The Taboo Surrounding Women’s Intimate Health: Many Whisper or Lower Their Voices When Ordering Intimate Products

A significant number of women feel embarrassed and uncomfortable when discussing their own bodies, with over a fifth (21 percent) even resorting to whispering or using a lowered voice when ordering intimate products from behind the counter.

The largest study on women’s intimate health in the UK, involving 5,000 participants, found that women feel uneasy discussing anything related to their private parts. Thirty percent of women would prefer to seek advice from the internet rather than healthcare professionals.

Additionally, 42 percent would be mortified to discuss private matters with close friends, including topics such as discharge, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), thrush, or bacterial vaginosis.

The study also revealed that 74 percent of women believe they are taught from a young age to hide their experiences and “be discreet” when referring to anything related to their bodily functions.

Lack of education about intimate health was identified as a contributing factor. Dr. Shazia Malik, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist working with women’s intimate healthcare brand Balance Activ, highlighted the need for change. She emphasized the importance of women being able to recognize signs of changes in the vagina or vulva and encouraged women to educate themselves and others.

The study found that women aged 45-55 often have a preferred term for their genitals (28 percent) and use it instead of the medical terms “vagina” or “vulva.” Despite knowing that the experiences they go through are completely natural, seven out of ten women prefer to minimize discussions about them.

Younger women, aged 18 to 24, expressed feeling relatively uninformed about their bodies, with over half (57 percent) stating they felt clueless about the changes their bodies constantly undergo, despite having learned some biological information at school (47 percent).

A significant portion (46 percent) of respondents believed there is a stigma surrounding discussions about private parts due to the fear of being judged. Forty percent considered it embarrassing, and 39 percent attributed it to inadequate conversations about the topic with their parents.

Of those who would never ask for intimate products over the counter, 46 percent preferred to order online, 40 percent felt that there was a lack of privacy in purchasing from a shop, and 39 percent experienced embarrassment or shame.

Furthermore, over 30 percent felt uncomfortable seeking help for discomfort related to their private parts. Forty-four percent lacked confidence in identifying symptoms of bacterial vaginosis, while 76 percent believed they could recognize signs of thrush.

According to data from, a quarter of women aged 25-34 reported that they would miss work if they experienced a strong vaginal odor, compared to 16 percent of those aged 45-54.

Intimacy expert Charlene Douglas, representing Balance Activ, emphasized the importance of breaking the silence surrounding women’s intimate health. She encouraged open discussions with friends and loved ones, highlighting the availability of help and guidance to better understand the body and normalize experiences. Sharing problems and experiences, she suggested, could provide support and reassurance for women facing similar issues.

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