Women’s health is especially important to us at Vanilla Luxury. As an all-women team, our issues with regards to women's health are something we have personally faced and we know how stressful and uncomfortable it can get trying to find the right answers and solutions.
Trying to find solutions for ourselves was how we got to know about Dr Jessherin Sidhu, who runs Insync Medical, a GP+ clinic that focuses on sexual wellness and women’s health.
Dr Jessherin Sidhu helps us answer some of the most burning questions relating to women’s health.
Vanilla Luxury: How often should we get a pap smear done and why is it important?
Dr Jessherin Sidhu: Ideally, a pap smear should at the very least be done once in every 3 years. As long as your pap smear results return as normal, doing them once every 3 years is adequate.
However, if you combine your pap smear together with a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) test, you will only need to do a pap smear and HPV test once every 5 years. This creates convenience and it is a bonus to women who find pap smears uncomfortable.
An HPV test looks for the virus that causes the cells on your cervix to become unhealthy in the first place. So logically, it would be preferable to look for the presence of HPV as opposed to looking for the effects of HPV, which are the unhealthy changes to the cells of your cervix.
Pap smear and HPV testing are very important to prevent cervical cancer. Early detection of small changes in your cervix can be easily managed without having to resort to major surgery. These unhealthy changes in your cervix will fester if they are undetected.
Cervical cancer is slow-growing as it can take a decade for normal cervical cells to transform into cancer in the presence of HPV. This provides an ample window of opportunity to detect unhealthy changes on your cervix well before they transform into cancer.
It is therefore vital to get your pap smear and HPV test is done early and regularly so as to catch their pre-cancers so as to nip them in the bud with simple procedures before they fully transform into cancers.
Cervical cancers are very preventable. No woman should die from cervical cancer.
Vanilla Luxury: I suffer from terrible menstrual cramps and Premenstrual Symptoms (PMS), what are my options?
Dr Jessherin Sidhu: The honest truth is that prolonged and recurrent painful period pains are not normal. It is always good to consult your women’s health doctor and get yourself examined as it is important that the culprit of these bad menstrual cramps are identified.
60% of women who have bad menstrual cramps have Endometriosis, a painful inflammatory condition where the lining of the inner uterus lies on the outside instead in various regions of your pelvis. It can take an average of 5-8 years before a woman is correctly diagnosed with Endometriosis.
Endometriosis is difficult to diagnose on an ultrasound scan alone. Sometimes the deposits are small and they cannot be picked up on an ultrasound scan. If your menstrual cramps bother you badly, please visit your women’s health doctor. The medications used to manage Endometriosis should give you pain relief and it should also control of reverse the progress of the disease.
However, if you are not trying to conceive, there are treatments available for you to skip your period and in that way also skip your PMS symptoms, especially if you’re having a hard time with PMS symptoms and painful menstrual cramps. At Insync Medical, we use hormonal treatments like birth control pills, hormonal injections and IUDs.
Vanilla Luxury: Are there any home remedies for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) or over the counter medications as I can’t pick it up while I'm in discomfort?
Dr Jessherin Sidhu: UTI is a commonly occurring issue amongst women. At Insync Medical, we like to emphasise empowerment and staying one step ahead of your UTI. If you have an established pattern of your UTI, for example, you get a UTI after sexual intercourse, then there are solutions that can be put into place to prevent you from getting a UTI. Recognising your unique pattern of UTI flares is key to allowing us to help you devise a plan to prevent them.
For some women, I prescribe them a set of antibiotics that they can keep with them and take a single tablet after sexual intercourse as a means of prevention. This prevents an episode of UTI and also avoids the need of taking a whole weeks supply of antibiotics to treat a full-blown UTI. This solution, however, must be discussed with your doctor.
At Insync Medical, we do teleconsults for our patient as we understand the urgency to resolve the painful and distressing symptoms of a UTI. With the teleconsults, we then deliver the necessary medications to where you are located.
Vanilla Luxury: I experience intense pain while having sex, what should I do?
Dr Jessherin Sidhu: Don’t normalise it and most of all don’t accept it as something you have to tolerate. Sexual intercourse is supposed to be pleasurable and not painful. If it’s pain that you are experiencing, then that’s a red flag your body’s highlighting to you.
See your women’s health doctor and relay the pain that you’ve been experiencing in terms of how consistent it is, whether the pain happens only at the entrance of the vagina or deeper in your abdomen. Does the pain occur only with particular sex positions? Does it only happen on the right or on the left? Do you also have this pain outside intercourse for example during your period or is it random?
Many things can cause pain during sex such as vaginal dryness, lack of arousal prior to penetration, an enlarged uterus – conditions like Adenomyosis or Endometriosis, and even varicose veins in your pelvis - yes varicose vein can also happen in your pelvic area giving you congested pelvis making sexual intercourse painful.
There’s another condition that is not so commonly known. It’s called Vaginismus. Women with vaginismus find penetration of the vagina painful or even impossible. It feels like ”hitting a wall” when penetration is attempted whether with a finger, a small vibrator or the penis. I have seen women with unconsummated marriages who struggle with this silently for years.
The muscles at the entrance of the vagina form a ring that spasm tightly when any penetration is attempted. Imagine trying to gain entry through a very tight ring. It can be frighteningly painful for a woman experiencing this.
Vaginismus stems from both psychological fear of penetration and conscious anticipation of the pain one might experience that results in the physical spasm of the muscles that form the vaginal ring.
At Insync Medical, we work to discuss both the emotional and underlying personal, relationship and social factors that contribute to this and we can help alleviate the pain one experiences during penetration through the use of behavioural techniques, therapy with dilators and topical numbing creams and even botox to temporarily relax these muscles to allow for less painful penetration.
During this time while we assist with the painless penetration we never ignore the underlying issue that contributed to vaginismus and with each session, we encourage relationship discussions and expression of one’s feelings.