Every woman should be mindful of her vaginal health, but what exactly is a healthy vagina?
While it depends on several factors, such as a woman’s age, a healthy vagina typically has an acidic pH and is naturally lubricated.
The vaginal microbiome is delicate, and the bacterial balance of that microbiome can significantly impact your health.
Discharge is a natural physiologic reaction that consists mainly of shedded cervical and vaginal cells. A healthy vagina secretes small amounts of discharge as well.
While some women may be unaware of it, others may notice up to a teaspoon or tablespoon of discharge every day.
Our vaginal health can affect the quality of our fertility and sex lives. Any change in a woman’s vaginal odor or the color of her discharge that is accompanied by discomfort — whether it’s pelvic or vulvar discomfort, itching, or burning — should be addressed.
Always remember that certain lubricants, talc, and vaginal cleaning soaps alter the vaginal bacterial balance and may increase your risk of urinary tract, bacterial, or sexually transmitted infections.
Yet, the burning question remains: What are the basics when looking after the department downstairs, and are there any big no-no’s to avoid?
If your vagina could speak, we’re guessing that she would be rather vociferous regarding vaginal care dos and don’ts.
But considering that most of us aren’t natural-born vagina whisperers, we’ve compiled a list of vaginal health rules to ensure that vagina stays happy, healthy, and problem-free.
Rule 1: Don’t douche
We’re so sorry to break it to you, but while you may appreciate the scent of a “summery fresh” douche—your vagina doesn’t—since douching is really damaging to the vagina. So, how do you keep it clean downstairs?
Well, it turns out that not only do these wonderful organs bring life into this world, but they also keep themselves clean. They achieve this by naturally regulating healthy bacteria and pH levels.
Douching actually destroys some good bacteria, altering the pH and making you more prone to infection.
What about smelling extra fresh? Each person’s genitals have a distinct smell, and there are natural ways to alter your particular scent, such as modifying your diet. Pineapple, for example, can make vaginas taste or smell sweeter, whilst asparagus can have the opposite effect.
If you’re still adamant that you want to clean your vagina and vulva, use unscented products and only wash the labia majora.
Rule 2: Check your lube
No reasonable person will ever argue the fact that lube is simply fantastic. It has the potential to elevate sex for everyone involved. However, there are some ingredients that could be harmful to your health.
Glycerin, for instance, is related to sugar, and while it is effective at keeping lubes moist, it can also encourage bacterial growth in the vagina. Petroleum products are also considered no-nos since they can affect the vagina’s natural pH level.
Other things to avoid:
- Non-natural oils
Rule 3: Use safe sex toys
Do you ever wonder how some adult toys work and if they’re completely safe? Well, it turns out that not all sex toys are safe and aren’t suitable for anything other than taking up drawer space.
Toys made from the following materials are, in general, safe:
- Stainless steel
- ABS plastic
If you stick to toys made with any of the above materials, you should remain on the safe side. However, these must be pure, medical, or even food-grade materials, not blends.
It’s also advisable to always buy your toys from a reputable supplier (like us!) to ensure a quality, body-safe product and an excellent investment into your sexual well-being.
Rule 4: Wipe from front to back
Although this one is fairly obvious, it must be said! Always wipe from front to back when peeing.
This action has been shown to minimize the risk of developing urinary tract infections since you are less likely to contaminate your vagina with feces (which you want to keep as far away from the urethra as possible!).
Rule 5: Take precautions to have safe sex
This includes wearing a condom with any new sexual partner and getting STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) testing done on a regular basis. STIs may affect people of any age, and while they are most frequent in those aged 25 and younger, the highest increase in infection rates in recent years has been amongst adults over the age of 50.
Surprisingly (and rather scarily), most STIs are asymptomatic, so you won’t know you have one unless you get tested. The quicker an STI is diagnosed, the better the prognosis.
Rule 6: Don’t neglect your pelvic floor
The pelvic floor comprises a sling of muscle that runs between your hip bones and supports your uterus, ovaries, bladder, and vagina. For healthy pelvic and sexual function, these muscles must be robust and in good working order.
When they weaken, it causes incontinence, uterine prolapse, and vaginal wall prolapse. All women should incorporate pelvic floor exercises into their daily routines to strengthen these muscles.
If you’re not too sure where to begin, start here.
Rule 7: Urinate after sex
Make it a habit to go to the bathroom after sex, even if you didn’t try a complete penetrative sex position and instead just did some foreplay or used your favorite sex toys.
Peeing after sex allows you to clean up discreetly, particularly if you’re prone to UTIs since it helps flush out any harmful bacteria from the urethra.
Rule 8: Wear breathable clothing
Vaginas are much happier when dressed in breathable clothing such as cotton. And while cotton underwear isn’t always the sexiest option, this fabric possesses moisture-wicking qualities, which can help decrease the amount of moisture that stimulates bacterial development.
No matter what kind of underwear you choose, make sure to replace it regularly. Removing damp clothing as soon as possible can also help reduce problems.
Rule 9: Change your sanitary products frequently
If you rely on pads, tampons, or menstrual cups, make sure you change them regularly. This will prevent harmful microorganisms from growing and disrupting the pH of your vagina.
Always insert tampons with clean hands, and never use sanitary items if they’ve fallen on the floor. If you use a menstrual cup, cleanse it in hot water after each period.
Rule 10: Don’t forget your vaginal health checks
Getting regular health checkups may seem like a chore (and for those in long-term partnerships, unnecessary) but it’s crucial in terms of vaginal care. Health checkups include sexual health checkups and cervical screening checks.
Smear tests are performed once every three years and take only a few minutes. They also allow your doctor to examine the health of your vagina and check for concerns such as warts.
Look after your vagina… it’s the only one you’ve got!
Maintaining optimal vaginal health is not a once-off job. Fortunately, there are many basic and straightforward things you can implement on a daily basis to ensure that your vagina is well-protected, happy, and healthy.