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Author Topic: infection, irritation, allergic reaction?
artsygirl643
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I've always had sensitive skin. If I get exposed to any irritating product externally, I will have a rash for months even after discontinuing use. Well unfortunately I'm learning the same goes for my vulva. I've been having intercourse with my guy for a year and for a few months now I'll get some itching and burning a few days after sex. I think it's a reaction to either condoms or lube. When this first happened, I thought it was a uti and was prescribed antibiotics which weren't helping, then I realized it may have been a yeast infection and treated it. I went to my gyno to get her opinion and there wasn't anything. No yeast/bv, stds (already been tested plus we're both eachother's first partners+been together 5 years). She said I just have super sensitive skin and gave me a handout on things that I already do, like not using soap on my vulva, no douching, wearing loose undies whenever possible, etc. She also said that since I'm on the ring I can try just relying on that because we're monogomous. That actually worked out GREAT and I had no irritation but I'm too paranoid to not use a barrier method and don't trust it alone (that's a whole other issue) I switched from using regular astroglide to the glycerin/paraben free kind but it burns for the first few seconds when I put it on, which is really a mood killer when you're getting ready to have sex [Frown] I'm considering switching from latex to the Skyn polisoprene condoms, but then what about lube? I'm really frustrated about this because I've been dealing with it on and off for months. I just want to enjoy sex with my boyfriend, because the sex itself is awesome but the irritation sometimes makes me feel afraid to have sex. Does anyone have suggestions for soothing irritation and SUPER hypoallergenic lubes/condoms that I can possibly try? I'm getting desperate here [Razz]
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Heather
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When you're putting the lube on, are you doing so BEFORE any sexual activity begins? Just checking that first, because if not, but only after you feel dry, any lube or liquid can cause a stinging feeling.

I was going to suggest trying the Skyns specifically, or the female condom: both of which are non-latex, just to see if that helps.

With the lube, have you tried either Pink lube or any lubes from Emerita? (You can Google to find them if they're unfamiliar.) Both are created to be more hypoallergenic. And from one sensitive-skin person to another, personally, I have thought they made some difference.

Alternately, if you're using non-latex condoms, you might see if a natural lubricant like coconut oil works better for you. You can use that as lube with non-latex, just not with latex. It's actually a pretty popular alternatives with post-menopause folks, who tend to have a lot of vulval sensitivity issues.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Heather
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Alternately, if you think you'll be in a mutually monogamous relationship for a while, and you're both already all-clear on the STI front, you might consider talking with your GYN about a more effective, more foolproof method than your ring, like the implant, IUD or shot?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Sorry, one more thing (end of my long workday, brain not as sharp as earlier in the day!): I don't know if you find it works for you, but the tissue of your lips on your face is a lot like vulval tissue, so it might help to test any lube by putting it on your mouth first, just to see. And if you're somewhere with a lube selection you can shop for with testers, that can be a way to find out if something is or isn't likely to work for you without having to go broke buying whole bottles.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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artsygirl643
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I am putting lube on before penetration, and unfortunatelydon't think I can use the more long term methods because of the continuous hormones. I need the hormones for cramps but if I don't get my period the spotting is worse than my actual period (I tried that when first starting the pill) BUT I totally forgot that you can use more oil/natural lubes with non latex condoms! Yay! I think I'm gonna ditch chemical lubes altogether and try the coconut oil. Also the lip testing trick is a great idea because the skin around my lips is very sensitive! Now I just have two more questions:
Are there any other oils you can use with lube, like olive oil?
And is there anything I can do for irritation in the meantime?
Anyway, thank you SO much for your suggestions, Heather! You're the best! *virtual hugs*

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Heather
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Per oils for lubes, you really could use any natural oils -- avocado, olive, jojoba, for instance -- but it's going to be about finding out which work best and also which do okay with your vaginal pH balance. Coconut seems to be the one folks using oils as lubes -- who have vulvas -- have the best luck with.

