhere I look there are plus sized sisters ’embracing their curves’, insisting on their right to be body confident no matter what their size (and, indeed, why not?) and even wearing obesity like some feminist trophy of war.
Women of all shapes and sizes are staking their claim to beauty and femininity. Remember the furore over that Protein World “beach body ready” advertising campaign?
But you know somewhere a little klaxon is sounding; a note of warning I can’t quite shake off.
I see these women and their bravery and I think, “perhaps I don’t need to lose any weight at all”.
Perhaps I should just eat and be happy.
Does it matter if I have a burgeoning muffin top?
Will it matter when my thighs start to chafe and I can no longer run at all?
I am really, really torn.
I know that, medically, we were not designed to carry too much excess weight and that its original purpose was to keep us alive until the next successful hunt.
I know that I should not make weight an issue for my kids, particularly Caitlin who, at nearly 12, is already aware of the body shape that the media finds most desirable – and it’s still thin.
If I’m confused by these mixed messages, what on earth is going on in the minds of our youngsters – absorbed as they are by the constant stream of images on social media?
We can have as many lauded Twitter campaigns as we like but this will not make being overweight safe for our bodies or a route to longevity.
The media can trumpet about the latest morbidly obese supermodel but is this really the way to give confidence to young women?
Some will argue that it is possible to be overweight and healthy, flying in the face of many people’s belief that, surely, the two are polar opposites?
And in an attempt to do something, anything to get the Nation’s weight under control, every week there is a new Government initiative – tax sugary drinks, tax sugar, tax alcohol.
This week fat is the enemy, the next week it’s salt.
Surely the finger of blame should point back at the manufacturers who feed us this junk and price it cheaper than the food we really need to eat.
I can guarantee that, right now, a punnet of strawberries will cost more than a chocolate bar and a multi-pack of crisps will be less than a bag of salad.
I don’t accept the argument that it’s a question of education.
Unless you’ve just been parachuted in from space you know chips are bad for you and that mass consumption of chocolate will make you fat.
No, it’s as if there’s an unhealthy collusion between the Government, restaurants, food manufacturers and the media all happily working to keep us in this state of wavering weight with the scales moving ever upwards.
Yes, I am responsible for my weight and the choices I make about it, but it’s clear that for many of us the environment in which we make these choices is becoming more and more challenging.
And what of those whose health conditions have led to them putting on weight?
What help is available for them?
It would be interesting to see NHS statistics about the number of smokers and alcoholics treated, compared with the number of obese patients.
There comes a point, I suspect, at which you simply can no longer control your weight gain without medical, psychological and emotional support.
And there goes that klaxon again.
If we just give in to weight gain and don’t make any attempt to stay within healthy limits, where are we headed?
Every day there seems to be a new ache or pain in a different part of my body. Just recently I have been feeling dizzy, as well as very, very tired.
We have got ourselves into such a muddle over weight that it is almost a crime to talk about it at all but, for our future health and that of our kids, it’s a conversation we really need to have – today, not tomorrow.
Now that I’m in my 50’s and frankly still not sure if I’m menopausal, I find that I am very aware of every change, tweak, pulsation, twinge and ache in my body. My vaginal health has become important in a way it never was before. I feel as if I am on the edge of a very large cliff about to drop me into a melee of symptoms which could affect both my mental and physical health. And it’s scary.
I’ve never been a particularly brave person. I once tried abseiling at 13 and spent 20 minutes screaming my head off swinging in and out of the arches on the Merthyr Viaduct when I missed my footing. Later, I managed to fall off a galloping horse in a Bridgend horse-riding centre and got kicked by the horse as it came back around the ring, almost breaking my arm.
Canoeing? Took chunks out of both my thumbs. Hiking? Got blisters you could see from space. Swimming? When I take my glasses off I can’t find the pool and I find the volume so loud that it gives me a tinnitus spike for days.
Such experiences have left me with a severe dislike of anything ‘outward bound’.
But, the result of being so physically ‘flaky’ when it comes to organised activity (or indeed sport in general) left me with an awareness of what my body was, and was not capable of. And so it is today.
I watch Caitlin bouncing around and practising her ballet. She cartwheels, twists and turns without a thought. She can do the splits. I don’t think I ever managed a forward roll.
