It is one of those things just not talked about—caring for your vagina. We get messages from the media and folks selling product, we need to sanitize ourselves. We should “freshen” with a douche or “organic wash” or “odor blocker”. The truth is, the more product you put in your vagina, the more likely you will get an imbalance in your natural flora. This is the healthy bacteria which we need for vaginal health. This imbalance can lead to vaginitis –an inflammation of the vagina. This can be mildly uncomfortable or can lead to yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis—stay tuned for posts on these.
So you now know what not to do. So what DO you do?
The inside of your vagina is self cleaning. We spend so much time on our mouth hygiene, we think we should take care of our vagina in a similar fashion—NOT!
Often I hear from women that they feel their vagina smells. They feel a need to wash it with soap. If your vagina has a strong odor—fishy or ammonia smell, or yeasty smell, you likely have an imbalance happening and should seek professional care. A well balanced healthy vagina has no odor or irritation. You might notice a stronger smell with your period or immediately after, blood has a somewhat metallic tinge to it. But that will pass with your period.
Yes it is normal to have discharge—some women naturally have more than others. And yes it can get a bit funky at the end of the day especially in the summer, water is your friend. The inner lips of your vagina along with the clitoris and surrounding area like to be rinsed with water when you bathe. This is the part of your vagina that is often slightly wet and moist but is NOT inside your body. It notably has no hair naturally on it.
The outer vaginal lips which grow hair and all the area where the hair grows does need to be cleaned. This area, and the area around your anus (where you poop from), likes water AND a mild non fragranced soap. Fragrance often is a vaginal irritant. If you use it, be very careful not to get it inside your inner vaginal lips. If you are getting imbalances, stop using it.
Generally patting dry with a towel is all that you need. However, if you are having any irritations, use a hair dryer to dry your outer skin where the hair grows and the area around your anus. This can help get rid of any unwanted yeast or bacteria that is living on your skin. Keep the dryer moving to avoid excess heat.
Products for your period
Tampons are generally well tolerated by most women—though do increase cramping for some women. Use non scented brands to minimize irritants . There are questionable and unknown ingredients in tampons, but they have been around for a long time and again seem to be generally well tolerated. If you are having irritations and prefer tampons I would recommend switching to organic tampons, they are great, but pricey.
Pads are a good option. The super absorbent kinds are less tolerated by some. If you are finding yourself with vaginal irritation or infections, go with the old fashioned thicker ones or organic brands. After childbirth particularly I have seen rashes from the thin super absorbent pads—likely due to a combination of more tender than usual tissue and prolonged use. Another alternative are reusable natural fiber pads.
Menstrual cups of various kinds are on the market and well loved by many and go by the names of Deva cup and Keeper and Lena.
Lubricants are another topic for another day, but it is important to consider this as causative if you are having imbalances and using a lubricant.