Issues in the nether region isn’t a topic one freely talks about at the coffee table, but more than a few of us can confess to having problems down under. Whether it’s itchiness, unfamiliar discharge, or even a vaginal infection, we suffer in silence because who wants to talk about problems with their private parts?
Instead, we strut forth to do whatever we think is best for our genital health. But what if what you’re doing is exactly the thing that’s sabotaging your vaginal health? What if your cleaning process is the one irritating your skin and giving you the itches from hell?
Genital hygiene is basic knowledge that should be taught to everyone, and we at HealthWorks never shy away from difficult topics (just read our articles on pee and poo). Read on to find out how to keeping your lady bits happy and healthy, it’s actually pretty simple if you know how. Here’s your action plan:
1. Use only water or mild soap to wash down there
Your vagina is actually a pretty advanced machine, and cleans itself really well . You know how you get these whitish, or slightly yellowish discharges? That’s from your vagina cleaning itself.
A healthy vagina is protected by an army of good bacteria to stave off disease-causing microbes. These good bacteria are called lactobacili and they help keep your vagina’s pH balance at its normal level (less than pH4.5). If you use harsh soaps and other cleansers / perfumes on it, it’ll disrupt this ecosystem, which will lead to growth of the bad bacteria and eventually cause several infections you’d rather not be irritated with 
Many gynaecologists recommend only using warm water to thoroughly rinse your vulva, labia and vagina. However, the area around your vagina can sometimes use a little bit of soap. In this case, it’s best to go for the non-irritating, plain mild soaps (like Human Nature’s All Natural Feminine Wash) and just lightly rub the area outside of your vagina (not your vagina itself), then rinse of clean and dry up. Avoid using soaps with irritants like perfumes and anti-bacterials .
2. Change your pads or tampons often
Don’t wait till your monthly bleeding fills the pad or tampon to the brim. Changing frequently is the best way to avoid infections.
PADS: Changing your pad every 4 hours would help you avoid bacterial growth (they grow in warm, moist, dark environments, which is facilitated by your filled pad). This in turn helps you steer clear of UTIs (urinary tract infection), vaginal infections and other problems .
TAMPONS: Changing your tampon every 4-8 hours will help prevent Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a rare but sometimes deadly disease, caused by bacteria which produce toxins .
Don’t worry about wasting unfilled pads or tampons, your health is more important at the end of the day. If you don’t like changing your pads and tampons so often, you could consider using menstrual cups like Mooncup or Divacup, which are more environmentally-friendly and hygienic.
3. Always wipe from front to back
After you’ve done your business on the toilet, the direction in which you wipe can make a huge difference. All doctors recommend wiping from front to back to avoid transporting the germs from your rectum to your bladder, vagina, etc. This will in turn lead to UTIs and other infections. Also, don’t use the same piece of toilet paper / tissue to wipe twice. That’s just eew .
4. Always keep it dry
Bacteria thrive in moist, dark environments, so if you wash but leave it wet, you’re just allowing harmful bacteria to grow. This then causes itching and other dreaded problems down there. Wipe gently after washing and make sure you are dry before pulling up your panties .
5. Get out of wet clothing quick
Same logic here. Stewing yourself in a bacteria-laden wet underwear is a quick leap towards bacterial infections. After swimming, snorkelling, or even working out, try not to stay in your wet undies for too long.
6. Pee after sex
When you’re being frisky in bed, bacteria gets transferred easily from other regions of your body and your partner’s body because, well, we don’t really have to go there. Doctors recommend peeing immediately after sexual intercourse to prevent bacteria from getting into your urethra. This helps you avoid painful UTIs . Can’t pee? Drink lots of water before sex, and we guarantee you’ll be running to the loo pretty quick.
7. Avoid douches and feminine hygiene sprays
Many women douche because they claim to feel cleaner after. However, this could not be further from the truth. Washing and spraying water into your vagina in an effort to clean it with commercial douches may make you feel cleaner, but it’s actually screwing up the good and bad bacterial balance in your vaginal area.
In fact, gynaecologists recommend against douching (unless medically required) as it tends to lead to higher rates of bacterial and yeast infections [9, 10]. The same goes with feminine hygiene sprays. You don’t need perfume down there, be proud of your personal scent!
8. If your discharge smells bad, see a doctor instead of using perfume
Most women have a unique scent of their own, but it shouldn’t smell bad to the point where you’ll wrinkle your nose. Bad odour from your vagina usually means you’ve got an infection of some sort (which could range from bacterial vaginosis to disease trichinosis) . If this occurs, you should talk to a gynaecologist about the problem instead of masking it with perfume.
9. Wear 100% cotton
100% cotton underwear have better air circulation than underwear made with other materials. Good air circulation keeps your vulva dry, which means the chances of bad bacteria breeding are smaller. Wash your underwear with mild unscented detergent if you are prone to irritation and try to avoid tight fitting clothes that restrict air flow .
10. Eat yoghurt
Yoghurt contains good bacteria which helps keep the bacteria in your digestive tract and vagina in check. Eating yoghurt regularly could help with keeping vaginal infections at bay . Some people also swear on cranberry juice, but there’s not much scientific evidence on that for now. No harm trying though!
We hope these tips help you get your special lady parts back on track so you’ll never have to suffer another horrid infection again!
[See also: If Your Periods Always Hurt Like Crazy, You Could Have Endometriosis]
What other tricks have you learned to keep your vagina healthy? Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!