Vaginal health isn’t just important when you’re having regular sex. Vaginal health is important to your overall well-being. Taking care of your vagina properly will help you avoid infections, decrease odors, and in turn increase self-confidence and mental health. It can improve sex and relationships and promote overall well-being.
Here are some tips to keep your vagina healthy.
See your gynecologist annually.
There is some confusion about how often you should see your gynecologist. The guidelines for cervical cancer screening recently changed from annually to every three years. However, you should still see your gynecologist every year. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you should see your gyno every year for a pelvic exam, to discuss birth control or reproductive issues, and for STD testing.
You should also see your gynecologist any time you suspect there may be a problem with your vagina or your cycle, such as unusually heavy periods, painful cramps, discharge, or unusual odors. These can all be signs of infection or more serious problems.
Get vaccinated against HPV.
Yes, even adults can be vaccinated against HPV. The HPV vaccination is available for healthy adults up to age 45. If you have not had the HPV vaccine, now is the time to get it. HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer, and most people have it without ever knowing. You can talk to your gynecologist about whether or not the HPV vaccination is right for you at your annual exam.
Avoid douching at all costs.
Surveys show that 20% of women douche, but clinical studies have proven that most women shouldn’t do so. According to the medical journal Epidemiologic Reviews, douching can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, bacterial infections, or even infertility. Douching while pregnant has also been linked to low birth weight and premature births, and douching after sex can lead to an increased risk of cervical cancer, STDs, and HPV.
In short, a healthy vagina is a self-cleaning organ. It doesn’t need your help. Douching can also change the delicate pH balance of the vagina, which can lead to dryness, discomfort during sex, and yeast infections.
Use vaginal probiotics instead.
While douching can cause yeast infections, vaginal probiotics can actually help prevent them. Vaginal probiotics like those from Pro-Fem help your vagina maintain its pH balance to avoid the growth of yeast and other bacteria. According to research reported by the Cleveland Clinic, the best vaginal probiotics are Lactobacillus crispatus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, both of which have shown promise in clinical trials.
Practice your Kegels.
Kegels are exercises for your vagina. Yes, there is such a thing. The vagina is a muscle, and it can be conditioned. Kegels are the way to do that. Essentially, you want to clench your muscles to tighten the vagina for a count of 10, then release. A popular way to do Kegels is to start and stop the stream of urine while peeing.
Why do you need to strengthen this muscle? Kegels also strengthen the pelvic floor, which supports urinary health. Many women have the cough-and-pee problem after childbirth, but Kegels can prevent this. The moistness of underwear traps pee near the vagina and changes its pH balance.
Don’t shave all of your pubic hair.
It is understandable to want to stay trimmed down there, but you shouldn’t shave all of your pubic hair. According to ACOG, pubic hair plays a vital role in keeping the vagina clean and healthy. It traps moisture, debris, and bacteria and keeps them from entering the vagina.
Speaking of which, it is also recommended that you sleep in the nude. Especially after childbirth, it is normal to have some dampness overnight. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Underwear traps that dampness against your pubic area.
Adopt healthy sex practices.
You might think that you have healthy sex habits already, but some are often missed. The first of these is that you should pee immediately after having sex. This naturally rinses away the messiness of sex. It also gives you private time in the bathroom to clean up better. You’ll avoid UTIs and yeast infections by rinsing away the debris that can enter the urethra and vagina during and after sex.
Another thing that people often fail to think about is switching between anal play and vaginal play. If you like anal play, it is important to do it after vaginal play rather than before. Vaginal sex after anal sex can lead to painful and irritating yeast infections.
Experts also recommend STD testing every time you have a new partner rather than on a specific schedule. Visit your doctor any time you have concerns, and get tested for HPV on a regular basis. If you start following these sexual habits, you should be able to maintain a healthy vagina without fear of infections.
Why Annual Pap Smears Are History – But Routine Ob-Gyn Visits Are Not. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Vaginal Douching: Evidence for Risks or Benefits to Women’s Health. Epidemiologic Reviews via the National Institute of Health
Are Probiotics Good for Vaginal Health? Cleveland Clinic
Kegels: The 30-second exercise that can improve incontinence and sex. UChicago Medicine.
To Shave or Not to Shave: An Ob-Gyn’s Guide to Pubic Hair Care. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists