Have you ever wondered about ways to keep your vagina clean and healthy? Read this list of some helpful tips!
Cleaning your vagina
Douching: Don’t do it! Your vagina is naturally acidic (PH levels around 3.5 - 4.5), and has a multitude of helpful bacteria that contribute to defense against infection and a maintenance of a healthy PH level. Douching can negatively affect PH levels and promote bacterial infections. If your vagina has an unusual, concerning smell- instead of douching, see a doctor! Douching can remove the smell, but cannot fix the problem.
Soaps: Don’t use harsh soaps, shampoo, powder, deodorant, or bleach on the vulva or inside you vagina. Like douching, these cleansers can negatively impact the PH levels of your vagina and increase your risk of getting an infection. Remember, your vagina can clean itself with small secretions/discharge. To assist the cleaning of your vagina, you could use a mild soap on your inner thigh and groin area (away from your vulva), and rub water on the vulva.
Your underwear choices should keep your vagina clean and dry. Go cotton or commando. Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University states, “Cotton breathes and absorbs moisture, it’s the ideal way to clothe your [genitals]”. Avoid wearing thongs, tight fitting pants, and extended wearing of wet bathing suits or sweaty exercise clothing; they can increase heat and moisture and may contribute to certain infections. Do not wear pads or panty liners when you are not on your period, due to increased heat and moisture, and increased likelihood of infection.
To keep your vagina happy and healthy, eat a balanced diet and drink a lot of fluids. Some foods have even been found to help treat or prevent vaginal infections: cranberry juice and yogurt (with live cultures- not the hyper-sugary kinds) are examples. Soy products can increase lubrication, therefore decreasing vaginal dryness. Certain foods may even affect the way your vagina smells and tastes. Eating more leafy green vegetables, fruits (pineapples and strawberries), cinnamon, and cardamom may produce a taste that is sweeter, while eating red meat and dairy may produce a taste that is more bitter.
Utilize safer sex practices. Use a condom .Condoms helps maintain of the PH level of your vagina, which helps keep the beneficial bacteria inside your vagina which prevents infections. When transitioning from oral or anal sex to vaginal sex, change to a clean condom. Not doing so can cause harmful bacteria to enter your vagina. Use lubrication. If not enough natural lubricant is produced during arousal, use a synthetic water-based or silicone-based lubricant. Do not use oil-based lubricants, they can cause tearing or breaking in latex condoms and can promote harmful bacterial accumulation and infections.
The three common types of vaginal infections are: yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis. Yeast infections are caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida, which causes itching, swelling, or burning of the vulva. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by the growth of certain bacteria in the vagina, which causes unusual discharge, itching, burning, or irritation of the vagina. Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by the transmitting of a parasite.
Regular visits to the gynecologist are very important! Every person with a vagina should have a gynecological exam either “by the age of 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active”. Gynecologists can detect and diagnose diseases and disorders of the vagina or reproductive system and can discuss ways to keep your vagina at its healthiest!
|Photo from http://www.scribd.com/doc/254757422/The-Vaginatastic-Coloring-Book-of-Vulvas|
Erin Diguglielmo '17, Women's Health Intern