Editor's Note: Abigail was one of Evvy's first customers and has been a joyful and positive force within our community since she joined. A healer and a creative, Abigail splits her time between working as an illustrator and a massage therapist.
You might find her story interesting if you've also dealt with:
- Chronic vaginal symptoms
- Bacterial Vaginosis
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Yeast Infections
“We can clone sheep. We can take apart DNA. And yet no one can tell me what’s wrong with my vagina.”
Abigail laughs at the absurdity of her statement. A longtime sufferer of chronic vaginal infections including bacterial vaginosis, UTIs, and yeast, she spent years feeling alone, dismissed, frustrated, and patronized because of her symptoms.
Then, she came across Evvy.
A straightforward solution to mysterious vaginal symptoms
“I found Evvy online,” explains Abigail, a New-Hampshire-based illustrator and massage therapist in her early 30s.
“It was a quick Google search of, ‘How can I test my biome?’’ I always knew there was a microbiome. But the literature on it is so confusing—and I think it's just because it's under-researched. When I found Evvy I was just like Yes. Oh my god, thank you so much. I just jumped on that bandwagon so fast.”
Like many members of Evvy’s community struggling with vaginal issues, Abigail was tired of using ‘quick-fix’ solutions for problems that seemed to return again and again.
“I knew that my issues were chronic and systemic.”
She continues, “The thing that I love about Evvy is that with one test I would be able to figure out what was going on and how to change it, but with continued testing, I could see how the changes I implemented were positively affecting me.”
Bacterial Vaginosis and Yeast Infections and UTIs, oh my!
Abigail’s vaginal health journey began early on in life. “I’ve had UTIs forever, like since I was a kid,” she says, raising her eyebrows. “But the problems got worse as I got older and hit puberty.”
Reflecting on a particularly rough period in her early 20s, she shares her experience with navigating relationships while suffering from recurrent infections.
“I would get terrible yeast infections, ‘honeymoon cystitis’, UTIs, especially I was having a lot of sex,” she says, expanding her hands like an accordion. “There became a point where I got such chronic UTIs that I was often seeing blood in my urine.”
Abigail adds, “I probably had BV too, I just wasn’t diagnosed with it.”
No surprise, Abigail tried everything to alleviate her symptoms (who wouldn’t if they were literally peeing blood?): Abstaining from sex. Reducing alcohol. Cutting out sugar. Yeast-free diets that eliminated everything from bread to soy sauce.
She saw some improvement, but nothing stuck.
The final straw came around her 30th birthday when she was diagnosed with BV, an episode she characterizes as “one of the most depressing and infuriating experiences of my life.”
Abigail’s doctor prescribed a high dose of oral Metronidazole, a typical course of treatment for BV. She followed instructions and took it—until she couldn’t.
“I said to this male doctor, I’m suffering more on the antibiotics than I did with BV. I've had to cancel work and I'm not taking these anymore. Can you do anything else?”
The only alternative the doctor provided was to offer her the same antibiotics but in cream form. Knowing that her Evvy test was on the way (and that the cream would not only set her back $60 but could potentially irritate her as the oral antibiotics did), Abigail decided to hold on the cream and wait for the test.
“Finally, someone could tell me what the hell was going on”
When Abigail’s vaginal microbiome test arrived, she used it right away. A few weeks later she got her Evvy results.
“I was so happy. Finally, someone could tell me what the hell was going on,” she says.
“I finally felt validated because my Evvy test revealed I was 50% protective, and then 50% Lactobacillus iners.”
Abigail pauses and grins. “I call Lactobacillus iners my Judas bacteria. Because [L. iners] is neutral until some nasty bacteria is like, ‘Hey, buddy, we've got cookies, join the dark side. And then [L. iners] is like, ‘Sure, cool’ and turns on you.”
Though lactobacilli are considered to be the ‘local heroes’ of the vaginal microbiome Lactobacillus iners is a bacteria that is often found when the microbiome is in transition between healthy and disrupted, especially when you are coming out of bacterial vaginosis. L. iners is less protective than the other species of lactobacilli and tend to shapeshift: if L. iners bacteria are surrounded by protective bacteria they can be neutral or protective but if they’re with bad bacteria, they can create problems like discharge and itching.
“I felt so vindicated,” she exclaims. “And then I was even happier because I got an email saying, let’s have a coaching follow-up and talk about your options.”
Every Evvy test comes with a free 20-minute coaching call. It’s an easy way to talk through your results and Evvy plan with our vaginal health experts to make sure all your questions are answered and you know how to best discuss your vaginal health with a doctor.
“They really just listened to what was going on and they gave me so many resources,” she adds. “And they made sure to give me resources they knew could be backed by scientific data. They weren't selling me anything. They just gave me avenues to pursue.”
To work on shifting Abigail’s vaginal microbiome to a healthier state based on her unique microbial makeup, Evvy’s health coaches recommended a customized plan that included a special probiotic and Vitamin C tablet regimen over the course of three months.
Abigail followed along and, when the three months were over, used her Evvy membership to re-test to see if her plan was working microbially.
“I got my second test results and the protective bacteria had increased to 79%. In three months!”
She points out, “Evvy improved my vaginal health by giving me recommendations for scientifically tested products that actually improved the balance of my microbiome. That's what they did for me on a physiological level
“On an emotional level,” says Abigail, “Evvy gave me the confidence that even if the first option didn't work out, there were other options. And there were resources I could access and people I could talk to. Because it's so hard to get the attention of your doctor.”
Abigail isn’t alone in her experience of feeling dismissed by the existing healthcare system because of the gender health gap. Today, women are diagnosed on average four years later than men across 700 conditions. On top of that, a recent medical literature review revealed doctors often view men with chronic pain as “brave” or “stoic,” but view women with chronic pain as “emotional” or “hysterical.”
A new paradigm for vaginal health
“Evvy is revolutionary,” declares Abigail. “You are changing the whole game in terms of female health with this healthcare screen.”
“We have breast cancer screens, we have all these other major disease screens,” she points out. “But it's time now to have these daily functional health screens. We need that day-to-day stuff because that's where most of us live.”
For Abigail, struggling with vaginal health issues isn’t just personal—it’s intergenerational. As a result, she views Evvy’s mission and product as a catalyst for systemic change in the fight for gender equality in healthcare.
She explains, “With my mom, because she also had a lot of these issues, it became family culture to just deal with it and to use sort of more homeopathic recipes.”
Abigail recalls a few homeopathic remedies she used growing up. “There's the Caesar salad dressing treatment, which is putting garlic in some cheesecloth and microwaving it. Then you dip it in olive oil and put it in your vagina. And then there was a treatment where you put yogurt in a suppository receptacle and splooge that up into your vagina.”
(Side note: speaking of treatments that aren’t scientifically backed and can harm your vaginal health, please don’t try the Caesar Salad Dressing treatment or the Yogurt treatment at home!)
Abigail laughs and then pauses before continuing. “I don't blame my mom for teaching me those treatments because that's all she had, like in the 80s, because no one would give her any help. There wasn't any research for it.”
Sadly, Abigail’s right. Not only is there still limited research taking place in vaginal health but women in the U.S. were actively excluded from clinical research until 1993, in part because of their hormones.
“We’re still living in a very male-oriented world. But we're working on it, and I think that's another reason I love Evvy is because they're on it. And I want to be part of that change.”