I envy her confidence and willingness to claim her physical space. As women get older, some seem to shrink both literally and figuratively. ‘Invisibility’ is one of the key gripes of women struggling to deal with getting older. “I’m just not noticed” anymore they say. “I can walk down the street and not a single head turns”.
Our fertility is so much a part of who we are and how we define ourselves – rightly or wrongly – that when it wanes we can face a huge crisis of confidence.
That loss of confidence can affect every aspect of our lives – from work to friendships and especially when it comes to sex and our romantic relationships.
Internet forums are alight with women debating whether, at a certain age, sex need no longer play a role in a relationship and it is quite alright to settle into routine intimacy and to accept that the days of exhilarating and even comfortable sex are over.
It takes bravery, I think, to say “there is no age limit on sensual pleasure” and to keep claiming your physical space, your physical pleasure and even your visibility.
Let’s be frank. Lots of us in our 50’s are too bloody knackered to put up much of a fight and it’s no wonder that so many of us wearily accept HRT and stuff ourselves with Red Clover, Ginseng or the other supposed ‘miracle’ supplements that promise to return our youthful zing.
Recently, I noticed a TV ad from Vagisil in which they mentioned being ‘Fearless About Vaginal Health’, which is encouraging women to break down taboos and have more conversations around their intimate health and its impact on everyday life.
Vagisil is a brand that has been helping women to address their most personal needs for over 40 years and they recognise that when women take control of their intimate health, they are more focused, productive, comfortable and confident.
So, tired though we women ‘of a certain age’ may be, I think it’s really important to take control of our vaginal health and to stand up for what we need.
I hear loads of stories about women who are let down by their doctors. It is too easy for overworked GPs to dismiss their complaints as ‘something you just have to put up with’. Or to be prescribed HRT as it seems to work for lots of their other patients.
There should be, in my opinion, dedicated menopause clinics in surgeries. Places where women can discuss the changes to their bodies in a sympathetic environment, without fear of censure or embarrassment.
This would allow open and honest discussion of the effects of HRT, supplements and self-care techniques.
Women could discuss their relationships, the impact of the menopause on their sex lives and seek reassurance from one another that sex doesn’t stop when your eggs dry up.
It is also important, I think, to give men a chance to discuss how their partners’ menopause affects them. It’s no exaggeration to say that some marriages hit the buffers due to hormone-related problems!
Personally, if there’s one thing I am fearless about it is demanding answers to any medical problems I might have. It’s too easy to say – “ah, you shouldn’t take your diagnoses from Dr Google” but all too often, Dr Google offers information which needs to be properly considered before it is roundly dismissed.
And nowhere does this seem to be more pertinent than when it comes to matters gynaecological.
Having had my children naturally in my 40’s (at 43 and 45), and being branded a ‘geriatric mother’, I soon learned that passive acceptance of what the medical profession tells you isn’t always a good thing. You need to educate yourself so that you can ask the right questions – and it’s exactly the same with the menopause.
Things are improving but very often trying to discuss it is a bit like shouting into a wind tunnel. You are just not heard.
There are, of course, plenty of things you can do to ease your daily symptoms which are tried and tested and may offer significant relief, particularly in the case of one of the major menopausal bugbears – vaginal dryness.
You may, for example, find sex more comfortable if you use a vaginal moisturiser such as Vagisil ProHydrate Internal Gel. It has a unique bio-adherent formula containing Hyaluronic Acid, which coats the vaginal wall and slowly releases moisture over time – meaning you only need to use it once every 3 days. It comes in single-use pre-filled applicators which are great to carry with you for times when you need additional moisture or are just feeling particularly dry and uncomfortable.
Whatever you decide to try, my point is that you should be fearless about seeking the best solution to your health problems. It’s your body, after all, and nobody knows it quite like you do.
We women should all support each other and openly discuss our gynae problems – particularly at menopause. Suffering in silence helps nobody and it is likely that these symptoms are just a passing phase that can be treated.
After all, it is entirely possible that we may have another 40 or even 50 years left so it makes sense to be fearless about our vaginal health!
The Vagisil range is available from leading supermarkets and chemists nationwide.
This is sponsored content in partnership with Vagisil.
Now, ladies, this may well put you off your cornflakes but I think it needs talking about. If you have ever experienced the misery of Bartholin’s Cysts which then become Bartholin’s abscesses, you will know exactly what I am talking about.
Yes – this is one of those delightful gynaecological problems that can appear out of the blue and cause recurrent misery for years.
