As one of the important reproductive organs of the female body, the vagina needs to kept clean. Here are some tips to have a clean and healthy vagina.
Have you ever tried to learn about your body? By your body, I mean, the female reproductive system. Your reproductive system consists of organs like the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, labia majora, labia minora, Bartholin’s glands, clitoris and the vagina.
Most of us are aware about the vagina but actually end up confusing it with the vulva. Now what is the vulva, you would ask.
The vulva is a term which is collectively used for the external reproductive organs (Labia Majora, Labia Minora, Clitoris, Bartholin’s glands, Mons Pubis and vagina). Thus, the next time you happen to address your external reproductive system vulva is the term you need to use and not the vagina. But for today let’s just focus on the vagina.
The vagina is an important part of the female reproductive system that is elastic and muscular in nature. It is the canal that has a soft and flexible lining often responsible for providing lubrication and sensation. Nature has created it in such a way such that sexual intercourse and child-birth can be facilitated and the process becomes easy.
Most importantly it connects your external reproductive organs or the vulva with the cervix and uterus. You can call it the connecting point between the vulva and the uterus.
The vagina can be as long as 3-4 inches and is known to expand further when a woman is aroused or ready for intercourse. The size, shape and colour of the vagina can vary from woman to woman.
The vagina is also home to the hymen, a thin membrane mostly shaped as half-moon, which makes the passage of menstrual blood easy.
The primary function of the vagina is to keep harmful micro-organisms at bay. These microbes can lead to an infection and can even go up to the urinary tract leading to urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Lactobacillus Acidophilus is one organism which is present naturally in women of reproductive age, say between 15-40 years. The vagina has an acidic environment created by Lactobacillus Acidophilus by secreting lactic acid. Due to the lactic acid the pH of the vagina is between 4.9-3.5.
Hence the acidic environment is unfavourable for growth of various microbes. This keeps the vagina free from infections and from keeping microbes from reaching the uterus.
You need to keep your vagina clean and healthy for various reasons, like mentioned above. Here are some ways you can keep it healthy-
‘Douching’ is a term used for washing the vagina with water or liquids used with water. We usually are in the habit of cleaning or washing the vagina with water post urinating or during the menstrual cycle.
However it is not the correct practice. Douching can rob your vagina of the the naturally occurring micro-flora thereby disturbing the pH. This sends an easy invitation to harmful bacteria so that they can cause infections.
The vagina has a self-cleansing mechanism which is why washing it with water isn’t required.
Gently wipe your vagina with a tissue and say no to douche.
Before you insert a tampon or a menstrual cup, wash your hands thoroughly with an anti-bacterial wash. Only after washing your hands should you touch your vagina.
Our hands carry multitudes of germs as we touch a number of things every minute. Thus, washing your hands is a must!
If you have purchased a new menstrual cup or have an already used cup, in your cupboard, please sterilise it before using it. Sterilisation kills harmful bacteria and keeps you safe from vaginal infections.
Once your periods are over, sterilise it again and put it back in the pouch or cover. Remember the menstrual cup has to enter your vagina and would be there for 5-6 hours at a stretch. Keeping it clean and sterilised is always a good idea.
You should always practice safe sex. The use of a condom reduces the risk of one coming down with sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
So using protection will always keep you safe and sound.
You must pee after sexual intercourse as it reduces the chances of UTIs. These are extremely common in sexually active women. Peeing after sex can help you get rid of unwanted organisms, in short protecting you from infections.
Though it is a good idea to keep yourself clean down there, completely removing the pubic hair, isn’t.
Pubic hair protects your vagina from harmful bacteria and reduces the chances of friction or sweating, problems experienced by several women.
While, it is important to use lubricants, it is just as important to check its composition. A lubricant containing parabens, scents, glycerin, dyes and non-natural oils must be avoided at all costs.
These are the kinds of lubricants that may harm the pH of your vagina and lead to the growth of unwanted bacteria.
You can use water or silicone based lubricants sans glycerin. The sugar in glycerin can provide a favourable environment for yeasts to grow. This in turn, might lead to yeast infections.
Make sure to change your underwear everyday and that you always wash it with warm water. If your inner is wet, please change it immediately. Wet environment can house unwanted bacteria or the growth of yeast.
Always wear cotton underwear rather than synthetic ones, as they allow your vagina to breathe, keeping it happy.
It is always a good idea to give your vagina to some space to breathe and rest. Therefore, avoid wearing underwear at night. This should be an exception for days when you are menstruating.
You must change your sanitary napkins and tampons often. Keeping it for a very long period of time can be an invitation for unwanted microbes and ultimately infections.
You should avoid using any product that is not meant for the vagina. The vagina, on its own does not have a smell and can clean itself. Spraying deodorant, using soap/talcum powder is going to disturb the pH balance leading to issues in the future.
Moreover your vagina has a delicate and a soft layer which could dry off due to use of soaps.
Overusing antibiotics may kill both the good and the bad micro-organisms, no discrimination, you see! This may lead to change in the micro-flora ultimately causing infections, especially yeast infections.
So don’t pop a pill every so often, it might just harm you in the long run.
If you use a tissue to wipe your genitals post going to the washroom then here is a tip: Always wipe in the front first before you go back.
Wiping back to front can bring in the faecal matter close to the vagina which can gain access to your urethra and might give you an infection.
In case you have any other tips like these, let us know!
Picture credits: Screenshot from AIB’s video Woman’s Besties
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A Nutritionist, Clinical Dietitian, Speaker, health/fitness blogger, online show host, menu planner, menstrual health,
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