Like all other parts of the body, a woman’s vagina and surrounding parts need tender love and continuous care for optimal health. Consider these 10 commandments to support and optimize your vaginal health.
1. Get your annual gynecological checkups
Know the health of your vagina. Recent changes in screening recommend pap smears every three years. If you have a prior history of HPV or other vaginal health issues then you can have them more frequently. In any event, you know your body best and if you feel something is awry, see your gynecologist.
2. Avoid douching
If you’re in the habit of cleansing your vagina with douches, STOP NOW. This unhealthy habit can offset the pH of the vagina, (which is slightly acidic with a pH of approximately 3.4 – 4.5) making it prone to infections and irritation.
3. Use non-toxic products
The vagina is self-cleaning. There’s no need to put anything up inside it to cleanse. Once you’re having clear odorless discharge, it’s doing its cleansing work. For the external parts of the vagina like the vulva and labia areas, use mild soap and water, and if you must use fresheners, use ones that are free of toxins (fragrances, parabens, synthetic preservatives). During your menstrual flow, use pads that are made from non-bleached cotton and free of synthetic fragrances, which can cause irritation to the skin.
4. Eat for a healthy vagina
The foods you eat will definitely have an effect on your vaginal flora. Consume foods that contain probiotics with lactobacilli, which will keep yeast and other microorganisms from proliferating.
5. Use gentle lubricants
If you experience vaginal dryness, use water-based lubricants. Oil based is also a good option. However, keep in mind that oil-based lubricants can degrade latex condoms and that can expose you to potential STIs.
Avoid using petroleum jelly products to lubricate as they can promote infection.
6. Practice responsible and safe sexual habits
The CDC released a report earlier this year stating that the rate of STIs is rising rapidly and setting new records in the United States. Sexually transmitted infections include HIV, gonorrhea,
Use sound judgment. Practice safe sex. Discuss sexual expectations and preferences with your partner and educate yourself about ways you can enjoy safe sex. Things you can do include abstinence; while abstaining, both parties can consider getting tested for STIs; use condoms; use a different condom for each opening when having vaginal and anal sex. Also, avoid putting the penis into the anus (even at the opening of the anus) and the vagina. This can transfer harmful anal bacteria to the vagina.
7. Wear comfortable under clothing
Undergarments should be comfortable and dry at all times. Yeast thrives in moist, warm places. So be sure to change your undergarments, liners
I’ll also suggest limiting how much you wear tight fitting pants. I know we all love skinny jeans. I swore I’d never wear them and then flaked. However, it’s important to remember that wearing them all the time can contribute to moisture and warmth, which can promote bacterial growth.
I’ll share a tip an elder gave to me. If you feel comfortable, go commando at night. Give your vagina some
8. Practice good vaginal hygiene
It goes without saying, a healthy vagina requires good hygiene. The pubic area perspires like anywhere else on the body and this can cause odors. Mild soap and water will take care of this issue. If you are sensitive to soaps, simply use water and perhaps a non-toxic (fragrance-free, synthetic- free) cleanser or freshener.
In addition, after using the restroom, always wipe from the front to the back. The reverse can transfer bacteria from the anus to the vagina.
9. Strengthen your vaginal muscles
Kegel exercises are great for strengthing the pelvic floor muscles, which provide support for the rectum, bladder, uterus and small intestine. This practice can control urinary incontinence, enjoyable sex, and easier childbirth.
10. Limit the lengthy bubble baths
So this is more about the bubbles than the bath. Baths are wonderful and recommended. However, for some, the problem is with the bubbles, which can offset the pH of the vagina. Bubble baths are usually made with less than stellar ingredients that are not the best concoctions for your vagina’s health.
When you want to luxuriate in a bath, try vaginal caring bath oils instead of the harsh bubbles. Add some rose petals or other beautiful healing herbs that won’t harm your vagina.
Dixie Lincoln- Nichols is a biological science educator, certified health coach and entrepreneur. Her work has been featured in media outlets like, Oprah Mag, SELF, Yahoo, Redbook, Natural Health, Instyle, Working Woman, Huffington Post, Essence Online, Tampa Tribune and more. She is currently the Chief Self-care Connoisseur and founder of I. O. Beauty Market, where she curates products that are free of toxic, harmful ingredients.