The Bartholin Glands are two pea-sized glands located slightly posterior and to the left and right of the opening of the vagina. Their function is to secrete mucus to lubricate the vagina. This lubrication may help make sex a little more comfortable for women.
Sometimes, however, these glands can become blocked which results in the formation of a Bartholin’s Cyst. These cysts can grow in size so that it is actually painful to sit or walk.
Believe it or not, many women don’t even know that these glands exist. And many cysts are not diagnosed until an examination such as a smear is carried out by a medical professional. You can have a Bartholin’s cyst for years without it causing you too many problems.
If, however, infection occurs, the result is an incredibly painful Bartholin’s abscess which may require drainage or surgery to get rid of it.
Nobody seems to be entirely sure what causes these cysts – the usual suspects are all there, stress, poor hygiene, bad diet, STIs and, rarely vulval cancer. For this reason, if you think you may have one you MUST go to your GP to get it checked out.
The peak age for getting these delightful swines is between 20-30 and in theory, once you reach menopause the Bartholin’s Glands are supposed to shrink so that you no longer suffer this problem. Great in theory but since I’m 51, rubbish in practice.
I had an abscess about 10 years ago and have a small Bartholin’s cyst at present so believe me I am speaking from experience here.
Treating a Bartholin’s Cyst
Usually, the first course of action to treat a possibly infected cyst is a course of antibiotics. In my experience this is a rather hit and miss method of treatment and, if the antibiotics cure the problem, there is no guarantee that it will not reappear.
At this stage, the home treatment advice tends to be to take over-the-counter painkillers and to take a sitz bath 3-4 times a day.
A sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath that cleanses the vulval area and can be used for everyday personal hygiene. It can also provide relief from pain or itching in the genital area.
If an abscess does develop, the methods of treatment are usually drainage by the insertion of a Word catheter or, as I had done, marsupialization.
Marsupialization is the surgical technique of cutting a slit into an abscess or cyst and suturing the edges of the slit to form a continuous surface from the exterior surface to the interior surface of the cyst or abscess – in other words, creating a pouch which allows drainage.
My marsupialization was done as a day surgery appointment and the recovery time was quoted as being 2 weeks. At least 6 weeks was closer to the mark and, what I was not told at the time, some sensitivity remains due to the scar tissue left behind.
Fear of surgery, particularly ‘down below’ leads many women to seek home cures and there are many sites which discuss the methods which have worked for them.
These are some suggestions but please note that their success is anecdotal and reported on various forum boards.
Dose – 5 pellets under the tongue 2 or 3 times a day.
Information on the Wisegeek.org website tells us that:-
“Silicea is derived from flint or quartz and is an abundant mineral naturally found in the Earth’s crust. Part of the structural makeup of bone and cartilage, the remedy is present in humans as a trace element. It can be found in connective tissues as well as hair, skin, and nails.
People who use this mineral believe that its cleansing effects make it particularly useful in treating dry skin, nails, or hair. This mineral is sometimes used to improve acne, blemishes, ulcers, boils, inflammation, or generally sickly skin. Infections from abscesses, skin eruptions, glass shards, and splinters may also be treated with it. Some people also use it in hopes of preventing hair loss and dandruff, and to reduce scar tissue visibility.” I am currently trying this cure at the moment which I found here.
Now there is a great deal of confusion on the boards about whether the best cure is Silicea 30c (the homoeopathic remedy) or Silica Complex. An example of what I mean is HERE and, confusingly, HERE.
Silica Complex is a dietary supplement which usually takes its Silica from Horsetail Extract and is combined with other vitamins and minerals.
Soak a gauze pad in the solution and press against the cyst for about 30 minutes.
Serrapeptase Dose: 2 a day on an empty tummy. I found mine on Amazon.
Serrapeptase is derived from the Silk Worm and is claimed to help eliminate inflammatory oedema and swelling by breaking down abnormal fluids and protein and by promoting the absorption of these decomposed products through blood and lymphatic vessels. It could also break down and liquefy mucus secretions and fibrin clots and help antibiotics to focus on infection.
There seems, however, to be insufficient clinical evidence to prove its efficacy in reducing Bartholin’s cysts.
The book promises to help us learn how many women have cured their Bartholin’s cysts and exactly what they did to treat them in the privacy of their own homes with no doctors or painful surgery. It promises to “reveal the exact method now used by countless women to get rid of their Bartholin’s cysts for good”.
