Maintaining a healthy vagina inside and out is a great way to keep yourself healthy. You may not have thought about vaginal health, it may seem tricky, or even embarrassing, but it is really not that hard! So, you may be asking “what can I do to keep my vagina healthy?”. Read up on these great tips to ensure that you always have a healthy vagina.
Let us clear up something first if you are a bit confused – your vagina is the passage where menstrual blood leaves your body, whereas the skin outside and around it is called the vulva.
Here are a few pointers for vulva care:
- Do not stay in your cute (but drenched!) swimsuit or exercise gear for too long
- Change your pads and tampons regularly (as a guide, tampons and pads should be changed every 4 hours)
- Avoid extended exposure to hot, sweaty or chafing conditions (e.g. exercising)
- Avoid irritating your vulva with feminine sprays, douches, fragrances in menstrual products, laundry detergents and chemicals found on new clothes.
- Do not use antiseptics or harsh soaps (shampoo is not welcome!) on the vulva – plain water is best
- Washing your vulva more than once a day is not necessary. Be gentle and pat it dry rather than rubbing with a towel
What to do if you get vulval irritation
- If you are concerned, the best thing to do is to see your doctor, in case it is a symptom of another condition.
- Make sure that your clothes/under garments that come in contact with your vulva have been well rinsed to remove excess detergent. Avoid using fabric softener on your underwear
- Try a salt bath (two teaspoons of table salt per litre of water) or a cool wash in the shower if you are experiencing any burning and irritation
- Try not to scratch! Scratching can damage the sensitive skin on this area and make itching worse
- Limit exercises that can increase irritation in the area (you may have to pass on bike riding or spinning if you notice any irritation)
- Avoid shaving or waxing the irritated area
The vagina has a variety of bacteria, yeasts and other micro-organisms that occur naturally. Lactobacilli is good bacteria that keeps other bacteria in check, and normally keeps the vagina slightly acidic. But sometimes, external factors can cause an imbalance of the natural bacteria in your vagina that can lead to problems such as yeast or bacterial infections. Some females are more prone to these vaginal problems than others.
Stress, illness and hormone changes can also upset the vaginal environment, but there are a number of things you can do to maintain a healthy vagina.
Ways to keep your vagina infection free:
- Make sure your hands are washed before and after touching the genital area
- Always wipe from front to back
- Maintain great hygiene – you do not need to aggressively scrub 3 times a day to maintain a healthy vagina, but you equally do not want to go a week without a shower!
- Avoid vaginal cosmetics (such as powders, perfumes, etc.)
- Use a mild soap
- Do not use other people's towels
- Maintain your health and fitness by exercising regularly – be aware that exercise can also cause vaginal odour, so make sure to maintain hygiene as well
- Make sure you eat right and limit the amount of junk food in your diet
- For a healthy vagina, wear 100% cotton underwear
- For some extra air time, try sleeping without underwear under your pj's
- Do not douche (flush liquid into your vagina) unless your doctor prescribes it
Signs of a vaginal problem
If you are getting some of these symptoms it could be time to head to the doctor. Vaginal problems can be caused by hormones, health problems, pregnancy, or even STDs.
- Itching, irritation or soreness around the vaginal opening
- It burns when you urinate (ouch!)
- Swelling in the genital area
- Abnormal bleeding
- An unpleasant odour
Making sure you have a healthy vagina is very important, so if you are experiencing any of the problems listed above, get yourself to a women's health professional or a doctor ASAP to see if you need a pap smear or check-up. Remember that STDs can be prevented – read up on contraception to get informed.
The advice provided in this material is general in nature and is not intended as medical advice. If you need medical advice, please consult your health care professional.