Ask almost any woman and she will tell you that, at some point in her life, she has had questions or symptoms related to her vulva or vagina. The list is long: menstruation, pads or tampons, discharge, odor, pubic hair, arousal, self-pleasuring, sex with penetration, contraception, fertility, safe sex, pregnancy and birth effects, postpartum, self-image, sexual identity, sexually transmitted infections, pain with sex, lumps, bumps, urination, defecation, libido, itching, burning, inability to have penetration, inability to be touched, vulvar cancer. The questions and symptoms a woman has are often about more than simple biology: they relate to her relationships, her sense of self, her feelings of connectedness.
Yet, for a variety of reasons, including lack of training (especially about sexuality), overspecialization, insurance reimbursement policies, and sexism, far too few health care providers have the training and knowledge that would allow them to fully address these questions and symptoms. In response, ob/gyn Elizabeth G. Stewart (author of The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide To Complete Vulvovaginal Health) and certified nurse midwife Ione Bissonnette created the online learning program Vulvovaginal Disorders: An Algorithm for Basic Adult Diagnosis and Treatment.
Geared primarily to health care providers, the site includes a pathway through the patient visit, from complaint to diagnosis. Accompanying the diagnostic algorithm are detailed, evidenced-based annotations that explain each step, a color atlas of skin conditions, information on microscopy, pain disorders, sexuality, pelvic floor dysfunction, treatment plans, and patient handouts.
In 2021, Our Bodies Ourselves began a partnership with the creators of the program, which now lives under the OBOS umbrella. We hope the site, which is currently being updated and is available for free to all, will lift the veil of unknowing regarding the vulva and vagina and help both health care providers and women better understand the intricacies of vulva and vaginal health.