Obviously, I am not a doctor and the first course of action, if you suspect that you have a Bartholin’s cyst, is to see your GP.
It would be remiss of me to suggest that you go off gung-ho and try these without prior discussion with your healthcare provider.
But let’s live in the real world, shall we?
If the provision of gynaecological services were better in the UK and if doctors were a little more sympathetic to problems like this, then the health boards of various forums would be a lot less busy.
The number one response of GPs to any gynae problem seems to be a combination of antibiotics and Canesten.
Women know their own bodies better than any GP but this knowledge does not help them to make themselves heard when it matters most.
I will continue with my antibiotics and Silicea 30c. I will try sitz baths and add a silica complex supplement to my diet.
Since I had my marsupialization I have had no further problem on that side (right), other than frequent irritation from the scar tissue. I hope that I don’t have to go through the whole process again on the left!
Bartholin’s cysts and abscesses are incredibly frustrating because there is a reluctance to treat them until the level of discomfort and/or infection is intolerable to the sufferer.
Is it any wonder that many of us, at least those of us who are brave enough to talk about it, are desperately seeking our own cure and would prefer to trust the anecdotal evidence of other women than our overstretched NHS.
Please see your GP before trying any of the supplements listed above.
Since this post was first published in 2016 I have had no further reoccurrences of Bartholin’s Cysts. If I have a ‘twinge’, I rely on the homoeopathic remedy Silicea 30c and Serrapeptase tablets and if that hasn’t settled matters, go back to my GP for a course of antibiotics. The marsupialization of my abscess did, for all intents and purposes, work.
I am now under the care of a women’s health physio and I cannot recommend her highly enough. Prior to reading Me & My Menopausal Vagina by the marvellous Jane Lewis, I did not even know this type of physio existed.
Basically, a women’s health physio treats all disorders affecting the pelvis and pelvic floor. So this would include things such as incontinence, prolapse, pelvic pain and constipation. There is growing evidence that physiotherapy can alleviate and in many cases cure the symptoms of these.
Why is this important you may wonder?
Because I receive a thorough internal examination by someone who is far more experienced in recognising things like Bartholin’s Cysts and abscesses – and more interested in helping resolve them.
I pay to see her privately and of course, I appreciate that not everyone has the funds to do this, but for years I have had a Simply Health Cash Plan which allows you to claim for the first couple of sessions on your policy. This is enough to gauge whether you think a women’s health physio will be helpful to you.
Note that you will be examined internally (but discretely and with utmost care) but all the vaginal symptoms you have been wondering about can be diagnosed – for example, vaginal atrophy and lichen sclerosis.
Thanks to my physio (Gilliam McCabe in Cardiff), I have now been re-referred to the gynae department of our local hospital to have my vaginal atrophy examined. However, were a Bartholin’s Cyst to be diagnosed, I am sure that your chances of seeing a specialist would be dramatically increased by a letter from your women’s health physio.
Earlier this year the gland on the right side appeared to be swollen slightly and it looks as if I was about to get another Bartholin’s cyst. I was advised to see the GP and received a course of antibiotics which appeared to calm the gland down again.
Thankfully the ‘twinge’ seems to have gone but I have learned that related health conditions seem to affect what goes on down below in general.
One of these is constipation so I have upped my water intake by buying one of those water bottles with a built-in straw which gives you set amounts to drink every two hours. I have also just invested in psyllium husk capsules to soften the stool and also a squatty potty so that evacuation is done in the correct posture.
Stress also seems to play a part in blocking the glands so I would recommend a book on mindful thinking or meditation.
Sleep is vital for coping with these evil little buggers so my recent investments have included new earplugs and a sleep mask which blocks out early morning sunshine. I am trying to get myself to go to bed earlier but I’m still working on it!
I also use lubricants by Yes.org on a regular basis, their water-based and oil-based lubricants and also their vaginal moisturiser. I have now been prescribed Ovestin estrogen cream to use twice a week (or as and when as the amount of ‘HRT’ contained in the cream is minuscule.
All of this is important because for years, many of us ignore our vaginas and don’t consider that we need a routine to care for them as we do for any other part of the body.
If you suffer from Bartholin’s cysts, you need to get to know your body to manage the condition. You may find that you start to recognise when the glands are getting blocked (for example it may hurt when you become aroused). If you know what you are dealing with, it takes a little of the fear away and you are better able to tell your doctor (not ask!) what you need.
