What Exactly Is The Right Way To Care For Your Vagina?
All the lowdown on how to ensure everything is healthy down there!
If you’ve been following the queen of all things peculiar, Gwyneth Paltrow, and her company Goop, you’re probably well-versed with the term "vaginal facial." This is one of the many vaginal cleansing trends that came into our lives over the past few years. There are endless feminine hygiene products available on the market, and most of them have their fair share of pros and cons. So what is a girl supposed to do? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’re breaking down the important deets about your lady parts and the best way to ensure your vagina stays healthy. So, grab your cup of coffee and get ready to screenshot these tips, because, trust us, they will come in handy.
Difference Between Vagina And Vulva
Before heading to the "what to do" section, let’s begin with the difference between the vagina and the vulva. Many women (and men) get confused between the two or interchange the terms. But here's the thing, the vagina and vulva are completely different. For one, you can wash your vulva, but you shouldn’t wash your vagina. Confused? Keep reading to learn more.
Even though the word "vagina" is used a lot when talking about genitals, biologically speaking, the vagina is the birth canal that connects to your cervix. In simple terms, it’s on the inside. Your vulva, on the other hand, is the outside area of the genitals. It is everything you can see, which includes your clitoris, urethra, and labia. It is the first line of defence to protect the genital tract from infections. The skin around this area differs from other areas on the body as it is covered by a thin epidermis that contains large hair follicles. This makes it easier for microbes to spread through the skin. Since the cellular markup is completely different between a vagina and a vulva, some diseases or infections may be specific to a certain part.
Why Do Infections Happen Down There?
UTIs, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis are common issues every woman faces. These occur due to an imbalance in the pH levels, which leads to the uncontrolled growth of bacteria, fungi, or other organisms. While the vagina has a balance of good and bad bacteria, infectious organisms can be introduced into the vagina by improper hygiene or unprotected sex. With regard to a healthy pH balance, the optimal number should be 4.5 or below. This indicates that there is a healthy balance of microbes to keep it acidic and guard against foreign pathogens. Good bacteria like Lactobacilli help keep the vagina healthy by improving the production of lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide.
What Is Vulvar Care?
Taking care of your vulva should be your top priority. No matter where you are, the goal should always be to keep the vulva dry and free from irritants. On the other hand, washing your vagina is a big no. The vagina is self-cleaning, so you can keep the douche or vagina facials away, as they can hamper the pH balance and cause issues that weren’t there, to begin with.
How To Care For Your Vulva & Vagina
● Don’t Scratch When It Itches
One of the most common symptoms of infection is itching. But no matter how bad or uncomfortable it may feel, avoid scratching the infected area since the skin is sensitive and it could worsen the inflammation.
● Opt for 100 percent cotton underwear
Thongs might look sexy, but they aren’t your vagina’s BFF. The same goes for nylon and rayon. You can let your lady parts breathe with cotton panties. This fabric is even recommended by doctors, as cotton lets air in and is quick to absorb moisture. This limits the amount of wetness and reduces the chances of bacterial growth.
● Keep away from scented products
While you may want to smell like a rose garden down there, the truth is that scents and fragrances can irritate the vagina even more. Use unscented tampons for menstrual bleeding, and remember to not leave tampons in for longer than 8 hours. Leaving them in for long hours increases the risk of infection, or worse, TSS—Toxic Shock Syndrome. If you use pads, ensure that you change them every 4 to 5 hours to avoid yeast infections.
● The vagina is self-cleaning, vulva is not
While the vagina is self-cleaning, you still need to take care of the vulva. After peeing, ensure you always wash with water and wipe from front to back, gently, to avoid infections. Be gentle when dealing with your vulva and vagina, whether you are washing or drying them. Do not rub vigorously, as this can damage the sensitive vulvar tissue.
● Get regular screening
Unfortunately, this isn’t promoted as much as it should be. Health screenings like PAP smears are done by a gynaecologist to test for cancerous cells. Ideally, every woman should be tested annually, especially if she is sexually active and hasn’t received the HPV vaccine.
● Go for natural lubricants
This is especially true if you have sensitive skin. Keep away from lubes that contain glycerin, parabens, scents, dyes, etc. as they can disturb the pH balance. Glycerin, for example, contains sugar, which contributes to the growth of bad bacteria in the vagina. Coconut oil and olive oil are safer options if you are prone to infections. You can also opt for water-based lubricants as an alternative.
3 Common Vaginal Health Questions You're Afraid To Ask!
1. Can A Tampon Really Get Lost In There?
This is a common concern among new tampon users. The truth is that it is not possible for a tampon to actually get lost in the body as the cervix opening is too small for it to pass through. However, if you forget to change your tampon and insert another one or have sex with a tampon, it is possible for it to get pushed against the back wall of the vagina, making it difficult to remove. Leaving a tampon in for an extended period of time can also result in bacterial vaginosis, a condition in which the bad bacteria outnumber the good.
2. Why Does My Vagina Itch During My Period?
If you’ve been facing this issue but are too embarrassed to tell anyone, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many people go through this either during or directly after their period, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have an unhealthy vagina. During menstruation, the thick uterine lining sheds. This decreases the estrogen levels in the body. The hormonal change can also affect the levels of lactobacilli or good vaginal bacteria. Both of these factors lead to itching or irritation. Usually, it tends to go away after a day or two, but if the itching gets too uncomfortable, there are over-the-counter creams that provide relief. It is also beneficial to visit a gynaecologist to rule out infections.
3. Should I Pee After Sex?
Taking care of your vagina is more than just washing it every day. It also includes good habits that can save you, or your vagina, a lot of trouble. Peeing before and after sex is one of them. When you have sex with urine in your bladder, the bacteria get pushed inside and multiply. Meanwhile, during intercourse, a host of new bacteria are introduced into the urethra, which can lead to UTIs. This is why peeing before and after sex is helpful to flush out and cleanse your vagina from any foreign pathogens. Taking care of your vagina is not a tedious task. Following simple tips like the ones mentioned above can save you a lot of grief and trips to the gynaecologist. So go ahead and start paying special attention to your lady parts—she deserves it!
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