Time to get a little personal, girls! Vaginal health may not have crossed your mind yet, but maintaining a healthy vagina inside and out is a good way to stay clean, comfortable and infection-free.
Have a look at a few great tips that'll teach you all about taking care down there, so that you'll always have a happy, healthy vagina.
Let's clear up something first if you're a bit confused - your vagina is the passage-way into your womb, whereas the area outside and around it is called the vulva. Have a look at our diagram of a healthy vagina.
HOW TO TREAT VULVA IRRITATION
Remember that the vulva is skin, so it could become inflamed or irritated just like a rash anywhere else on your body. If it gets worse, you should see your doctor. Otherwise try the following:
- Rinse underwear well to remove all traces of washing detergent.
- Use a good quality fabric softener or nothing at all for your undies.
- Try not to scratch! Scratching can damage the sensitive skin on this area and make itching worse. Use an antiseptic talcum powder to reduce the itchiness.
- Limit tight clothes that can increase irritation in the area.
- Don't shave or wax till the irritation has healed.
A controlled variety of bacteria, yeasts and other micro-organisms live in and around the vagina and help to keep it healthy. Lactobacilli are good bacteria that keep other bacteria in check. This helps to keep the vagina slightly acidic, which in turn helps to prevent vaginal infections.
But sometimes, external factors (stress, illness, gastritis, antibiotics) can cause an overgrowth of these organisms, and this can cause problems like thrush or vaginal yeast infection.
Here are a few things you can do to keep your vagina clean and infection-free:
- Wash your hands before and after inserting a tampon.
- Wipe from front to back when using the toilet.
- Maintain personal hygiene every day - a shower, bath or wash once or twice a day should do it.
- Avoid vaginal cosmetics such as powders or perfumes.
- Use an unperfumed soap when washing.
- Don't share towels with other people.
- Exercise regularly and make sure you're eating well.
- Wear 100% cotton underwear, if possible.
HOW TO AVOID VAGINAL IRRITATION
We all like to feel comfortable down there. Here's how to do it:
- Don't wash this area with antiseptics, harsh soaps or shampoo. It's better to simply wash with plain water.
- Don't stay in your wet bathing suits or exercise gear for too long.
- Don't wear very tight jeans for too long - especially when you have an itchy discharge.
- Change your pads and tampons regularly.
SIGNS OF A VAGINAL PROBLEM
Vaginal problems can be caused by:
- Infections - especially those transmitted by having sex
- Dirty toilets
- Illness e.g. diabetes or poor immunity
- Condoms can cause irritation, especially a latex allergy
Head to the doctor if you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms:
- Itching, irritation or soreness around the vaginal opening
- Burning sensations when you're using the toilet
- Increased or unusual discharge
- Swelling in the genital area
- Abnormal bleeding
- An unpleasant odour
Making sure you have a healthy vagina is very important, so if you're experience any of the above, it's time you do something about it.