The reassurance I get from visiting a women’s health physio is worth her fee a hundred times over.
Self-treatment can and does sometimes work but at any sign of an infection which makes you feel ill, then you must see a doctor.
What has become clear, since writing this post, is that many women are suffering from a Bartholin’s Cyst and yet there doesn’t seem to be any treatment other than antibiotics, catheters or marsupialisation.
Time for a lot more research to be done – don’t you think?
As ever I am happy to answer any questions you may have and if I can’t answer them then I’ll try to find someone who can.
And remember, you are not alone – and I do understand how utterly miserable Bartholin’s Cysts can make you feel and how painful a Bartholin’s Abscess can be.
Those of us of a certain age are familiar with the challenges that urinary incontinence can bring. Generally, it is something that affects those of us who have had children and there is a definite link between pregnancy and incontinence.
Incontinence can be a great source of social embarrassment and it’s good to know there are plenty of products out there that can help us to manage this condition. It is, of course, always better to try to prevent these things in the first place but in all honesty, not all of us can. Our overall health, weight and our experiences during pregnancy all play a role.
This infographic from Hartmann Direct explains that incontinence can begin in pregnancy and suggests ways in which it can be managed both during pregnancy and afterwards.
The number one piece of advice I remember being given by my midwife and, later, by my health visitor was “do your pelvic floor exercises“! Years later, and much wiser on the subject of pelvic floor health, I would advise you (if budget allows) to visit a Women’s Health Physio for more tailored advice both before and after the birth. Some of us carry tension in our pelvic floors which can actually be made worse by Kegels. I’m not a doctor so I urge you to do your research and ask as many questions as you can.
And, as with all health conditions, watching what you eat and drink can pay huge dividends. Did you know, for example, that cola can be a bladder irritant? Things improved greatly when I managed to kick my two can a day diet coke habit!
Remember you are not alone and there are things you can do so please don’t suffer in silence.
For advice on a related problem, the irritation that is haemorrhoids or piles, there’s some great advice on dealing with them here.
Do you have any strategies for avoiding or coping with incontinence? How has it affected your life?
It’s that time of year again. Sniffles, sneezing, hacking coughs and temperatures. And when one family member gets it, (usually one of the kids) the rest of us go down like dominoes! Yes, cold and ‘flu season is officially here and, in the wake of warnings from the chief executive of NHS England that Britain could face a possible flu epidemic, we need to make sure we are prepared by taking better care of ourselves, for example by stocking up on the best vitamins and minerals for colds and flu.
Want to know which ones they are? Read on.
Here in the Hobbis Household we have already had a run in with the first winter cold of the season and the problem is, that, short of bed rest, fluids and, for grown-ups, a mug of Lemsip, there isn’t that much you can do about it, other than to let the bug run its course.
I’m sure you’ve seen the posters in your local doctor’s surgery saying that antibiotics don’t work for viruses – and antibiotic resistance is becoming a huge issue for the future health of the Nation.
We all know that maintaining a healthy immune system is key to warding off bugs but it isn’t always that simple – and, frankly, when you’re well you don’t worry so much about protecting your health.
The problem with this is not only that illness can crop up seemingly out of the blue, but you are putting those with an already compromised immune system at risk.
The answer lies (as it usually does) in our diet. It’s quite ironic because as parents the importance of teaching good nutrition to our kids is really important, yet we are often rather negligent with our own diets!
But it can feel like a lot of discipline is needed to overhaul the family’s meals and snacks to move from empty calories, over-processed food and general junk, to foods that feed our bodies and health in general.
One of the easiest ways to help with this is to ensure we are eating a wide variety of foods to get enough vitamins and other key nutrients via a healthy diet so that our immune system stays fighting fit.
Best vitamins and minerals for colds and flu
Registered Dietitian Sian Porter suggests increasing intake of the following five vitamins and minerals which can all help our immune system function at its optimum. These are the best vitamins and minerals for colds and flu to stock up on.
One of the easiest ways to get more Vitamin C is to drink orange juice.
There’s no need to go mad though – all you need is a daily 150ml glass of orange juice (fresh or concentrate as nutritionally they are exactly the same).
This amount provides all the daily vitamin C you need and counts as one of your five-a-day!