Per irritation in the meantime, how about tabling any kind of sex where you need the barriers and lube until you can get your hands on them and see how the alternatives work?

Alternately, I'm heading off for the day, but if you think you'd also like to have the option of only using the ring and not condoms, and talking through some things would help you with that, I'd be happy to do that.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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artsygirl643
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Ok! And yes I like to consider as many options as possible before making decisions, so if we could talk about using the ring without condoms, that would be great. I did enjoy sex without condoms, but I spent the rest of the month freaking out. I've had like 3 withdrawal bleeds on time since then, so I'm not pregnant, but I'm just really afraid of pregnancy.I do use the ring perfectly unlike when I was on the pill, so I know it's like 99% effective....I think also knowing that sperm is swimming around my uterus freaks me out because in school it was drilled into our brains that sex+no condom=pregnant.
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Heather
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Gotcha.

So, maybe we should first talk about how the ring works, if you don't know? I ask because it works in three ways, like the pill does, and one of those things means that sperm aren't actually swimming in your uterus.

Mind, they NEVER are: that's not where they go to create a pregnancy, only to the fallopian tubes. The uterus is where a fertilized egg, and then a fetus goes, not sperm.

But one thing the ring does is thicken cervical mucus, so them even getting into or even to your cervical opening is very unlikely.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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artsygirl643
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Oh, okay. So on the ring sperm can't get to the fallopian tubes? And then since you're not ovulating there's nothing to fertilize anyway....
One thing that confuses me though is cervical mucus. Like is that just discharge or is it stuff that is actually building up inside your cervix to make a barrier for sperm? Because I imagine that when my boyfriend orgasms that the head is probably close to my cervix.....

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Heather
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So, the ring, like the pill does three different things to work to prevent pregnancy:

1) It works to suppress ovulation, the release of an egg to be fertilized in the first place.
2) It thickens cervical mucus, making it awfully challenging for sperm cells to get to or through the cervix (when someone is fertile, cervical mucus is very thin to aid sperm mobility), and
3) It works to keep the uterine lining thinner so even in the case those first two things failed, and an egg did get fertilized, it'd be tough for it to implant and thus, create a pregnancy.

That mucus isn't coming from your vagina (vaginal canal), but is inside your cervix, and then surrounds it. When it's thick, it can even effectively create a sort of plug around the cervical opening.

Cervical mucus is one part of our regular vaginal discharges, but only one.

That help clear things up?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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artsygirl643
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Okay! Yeah that does clear things up [Smile] I think now I'm going to consider what I'm most comfortable with. I've wanted to let this out for a while but one reason I'm afraid of pregnancy is because so many people I know have gotten pregnant before they're ready, including my brother, which at the time affected how my parents treated me (they were afraid i'd do the same thing). I just don't want my life to change like that, especially since I just graduated and have a lot of plans for college. I guess I'm afraid that if I got pregnant because I didn't use a condom on the ring that it would all be my fault for not being as responsible as possible. But the ring seems like it's really effective so I shouldn't have to worry in the first place, right?
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Heather
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I totally understand.

Realistically, using two methods of contraception really is way better than using any one, and really is what can get us down to as close to a 0% risk as there is.

However, very reliable methods -- like your ring -- when used to the letter, always, also leave only a very small risk.

In the real world, most of the time, pregnancy that someone didn't plan or want happens when either a) someone isn't using contraception at all, or b) someone is using it, but improperly, inconsistently, or both. By all means, sometimes BC used properly and always *does* fail, but those pregnancies make up a very, very small percentage of those folks who become pregnant each year.

(And too, let's remember that not every pregnancy ends with parenting or a kid, nor does it have to.)

I also think that contraception has to fit the person using it. As a personal example, I'm one of those people who needs to stay away from hormonal methods. They simply do my body and mind in in ways that make using them way more risky for me than not, even as someone who has never wanted to be pregnant. So, since I figured that out in my 20s, I used other methods that DO fit me, and which, when used, are also highly effective. Did they always work? Nope, I did get pregnant once when I didn't intend to or want to be. But in a whole reproductive lifetime, that's something that tends to happen to most folks with a uterus no matter what they're doing at one time or another: we often don't realize that, I think, because many of those folks want to become pregnant at some point, so.

