It’s time we talk about something that most people (women included) are typically not apt to talk about. I’m talkin’ about vaginal health.
You could probably rattle off a list of ways to keep your heart healthy or lower your cancer risk, but do you know the basics of maintaining vaginal health? For some reason, this topic often gets labeled as “taboo” and no one wants to discuss the ins and outs of their sexual organs unless they’re sitting in a paper gown at their doctor’s office.
I became a little obsessed with this topic as I was preparing to give birth to my son. I had, of course, read horror stories about painful tears during childbirth… and the only way to prevent (or recover) from that was to get up close and personal with my ladybits. In my thorough research, I stumbled upon the SmartJane kit from uBiome.
SmartJane is the first women’s health screening test to simultaneously check multiple conditions – including HPV, STIs, and other vaginal factors – all from one sample.
Using their patented precision sequencing technology and algorithms, the test genotypes 14 high-risk HPV strains, 5 low-risk HPV strains, 4 common STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and mycoplasma genitalium), and 23 other vaginal flora.
I waited until I was about 6 months post-partum before ordering the kit. Even though I had just had my annual pap smear a month or so beforehand, I was so curious to see what type of results this test would yield.
I requested my kit online, and it was approved AND covered by my health insurance (which was impressive, considering I don’t have a top-notch insurance policy). Within a week, the kit was safely delivered to my mailbox — ready to go!
The biggest perk to using SmartJane is that you can take the test at home, whenever it’s right for you. The SmartJane collection kit contains everything you’ll need to collect your sample in less than three minutes in the comfort of your own bathroom.
Sparing you of all the gory details, I took my sample and dropped off the package (free postage included!) at my local FedEx shipping center. I also received several courtesy emails throughout the entire process — when my package shipped, when it was received by uBiome, when they started processing my sample, and finally when the results were ready! From start to finish, the process took about a week.
When you receive your results, you’ll see that they are broken down into sections: first, the results of your STI screenings; then, information about how your vaginal microbiome is involved in 10 different health conditions.
While the results of the STI screening were not surprising to me (like I mentioned, I had had my annual pap smear just a few weeks earlier), I found the vaginal microbiome screening to be the most intriguing.
In theory, when organisms in your microbiome are outside of the healthy range, certain health conditions may be more likely based on scientific literature. Some organisms have a more significant impact on conditions than others.
SmartJane measures your results using a Significance Index expressed as a range from 0 to 100. A low Significance Index indicates that your microbiome composition is very similar to that of healthy individuals without a certain condition, while a high Significance Index means that your microbiome composition is very similar to that of individuals who suffer from that condition.
It was interesting for me to note which microorganisms are naturally present in my body — whether in high, low, or normal doses. And I am totally the type of person who will print these results and bring them to my next gynecologist appointment to discuss in further detail!
Because at the end of the day, vaginas are complex and impact our daily lives and our general health. We all need to talk about our vaginas just a little bit more. Learning the facts about your body can help you know when to worry or when to remain cool, helping you take proactive steps toward protecting your health.