Perhaps what is not quite as well known is that orange juice is also a source of the B-vitamin folate and both vitamin C and folate help to keep the immune system healthy. Folate is needed for white blood cells which protect the body against infectious diseases and helps these to rapidly reproduce.
Popeye definitely had the right idea with his love of spinach. As Sian says, “winter greens such as spinach are rich in essential nutrients including iron and served alongside a winter warming bean stew this makes perfect eating for the cough and cold season.”
When it’s dark and dreary outside, it’s all too tempting to reach for the biscuit tin but Sian suggests swapping your sweet treats for a handful of almonds (28g). Almonds are a great source of zinc which contributes to the healthy function of the immune system.
Selenium is an important antioxidant with a role to play in normal immune function. Mushrooms are a great source of selenium and it’s easy to add them to stews and casseroles for extra taste and texture. You’ll find a great cookbook here.
Sian says: “As well the part of our immune system known as ‘innate immunity’, the body also has processes in place called ‘adaptive immunity’ which is when the body recognises a virus it has encountered before and initiates a response. Vitamin A (the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A) is needed for the development of cells which carry out this response. Adding veg rich in beta-carotene like carrots and red peppers will brighten up your winter dishes and boost your beta-carotene
So, increasing these 5 vitamins and minerals could help improve the strength of your immune system and ward off those nasty cold and flu bugs. That’s something we can all do – even if it’s just adding a glass of orange juice to your breakfast.
You may recall from my previous post that I am currently testing the HoMedics STRETCH mat to help my rather temperamental back. After two caesareans just 18 months apart and a rather too sedentary lifestyle, I find my back is prone to grumble and even goes into spasm if I lift too heavy a weight.
I have to admit that this has limited the range of activity I do, despite the advice of my physio that I should be exercising MORE, not less. Bed rest is not the answer. Painkillers and movement such as back stretches are.
I am learning about the benefits of stretching my back in a gentle programme of pilates once a week and trying to limit the length of time I sit blogging in the broken down armchair which currently serves as my ‘office’.
In truth, we all need to incorporate more stretching into our daily routine and there are 3 key benefits.
Prevention of more serious damage – for example, tears to ligaments
Improvement of general mobility – helping to stave off age-related stiffness, aches and pains
It feels good.
As we know, exercise is good for body and mind and studies show that it may even stave off dementia.
Stretching helps improve balance and coordination which can help if you tend to be slightly accident-prone. The last time I put my back out I simply bent down to pick up a black bag full of rubbish. That was it!
But we seem to be up against the clock these days and finding the time (and inclination) to exercise is difficult.
When I remember (!) I do a short series of stretching exercises such as a basic pilates roll down, hip twists and basic Yoga pose – Pose of A Child. Even though I do pilates weekly, I still struggle to remember all the moves.
No such problem with the HoMedics STRETCH mat which puts you through a selection of yoga stretches without you having do much other than lie there and relax.
Yoga is proven to help you to release tension and improve flexibility with immediate benefits for the shoulders, hips and back.
The STRETCH mat puts you through a gentle, but thorough workout by inflating precision controlled air chambers in sequence to encourage your lumbar region to stretch, release and relax. And it’s so simple to set up – simply unfold, position the headrest and plug in.
Then choose from one of 4 pre-programmed sequences:-
Twist – A short session that focuses on relieving tension in shoulders and hips.
Flow – A progressive flow of stretches that gently mobilise the whole length of the spine, leaving you feeling refreshed and supple.
Energise – An uplifting program designed to help you refuel and boost your energy levels.
Stretch – An ‘all-round’ treatment to provide a refreshing antidote after staying seated for a long period of time.
The sequences are of varying duration and you can pause, play and customise the intensity of each one to suit your flexibility.
When you’re done, simply fold the mat away again. It has a handle so you can carry it from home to the office.
The HoMedics STRETCH mat is an ideal way to bring the benefits of yoga into your day – whether you are a yoga-phobe or a yoga-lover.
All you need to do is relax and let the mat do the work and treatments can be repeated as often as feels good for you, but as with anything new, always start gently and build up your regime as your body becomes accustomed.
The HoMedics STRETCH Mat is currently on offer for £199.99 (RRP £249.99) and is available to buy from HoMedics.co.uk, Argos and Amazon.
As we get older, our skin becomes less supple, less clear and less able to support itself. The effects of this are only too clear as we start to lose collagen – and as a 50 something, I speak from some experience!