So, you need to sort out what works for you and your unique body, and what you're comfortable with risk-wise. And obviously, sexual choices are part of that picture, too, not just what BC you do or don't use when you engage in sex.

You have options. and what options you choose are going to be about you: there just isn't any one-size-fits-all, or even fits-most, when it comes to contraception.

Sounds to me like you would feel better with more than one method, so I would see if the non-latex condoms work better for you first. And obvs, you need to find a lube that works just for your own pleasure and comfort sometimes, regardless of BC stuff.

If those don't work either, you still have some other options to get more effective, or more foolproof, protection from pregnancy than your ring offers if that's what you want.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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artsygirl643
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I think I'm going to talk with my boyfriend about it so we can discuss our comfort levels. Having you explain exactly how the ring works really helped though. I also realized that I went on birth control originally for my cramps/pms, and since I was so focused on that the doctor never really went over how hormonal methods prevent pregnancy. At the moment (and after going through birth control bingo many times) the ring is the most convenient method for me. My next choice would be sterilization since I desire a childfree life, but that's probably not going to happen for a long time. For right now I want to stop this burning from reacting to that lube even though it's been a few days [Frown]
Anway, thank you so much for talking me through all of this. I appreciate it so so much.

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Heather
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Of course!

And if you want to check back in after you try those other options with lube and condoms -- especially if one or both don't work for you -- I'm happy to help you keep brainstorming. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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artsygirl643
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Ok! I'll come back on here and let you know how it works once I try it out [Smile]
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artsygirl643
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oh, one quick question. Is it safe to use oil based lubes with nuvaring? Like they won't interact or make it less effective will it?
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Onionpie
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Hi artsygirl. The nuvaring website and several health resources mention nothing about any kind of lubricant compromising the ring's effectiveness, so I think it'll be fine to use oil-based lubricants.
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artsygirl643
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I'll go with that then. Thank you! [Smile]
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artsygirl643
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Hi Heather, I'm back with another question. So we tried the new lube/condoms and it worked great! No burning or itching, but now I've noticed an achy pain in my vagina during sex.(this happened once before trying the new lubes too) The only other time I felt pain like that was when my periods were super bad before starting any type of birth control. I'm starting to wonder if being on the ring has exasperated how sensitive my vulva is, and all sorts of other symptoms. I've been on it for 4 months now. I mainly went on the ring for convenience, but in reality the pill worked fine as far as regulating my periods and controlling the anxiety I had with pms. Now on the ring, my anxiety is coming back a lot worse, and I've been really depressed when I should actually be happy about my life. I talked to my boyfriend about it and he's noticed my change in mood too. Additionally, all of this has significantly lowered my sex drive. I like to think of myself as a very sexual person, but for months now I rarely even think of sex in the same way. In fact my sex drive and mood is at its best during the week when the ring is out! Does that mean something? I'm frustrated because I really wanted the ring to work for me, but I'm not so sure. Do you think switching back would be a good idea?

[ 09-17-2012, 03:01 AM: Message edited by: artsygirl643 ]

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September
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If you've noticed that these changes coincided with starting the ring, it is possible that the ring is at fault. Our bodies react differently to different types of hormonal birth control, and not all types work for us. Since you've also been on it for four months now, and these side-effects are still around, I think it would be a good idea for you to discuss this with your doctor. They may suggest switching you back to the pill, if that worked better for you.

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Johanna
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artsygirl643
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I called my doctor and I'm going to pick up my good ol' pills tomorrow [Smile] I'm bummed that the ring didn't work out for me, and my doctor was kind of surprised about that too. I realized though that the pill was fine, I just wanted the convenience of the ring. Before I got it I didn't really stop to think about whether or not it would be irritating to constantly have something in my vagina. Well lesson learned, if it's not broken, don't fix it!
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