First off, how are you, and how is your 2021 going?
I’m doing well thank you! There have certainly been some challenging times but I’m feeling much more positive now restrictions have begun to ease more. I’m loving all the time I’m getting to spend with my friends who I’ve been separated from during the pandemic, you really take things for granted until they are taken away from you. Also loving this sunny weather! I really hope it stays.
Can you tell us about the work you do online?
I primarily run my Instagram page Queens of Eve where I aim to empower, embrace, and educate on intimate health. Specifically vulval health, and the medical bias we experience as women (it’s so interesting to learn about the history of women’s health, however also quite enraging!).
I share my own experiences as I suffer with several gynaecological conditions and Queens of Eve has become not just my own space to share my pain, but an online community of fellow sufferers or simply people who are interested in knowing more about my journey.
Throughout my time running my page I have learnt so much about other gynae conditions that I don’t personally suffer with (such as Endometriosis) so I also try my best to raise awareness on those topics too! I’m really happy that by speaking up it has shown to a lot of people that these topics should not be taboo, and I hope it’s encouraging others to go and seek the medical help they may need or talk openly to their own friends & family about vaginal & vulval issues.
Would you be able to share your personal story with intimate health?
Of course! I’ll give a brief summary as I tried to write my own blog post about this once and it exceeded 7 pages or so (yikes). I believe I’ve always had some degree of vulval pain/irritation even as a child, which I think could be closely linked to my allergens. However it wasn’t until I was sexually active that the relentless issues began.
It started with recurring thrush infections that even left the doctors baffled as to why I kept getting them so often, and then in around 2014/15 I started to experience tearing with sex, literally every single time I tried. Alongside this my vaginal discharge changed to become really heavy and watery which was incredibly distressing and embarrassing for me to cope with. With both of these issues combined I didn’t want anyone to touch me, I felt disgusting and was in constant pain because I had to wear a night pad every single day.
My skin became even worse as it was constantly wet and then had the addition of a sanitary towel tightly pressed against it day in day out (the discharge was so heavy I had no choice but to wear thick protection) and it would feel like mini papercuts around my vulva even just walking around or exercising.
It took 4 years for professionals to discover the discharge issue was caused by a cervical ectropion, and after undergoing two different minor surgeries in 2018 to remove it I can confirm that issue is resolved (as well as stopping contraception). Unfortunately, the answer behind why my skin is so prone to tearing is still something I am on a journey to discovering. I have been passed around multiple departments, sexual health, dermatology, gynaecology but so far no one can figure out what my problem is exactly. My current gynae is amazing and was one of the first people who really took time with me to listen to my worries, reassure me and do her best to help. She diagnosed me with vulvodynia (explains the daily pain/nerve pain) and possible vulval dermatitis.
Why do you think it’s so important we de-stigmatize and educate people on intimate health?
I think by openly talking about these issues it shows others that it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about, because it’s very common and nine times out of ten someone else will be in a very similar position to you. It also helps others to identify whether they could have a more serious problem. For so many years women and vulva owners have been very oppressed when it comes to sex, sexual/intimate health and were perceived as ‘hysterical’ when coming forwards with vaginal/vulval symptoms. In fact, the word ‘uterus’ comes from the Greek word ‘hystera’ meaning hysteria! Similarly this word ‘hysterectomy’ which is a medical procedure also derives from the same background. Unfortunately even today, many people are dismissed by medical professionals and told their issues are in their heads, something I have also personally experienced.
In addition to this, women or people with vaginas could be causing themselves further harm by not being aware of key things to avoid. This is not helped by some brands within the feminine hygiene industry. Things like believing a vagina ‘smells bad’ and then going on to be self conscious by over washing and using harmful soaps/deodorants/wipes thinking that this is helping them, when in fact it is hurting them through a higher risk of contracting infection, which in turn can then make you smell worse!
What are some of the most common misconceptions you see online when it comes to intimate health?
Oooh so many! My BIGGEST gripe which I’m sure anyone who follows me will know is the misconception that your vagina should smell like a rose. We have a naturally acidic pH which will give off a slightly tangy/musty odour but that is normal! All of these wash products that contain fragrance, deodorants (such a weird concept to me that these exist) wipes, and now a new ‘odour eliminating gel’ are all so dangerous because not only do they heighten an already very common insecurity, they actually CAUSE bad odour through the contraction of infections like bacterial vaginosis. Not to mention the ingredients cause irritation and pain, especially for those of us with pre-existing health conditions.
Absolutely nothing should be inserted up into the vaginal canal apart from a tampon/menstrual cup or any approved medical treatments like pessary tablets for thrush.
There’s also a misconception around Endometriosis, firstly there is no cure, so any information or products out there claiming to cure the condition are extremely false. It’s also NOT the same as the endometrium (tissue that makes up the lining of the womb) . It’s tissue similar to the endometrium, but really important to know that it is not the same!