Collagen is a major structural protein and is an important component of our skin, bones and the connective tissue in our bodies.
It is composed of amino acids that provide strength and structural support to our skin, hair, nails, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.
Our collagen levels are highest when we are young – that’s why our kids have smooth skin and shiny hair. But, sadly, collagen levels begin to deplete from the age of 25 and by the time we get to 40 we will have lost around a third of our collagen – hello wrinkles and sagging!
Factors like pollution, ageing, smoking and alcohol consumption lead to a high rate of collagen degradation over time, resulting in wrinkles, fine lines and sagging skin.
A healthy diet is vital for good skin but we can give our bodies a little extra help by taking a collagen supplement which can help restore this vital substance and reduce the signs of ageing.
I’ve just discovered Absolute Collagen – an innovative new product designed to leave your skin softer, healthier and reduce the signs of ageing. You simply drink a sachet a day for healthier, happier skin.
Absolute Collagen’s unique anti-ageing liquid formula is claimed to provide you with the highest dose of collagen in the most concentrated daily dose in the most convenient way.
It contains f2000 hydrolyzed marine collagen and each 10ml serving contains 8000mg of hydrolysed marine collagen. Their advanced formula is also infused with vitamin C, which works together with fish collagen for optimum skin rejuvenation and tissue renewal.
Fish collagen, also known as ‘marine collagen’, is extracted from cold-water fish. After manufacturers extract collagen from the fish, they refine it to remove the unpleasant fishy odour and taste while retaining the collagen’s nutritional value.
Marine collagen enters the bloodstream faster than other types of collagen, so it is the best source of collagen for you.
Absolute Collagen contains 8000MG of collagen per dose, which is a higher concentration than any other collagen solution and it’s made in the UK too.
Absolute Collagen is 100% natural protein and free of dairy, lactose, soy, wheat and gluten. It contains no artificial colours, flavours. The product is free of fat and cholesterol and contains 36 calories per 10ml sachet.
I found Absolute Collagen easy to take and pleasant tasting with a slight lemon flavour. Either take directly from the sachet or dissolve in a little hot water and drink. It’s an easy way to supplement your skincare routine which, like many busy mums, is pretty non-existent in my case!
Absolute Collagen can be purchased direct from the company’s website or on Amazon.
If any time of year is going to test your strength and stamina, it’s going to be the school holidays. Trying to keep up with the kids and join in with all of their running around and activities isn’t easy! It will certainly show you up if you haven’t been taking care of your fitness levels lately. Even so, kids have more energy, so they are easily going to run circles around you!
What might be particularly bothersome is just how achy you feel after a few minutes of football or swingball with them in the garden. Your knees and feet might be feeling the brunt of it. Usually, this can occur because you’re simply not used to moving in that way. To avoid it happening, spend some time stretching and warming up the body before getting involved in the activity. When you’re finished, drink some water, and repeat all those stretches again. Another stretch later in the evening can help too.
Of course, it’s not just the activities with kids that might be leading to aches and pains. By the end of your thirties and into your early forties, the body simply isn’t as elastic as it once was. You can see some of that evidence on your face with the fine lines and odd wrinkle. Try to keep your exercise levels up to reduce that feeling of fatigue in your muscles. As for aching joints, they say omega 3 fish oils can help. Use them all in their full range of motion every day. Stretches are ideal for this.
Aches and pains
Other pains that won’t quit aren’t necessarily a sign of ageing. Pains in the wrists and hands can occur at any age, especially if you perform repetitive tasks like typing all day every day. Arthritis can sometimes be identified by the extra heat and fluid around the joint. Only your doctor can make a diagnosis. There are other pains that can occur in adulthood too, for example Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Those ‘regular’ aches and pains we women suffer can also worsen or change as we get older. They’re not necessarily a sign of ageing, but simply your body’s hormone levels changing during the course of the month. Some say it changes the longer it has been since you were last pregnant. None of this is necessarily anything to do with impending menopause, but if you are concerned, it is important to speak to your doctor. Try my tips for dealing with period pain.
Perhaps one of the worst aches you can suffer is a backache. Children, adults, and seniors can all suffer from backache if the posture is not corrected or supported. Activities like yoga and pilates can strengthen the core and the other supporting muscles for the spine. Practice correcting your posture if you find yourself slouching or slumping and encourage your kids to stand up straight too. Dance classes, gymnastics, and martial arts can help improve their posture well.
