Vaginal Infections and UTIs

Infections are nothing to be of.


Vaginal infections are common. There are different kinds and they can be caused by all sorts of things. Vaginal infections aren’t a reason to judge a person’s hygiene or sexual activity, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. What’s shameful is how little education there is on the subject…

of UK women only find out about vaginal infections when they first experience them.*

*1,600 women, Canesten WIH Path to Purchase study, Truth 2019

Let’s look at the causes of vaginal infections. Did you know the vagina is home to a whole ecosystem? There are good bacteria in there, which produce lactic acid to make the vagina’s environment acidic and help to prevent bad bacteria from surviving.

Day-to-day factors can cause imbalances to the good bacteria and to the natural pH balance. Some of these factors are controllable and avoiding them can help to prevent recurring thrush, like wearing tight clothes in non-breathable fabrics.
Others are just a part of life, which occasionally lead to dryness, irritation and possibly an infection.

Good to know

Neovaginas (vaginas that have been constructed by gender-reassignment surgery) have their own way of functioning that can differ from vaginas. For example, some neovaginas might not have a vaginal scent and they might not self-lubricate, while others do. Some neovaginas are prone to vaginal infections and some aren’t.

Neovaginas can produce vaginal discharge for their own unique reasons. If you have a neovagina and are not sure about your symptoms, you should speak to your doctor.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

BV can be triggered by sex, amongst other things, but isn’t an STI (sexually transmitted infection). Symptoms can include a strong, unpleasant fishy vaginal odour and a change in vaginal discharge.


Many things can trigger thrush, including parts of everyday life e.g. having sex or taking antibiotics. Symptoms can include white, thick vaginal discharge, itching, burning, soreness of the vagina and swelling of the labia, discomfort when having sex and pain when weeing.

Cystitis is a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)

Not to be confused with a vaginal infection, a UTI is an infection of the urinary tract.
Symptoms may include pain or burning when weeing, needing to wee more often and cloudy wee.
Cystitis is a type of UTI and is an inflammation of the bladder. Symptoms may include pain, burning or stinging when weeing and needing to wee more often and more urgently than normal.

Having a weakened immune system, for example when you’re feeling generally run down or taking steroids, can make it harder for your body to fight off infections like thrush. Here are some ways to boost your immune system:

  • Eat a varied diet with lots of fruit and veg
  • Move regularly e.g. walking, swimming, yoga
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water
  • Manage your stress levels
  • Sleep for 8-10 hours a night
    (recommended for teens)
Representation of BV Discharge

Representation of BV Discharge

Representation of STI Discharge

Representation of STI Discharge

Representation of Thrush Discharge

Representation of Thrush Discharge

If you’ve had unprotected sex…

Chlamydia, herpes, HIV… if you’ve had sex without a condom (whether you have a vagina or not) you may need to get tested for STIs. (Note: herpes can be passed on even if you use a condom, but using one does reduce the risk as long as it covers the infected area.)

Not all STIs have symptoms, so don’t wait and hope for the best – go and get tested.

Lumps and bumps in the intimate area might just be an ingrown pubic hair, or it might be an inflamed Bartholin’s gland, a herpes blister, or a genital wart. If you have any pain, itching or other symptoms, there’s no need to panic. Speak to your GP if you’re worried and find out what’s going on.

Take control of your intimate health

Sometimes the symptoms of conditions like thrush, BV, cystitis or vaginal dryness can be confusing. But don’t worry, help is at your fingertips!
This free, online symptom checker is powered by Ada in partnership with Canesten and uses AI to match your symptoms with possible conditions. It is optimised by doctors to help you understand your symptoms and what might be causing them.

We encourage you to speak to a healthcare professional to confirm your diagnosis.

Start Symptom Checker

Canesten Thrush External Cream 2% w/w cream contains clotrimazole. Always read the label.