There are many body parts that we think of caring for – our guts, our cardiovascular system, our brain, and more – but we seldom think of taking good care our lady parts to keep them healthy. Maintaining a healthy vagina is key to not only a woman’s reproductive health, but to her overall well-being.
Do’s and Don’ts to Maintain Vaginal Health
Following are some do’s and don’ts to keep your lady parts as healthy as possible:
- Never Use Douche. The vagina was meant to keep itself clean by balancing healthy bacteria that keep foreign pathogens which might cause a yeast infection, vaginal itching, and even sexually transmitted diseases at bay. Douching can upset the delicate balance of your vaginal flora (the healthy, colonized bacteria that live in your vagina).
- Do Keep Yourself Clean. A simple baking soda and Epsom salts bath (without chemical perfumes) will keep your reproductive parts clean and fresh. If you usually shower, consider taking at least one long soaking bath a week to maintain good personal hygiene and a healthy vagina.
- But Don’t Clean Too Much. The vulva is covered in natural oils and vaginal secretions which keep it happy. If you scrub too hard, or use harsh soaps and cleaners, those oils get stripped away, making your vulva an vagina more prone to itching, irritation and infection.
- Don’t Use Chemical Spermicides, Odor Control, or Lubrication. These products, even the notorious KY Jelly are not good for your vagina’s pH levels. They also alter the bacterial balance of your vagina, which makes you prone to irritation and infection. Opt instead for a natural lubricant like coconut oil, or even saliva.
- Have Sex in the Right Order. If you practice anal sex, make sure that you always have vaginal intercourse before anal, or stop and make sure to change condoms or thoroughly clean so that fecal matter does not come into contact with the vagina.
- Use Condoms. Not only do condoms protect against sexually transmitted disease (STDs) but they also keep you protected from a partner’s bacteria – some of which may not agree with your vagina.
- Get an Annual Check Up Even When Everything is Fine. Though most women don’t’ look forward to being poked and prodded in a gynecological exam, it is a good time to double check for STDs if you’ve been sexy active, or ask any burning questions that you’re too embarrassed to ask your friends about.
- Wear Breathable Clothing. Our armpits, inner thighs, and in the case of women, internal sex organs are prone to getting damp and hot. While this is great for sexual intercourse, it isn’t so good for the health of the vagina, if it is never allowed to air out and dry out. Wearing breathable clothing will help to ensure that your vagina gets some fresh air.
- Skip the Scented Soaps. While there are an infinite number of scented soaps meant to give the impression that you’ll smell like a summer’s day or a mountain breeze, if they contain chemical scents, they aren’t good for your vagina – for the same reasons that douches, spermicides, and other chemical ingredients are harmful to your lady parts.
- Question the Use of Antibiotics. Even though your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to fight an infection – even one that has taken over your vagina, they may not be the best option for fighting it. Increasingly, germs are becoming antibiotic resistant, and they also kill off all the healthy bacteria in your gut that is largely responsible for your immunity. Antibiotics will also kill off healthy bacteria in your vagina. Instead try naturally antibiotic foods and herbs like astragalus, olive leaf, and garlic, onions, and oregano oil. A note of caution, oregano oil can burn, so it should never be applied directly to the vagina, but taken orally in a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil.
- Cycle Differently. Spin and cycle classes are all the rage in many health clubs right now, but they may not be the best sport for your vagina. Many women report sore, bruised, and irritated vaginas after riding on a bike for an extended period. If you are going to cycle, make sure you stand in your seat as often as you can to take the pressure of your groin. Minimally, make sure you wear padded biking shorts which will also lesson the stress to your parts down under.
- Skip the Sexy Thongs. While this might not be advice that makes your significant other happy, thing underwear can irritate the delicate flesh of the vagina, and perineum, making it more prone to infection.
- Avoid Stockings or Leggings that Don’t Have a Breathable Crotch. Moisture and heat trapped in by stockings or leggings with no wear to go can make your vagina more prone to illness.
- Always Wash New Underwear. Even underwear that comes in a sealed package can contain fibers and toxins that come from transporting it (think about how long it may have been sitting in a cardboard box on a hot, dusty truck in Indonesia, for example) which are not healthy for your body. Wash every single piece of underwear (or any other clothing that will come into contact with your nether regions) before wearing it.
- Use Non Toxic Laundry Detergent with All Natural or No Chemical Scents. Just like toxic chemical soaps, cleaners, and other self-care products, our laundry detergent can cause our clothes to smell amazing. However, they can also irritate the skin, causing break outs, rashes, and infections.
- Change Your Sanitary Napkin or Tampon Often. Blood that the body releases during a menstrual cycle is “clean,” however, it is being expelled for a reason. If this blood stays in contact with your vaginal walls or the flesh of the surrounding area for too long it can irritate it, and cause infections.
- Stop a Yeast Infection in Its Tracks. Many women complain of itching and discharge due to a yeast infection, which is really a common problem caused by the overgrowth of a fungus, called Candida Albicans. While you can opt for an anti-fungal cream that provides temporary relief, you are better off solving the problem at its core. Candida is caused primarily by consuming too much refined sugar and carbohydrates, as well as processed foods and unhealthy fats. These foods alter your gut flora, which then causes your body to become an ideal host to Albicans. A yeast infection is just one sign of an overgrowth. Babies who get thrush, a white, coated tongue, cravings for sugar and refined starches, leaky gut, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, and more all indicate that there’s too much candida in your body. Stick to a strict, fresh fruits and vegetables diet along with beans, nuts, seeds, and whole (unprocessed) grains to reverse the C. Albicans overgrowth, and you can kiss that yeast infection goodbye. Using plain Greek yogurt can also help to halt a yeast infection, as it contains healthy bacteria which can restore an imbalance.
- Make Sure Your Sexual Partner Gives You Time to Get Ready. Foreplay is not only pleasurable for most women, but it also prepares the body for pleasurable intercourse. Many men don’t realize that a woman rarely feels sensual pleasure from vaginal intercourse alone, and must be stimulated via the vulva, and surrounding flesh. This allows her body to lubricate itself so that she doesn’t have to endure painful, “dry” sex, which can rip the fragile tissue inside the vaginal walls. Every woman is different when it comes to how quickly she can be turned on and ready for sex, but make sure that your partner honors whatever that time is for you.
- Double Check Your Birth Control. Some hormonal contraceptives, especially progesterone birth control pills or shots can thin and dry the vagina, making sexual activity very uncomfortable.
- Don’t Store Your Razor in the Shower. The next time you accidentally nick yourself when shaving ‘down there,’ you’ll be much more prone to a bacterial infection if you store your razor in the shower. The hot, wet atmosphere is exactly where harmful bacteria like to grow.
- Find Out if You’re Allergic to Latex. Many condoms are made of latex which can irritate skin – including the skin in and around your vagina. If you feel burning or itching after using a latex condom, you are likely allergic. Try switching to non-latex alternatives like:
- Polyisoprene Condoms. These condoms are just like the latex condom, without the proteins present in the latter that can cause allergic reactions.
- Polyurethane Condoms. The polyurethane condom is the more popular latex condom alternative.
- Lambskin Condoms
The same way you got the gym or watch what you eat to maintain your health, the vagina needs a little extra care and attention on a regular basis to stay healthy. Following these do’s and don’ts will make sure that your lady parts are ready for whatever adventures you want to take her on.