It’s usually hard for women & vagina owners to get a diagnosis, do you have any tips to help people feel more confident?
I completely can relate to this, especially as I don’t really have a diagnosis for my tearing. It can feel so frustrating, tiring and isolating having to constantly repeat yourself to different doctors and to sometimes be easily dismissed. Although it’s so hard to keep motivated and hopeful, my biggest tip would be persistence. You have got to just keep pushing and fighting until you are taken seriously, which really shouldn’t be the case but unfortunately it is.
Also the fact that you know your own body best. If you aren’t confident about advice a doctor has provided, seek a second opinion. If I went by some of the first advice I have been given in my past then I would have made myself a lot worse, but I knew in myself that the issues I was experiencing were more than what I was being told.
Secondly, sexual health clinics are amazing. I have found them so much easier to get appointments within in comparison to GP appointments and they still have the power to be able to refer you to gynaecologists. I was referred to my current gynaecologist through my local sexual health clinic!
What do you hope to achieve in the next few years with Queens of Eve?
I have so many ideas up my sleeve but unfortunately a lot are subject to cost, I don’t have the budget to get started at present so most of these ideas are something I aspire to reach in the future! I would absolutely love to write a book, or e-books on my own story but also covering different ‘taboo’ topics to help destigmatize and empower people to embrace vaginal health.
I’m currently working on my own blog website, something I have had in the past but was never happy with so am taking the time to get it right. I would love to have something similar to Mumsnet but for younger women and covering topics like day to day vaginal health, discharge, periods, conditions and not just about pregnancy and motherhood, my audience is definitely a younger bracket and I don’t see anything quite like this online yet so hopefully I can fill that gap!
For now I am just focusing on growing my platform so that my exposure increases and to help as many women as I can. I’m so pleased with how positive and lovely everyone is and want that to continue.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on my blog website behind the scenes, there’s a lot of work to do for a one woman band with a full time job! I love it though because it’s something I’m truly passionate about. I signed up to a couple of courses at the center for women’s fitness which I need to finish as well, focusing on pelvic floor exercises and myofascial release.
I’m also continuously working on my own social media content, Instagram, TikTok (I feel far too old for this platform at times and it shows haha) and I also have a private Facebook support group & page. I’ve done a couple of podcasts with some lovely ladies, blog posts for the Just Girl project & have hosted some of my own virtual events. Now that COVID restrictions have eased more I may be planning some in person events/meet-ups so watch this space….
Who are some of your current favourite follows?
Can I say Zoella? I don’t know if that’s cheesy but it’s true! I’m so happy that sex, women’s health etc are topics that are being covered by larger platforms so thank you so much.
I love @samtalkssex who co-owns the sex toy retailer Jo Divine. I did a live with Sam & she is so knowledgeable and equally passionate about ingredient safety and I just think she is fabulous and really confident in talking about sex which I find really inspiring!
@drjengunter is INCREDIBLE. I have her book ‘The vagina bible’ and encourage anyone and everyone to read it. She also has her own blog ‘the vajenda’ where she covers vaginal myths, calls out awful products, answers the questions that everyone wants the answers to.
There are so many and I don’t want to leave people out but I’ve also connected with so many amazing people who share similar problems to myself, some of whom I’m excited to meet in person soon! @sugardancegang and @klairedoyleart are two very special ladies that I met through Queens of Eve. We’re having a meet up next month and I can’t wait! Beckie sells her own gorgeous handmade marble candles at Sugar dance gang inspired by film & tv characters, and Claire is such a talented artist who has also done some empowering female body pieces.
What does your perfect weekend look like?
I would say a really peaceful secluded getaway, those tree house lodges you can stay in are right up my street. Lots of scenery, relaxation and having that time to unwind as I’m always so busy. I also love nothing more than going out for dinner, so a lovely evening meal with a few gin and tonics wouldn’t go amiss either! Does anyone have a sausage dog I could take with me? They are my dream.
What do you always carry with you?
Sadly, my phone. I definitely spend way too much time on it but in fairness, my social media channels are what I work on the most so I struggle to put it down. I also always have a little emergency bag in my handbag, full of different medications I may need, tampons, liners, a bit of lip balm, spare contact lenses and sometimes even a spare pair of pants. You just never know when you will need them!
What would your last ever meal be?
Sushi hands down. I think sushi is the only thing I could happily eat for breakfast lunch and dinner. Smothered in soy sauce of course.
What is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?
I would say, given the last year and other things I’ve had to go through recently, to just live your life like it’s your last day, every day. There is no time to be unhappy, whatever that may be, try and cut it out. Don’t feel guilty in putting yourself first, you are important and your happiness even more so. As my mum always says, you aren’t here for a long time, you’re here for a good time, so if you want to do that thing you’ve been putting off for whatever reason, just DO IT.