Are you finding life is full of aches and pains these days?
Good Housekeeping readers may recall a fabulous article in last year’s September edition entitled “Why 60 is the new 40” and in it, Good Housekeeping Science Editor, Vivienne Parry listed a great number of ‘wins’ for women in that age bracket – whilst offering a great deal of optimism and cheer for those of us headed in that direction.
She pointed out that today’s 60 year olds:-
* are the first generation to have antibiotics as well as vaccines available to them their whole lives.
* have been spared the long-term health complications of childhood infections or infectious diseases like rheumatic fever and TB
* have better health than their mothers did at the same age with many looking comparatively younger
* enjoy better dental health due to reduced tooth loss from tooth decay – largely thanks to fluoride toothpaste, which became available from the late 1950s.
* enjoy better heart health. Heart attacks in women halved between 2002 and 2010 with the greatest decline seen in 65-74 year olds.
A reduction in smoking, improvements in air quality, better food and the use of statins are likely contributory factors to this.
*are living longer with diseases such as breast cancer. Nearly 8 out of 10 women survive 10 years or more compared with the 1970s. Stomach cancer cases have fallen 62% in the last 40 years and ovarian cancer in the over 60 age group has fallen by nearly 25% (use of the contraceptive pill has contributed to this). Cervical screening has seen an 81% reduction in the incidence of cervical cancer in women aged 50-64.
*are included in clinical trials where as in years gone by, these trials only involved men.
Incredible isn’t it? Despite the gloom that we may naturally feel as our birthdays start to stack up, there is so much to be positive and hopeful about.
None of this, however, is an excuse to rest on our laurels and in order to continue to enjoy vibrant health long term, there are some simple changes we can all make to our lifestyle.
Here’s your later life health primer.
The popularity of the 5:2 Diet seems to back up American research that fasting on alternative days boosts the genes related to anti- ageing. A two year study found that cutting calories to 75% of your normal intake lowered blood pressure cholesterol and insulin resistance.
Choose healthy fats
Eating monounsaturated fats (for example those found in avocado and olive oil), has been shown to raise levels of ‘good’ cholesterol – HDL whilst lowering levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDL. We know we should avoid saturated fats.
Eat less refined sugar
Did you know that if you eat too much refined sugar, it can attach itself to your skin’s collagen and elastin fibres. This affects their ability to regenerate and can eventually cause deep wrinkles.
Drink more water
Our ageing bodies don’t retain water the way they should. An easy way to up your water intake is to make sure you have a sports bottle of water with you at all times to keep you cool, mentally alert and, studies show, to prevent heart disease.
Cut back on alcohol
Some of the heaviest drinkers are, surprisingly, in my age group but we know that our health will improve if we don’t exceed the Government’s guidelines of 14 units a week on a regular basis. The current medical advice is that we should also make sure that we have two days off a week from alcohol.
Take a daily walk
Just a 30 minute walk a day will show benefits in blood flow strength, balance and stamina. Exercise will also help prevent diabetes and keep your bones strong, thus reducing your risk of a fall.
Get enough sleep
The growth hormones promoting cell repair peak at the deepest stage of the sleep cycle so you need to make sure you are getting your full 8 hours to give your skin’s repair systems a chance to recover.
Check your Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D levels
Did you know that low levels of vitamin B12 can cause hair to grey prematurely? Lack of B12 is also indicated in muscle weakness, fatigue and memory problems. Low Vitamin D levels have been linked to a range of health conditions such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis and lots of us are deficient in Vitamin D, especially during the winter. Try to top up your levels daily by 15 minutes in the sun and when you can’t do that, take a supplement instead.
It will come as no surprise to learn that chronic stress is incredibly ageing. Research has discovered that a high stress lifestyle increases your risk of diseases such as Parkinsons, Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease so try to find something that calms and destresses.
I have written before about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness which have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and those who practise these disciplines regularly have been found to have longer telomeres. These are the protective caps on the end of chromosomes and having longer telomeres have been linked to longer life.
Have more sex
Studies into the sex lives of middle aged men and women have discovered that regular sex can make you look seven years younger. That’s better than any face cream!
I turned 53 at the end of May this year and I’m heartened that, with a bit of positivity, and positive action, there is no reason why the forthcoming decades need mean a decline or any kind of lessening of looks, strength and joie de vivre.