Roxanne Ramsey had no clue that her tirade on TikTok about her struggles with bacterial vaginosis, a type of vaginal irritation in which an overabundance of some bacteria throws off the vagina's normal balance, would strike a chord with other women.
The 31-year-old Maryland native has now amassed 700,000 followers and established her as a platform staple for women's health.
Ramsey explained her initial motivation for using the app to Yahoo! Life: "When I first began my TikTok page I was into beauty and cosmetics and everything." However, in 2019, she reached a breaking point. That was when her doctor informed her that the bacterial vaginosis (BV) she had been managing for years was simply something she would have to put up with forever.
“I was very angry with the doctor. After the appointment, I made a TikTok solely to convey my dissatisfaction," she continued.
Ramsey kept up her BV life-journaling on the app, where one popular post about feeling ignored by doctors garnered more than 700,000 likes and encouragement from readers who thanked her for sharing her experience.
“Thank you for making unpleasant situations like these seem less embarrassing,” commented one follower. “We shouldn't ever feel humiliated.”
"I experienced EXACTLY what you described. I'm relieved to learn that I'm not crazy," exclaimed another.
With her personable style, Ramsey lessens some of the awkwardness around the subject, enabling viewers to laugh at a topic that is frequently connected with guilt. One of her most well-liked videos features her acting as though she's spraying body mist all over herself to "make sure no one else can smell your BV."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bacterial vaginosis is the most prevalent vaginal infection in women, affecting approximately 30 percent of them between the ages of 15 and 44. It disproportionately affects Black women. Unfortunately, the condition causes many women with BV to feel self-conscious.
"There is stigma surrounding all things vaginal in general, especially in relation to vaginal odor—even natural odor!" An OB-GYN also needs to start up dialogues about vaginal health, Dr. Jennifer Lincoln tells Yahoo! Life. It is even more likely that BV will be associated with shame and stigma because it might have a fishy odor.
As a result, there hasn't been much discussion of BV, which has led to many people feeling that they are fighting the illness alone. But Ramsey's candid approach has sparked a network of women who are now more at ease discussing their experiences online. The TikToker eventually discovered relief for her BV after realizing she suffered flare-ups after intercourse with her uncircumcised lover. This long-overdue discovery has made her all the more passionate about speaking openly about the taboo subject in the hopes of helping others find a way through.
"In order for everyone to be willing to talk about it, I just want to start the dialogue. You feel confident enough to post in the comments, ‘Hey, folks, I got a green discharge,’ if you have a discharge but are unsure of what it is. Is this common or just me?"
Lincoln concurs that it's critical to normalize these discussions so that those who have BV are no longer required to keep quiet about such a widespread ailment.
"By removing the shame, [we] give ourselves the confidence to understand that our bodies are healthy and ideal just the way they are. It's not a big problem when we develop infections occasionally," says the physician.