We all learn the rules of basic hygiene while growing up: wash your hands after using the bathroom, put on deodorant every morning, wear a fresh pair of underwear every day, and so on and so forth. On top of these normal cleanliness practices, women also need to learn the specifics of feminine hygiene as they get older and especially as they begin to go through puberty.
Unfortunately, there tends to be a lot of confusion over what is safe and healthy and what is not when it comes to caring for your vagina. So, we’ve put together a list of the most important do’s and don’ts for vaginal hygiene to help you stay fresh, clean, and healthy!
DO keep your vagina dry.
Your vagina naturally produces fluids to create a healthy environment for itself. However, excess moisture buildup down there can lead to infection and bacteria growth. It’s important, therefore, that you take measures to eliminate any extra or excessive moisture. These measures include:
- Wearing breathable cotton underwear (as opposed to fabrics like silk that retain moisture)
- Wiping thoroughly (from front to back!) after using the bathroom
- Changing out of wet or sweaty undergarments or swimsuits
- Changing your tampon or menstrual pad, or emptying out your menstrual cup, every 4-6 hours
DON’T use soap or douche.
The vagina is pretty good at keeping itself clean. It regulates its own acidity level to prevent the growth of bacteria and infection. The use of strong or perfumed soaps or the act of douching—flushing out the inside of the vagina with water or soap—throws your natural pH out of whack. Disrupting your vaginal balance this way actually makes you more vulnerable to infection. So, skip the soap and just rinse your external genitals with warm water instead.
DO clean your vagina after sex.
Having sex can introduce a lot of bacteria and other debris into and around the vagina via bodily fluids, lubricants, condoms, toys, etc. Experts recommend that you urinate following every single sexual encounter to help flush these foreign particles from your body. It’s also a good idea to either shower or wipe down the outside of your vagina with water and dry thoroughly, to help prevent infection.
DON’T shave off pubic hair.
A lot of women shave the hair that grows on and around the vagina because they don’t like the way it looks or for their partner. Pubic hair is actually pretty important to vaginal health though, as it serves to protect the vulva from bacteria and other unwanted particles. Razors, wax, and other hair removal tools can also cause irritation or cut the skin, leaving you more susceptible to infection. It is better to trim back pubic hair with scissors than remove it completely.
DO see your gynecologist annually.
Regular wellness checkups are an essential aspect of preventative healthcare for all women. You should make an appointment with your gynecologist every year to ensure you’re keeping up with necessary tests and other exam procedures, such as Pap smears, mammograms, and STD panels. This annual visit is also a good chance to address any questions or concerns you might have regarding your sexual or reproductive health.
DON’T ignore signs of infection.
You know yourself and your vagina better than anyone else. If something isn’t right, call your gynecologist to ask about symptoms or make an appointment ASAP. Contact your doctor if you experience vaginal itching, redness, pain during intercourse (or general vaginal pain), a strange or pungent odor, excessive or discolored discharge, bumps or a rash, or anything else that doesn’t seem normal about your vagina. Any of these symptoms could signal infection or even an underlying health condition, in which case the earlier you seek treatment, the better.
At South Avenue Women’s Services, your reproductive health and wellness is our top priority. Our medical professionals provide a wide range of women’s wellness services, including gynecology exams, mammograms, birth control, STD testing, medical and surgical abortions, and more. When you come to our facility, you can trust that you’re going to receive the compassionate, confidential, and expert care you deserve.
Give us a call at 585-271-3850 today to schedule your appointment!