One very important aspect of the informal education of ladies when they are little girls is how to take care of themselves “down there”. The vagina is a sensitive part of the body and every woman deserves to feel clean and be healthy there. Before now, most women have been brought up with the notion that you need to wash the vagina with soap and not forget to douche so that you can bring out all the bacteria there and avoid infections.
However, in recent times, gynaecologists have come forward to say that most of the practices that we thought were right when it comes to taking care of the vagina were actually wrong. This has stirred up a whole new set of controversies on how women should take care of their vagina. Different theories and products have come up in the past years, from vajacials (a facial for the vagina) to spas offering to do vaginal steaming with a host of herbs. The real question is how can I really keep my vagina clean and safe from vaginal infections?
Here are a few tips from experts on the issue:
Do not wash with soap: This is one rule that gynaecologist agree on as very important. According to Dr. Chukwuemeka Odeigha, consultant gynaecologist and obstetrics at Military Hospital, Ikoyi, the vagina is a “self-cleaning organ”. This simply means that the vagina does a very good job of taking care of itself. The exterior part of the vagina which is the vulva however might need a little cleaning, but using soap is the wrong way to go. Dr. Odeigha advises that “water is enough” to clean to the vulva. The reason behind this is the fact that most soap is alkaline in nature and they affect the natural acidity of the vagina itself. Experts also warn that the use of soaps to wash the vagina would lead to the vagina being dry and sore. Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynaecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University advises that if you have to use soap, make sure you use unscented soap and rinse thoroughly with water, because you do not want to leave soap there.
Avoid Douching: The vagina really doesn’t need any help staying clean as many experts have said time and again. Dr. Minkin points out that the vaginal discharge you see on your underwear is not a sign of uncleanliness, (unless it comes with a bad smell), it is the vagina cleaning itself and so you do not need to use hot water or vinegar to “flush” out the vagina. Studies have also shown that using intravaginal products down there can be really harmful, leading to all sort of infections, pelvic inflammatory diseases and even STDs.
Be Careful with Antibiotics: The vagina has some “good” bacteria and these “good” guys keep the “bad” bacteria away. However, you threaten the good bacteria in the vagina which is called Lactobacilli, when you use antibiotics indiscriminately. Dr. Minkin advises that if you have to take prescribed antibiotics, you can also take yogurts to minimize the damage.
Wear Cotton Underwear: The vagina has a preferred clothing material and that is cotton, says Dr. Minkin. Cotton is an ideal material for your panties because it breathes and absorbs moisture. This is why most lace panties come with a thin strip of cotton in the crotch. Dr. Minkin also advises that you can go without panties when you are in the house alone to air that area out.
Wash and Dry with Care: While you might want to wash the vulva, the exterior part of the vagina with just water, you are advised to wash gently. Experts warn that you should not scrub hard while washing, just rinse through the different folds of the vulva with water and your finger in a gentle manner. The same thing also applies while drying the vagina; do not scrub with your towel vigorously. Dr. Minkin recommends that you can use a blow dryer set at cool and placed a foot away. The cool air will dry the vulva as well as leave a soothing effect. Another important tip to take note of is the fact that you do not want your wash cloth or sponge going from your anus to the vagina, as this can track rectal germs towards your vagina area and lead to infections.
Multiple sexual partners and use of perfumes in the vagina region is also a leading cause for vaginal infections says Dr. Odeigha. Women are also advised by experts to see the doctor once you notice any of these symptoms:
Abnormal vaginal discharge with unpleasant odour
Burning sensation during urination
Itching in and around the vagina
Discomfort during intercourse
It is important that you do not self-diagnose when it comes to issues concerning your vagina and your health in general.