You don’t have to clean your vagina because it naturally cleans itself. However, many women want to clean their outer genitals, known as the vulva. Since it is the part surrounding the vaginal entrance, women feel compelled to keep it clean.
It is okay to gently wash and clean the vulva if you don’t do it aggressively. But be careful about which cleaning products you use to help clean your vulva because some ingredients may cause adverse effects.
What Happens If You Clean Your Vagina?
The vagina is the inner part of the female genitals. So if you attempt to clean it, you’re more at risk of causing an adverse reaction like pain, inflammation or even an infection such as BV or Bacterial Vaginosis. On the other hand, cleaning the vulva is more accessible and safer because it exists outside your body.
Think about it this way: do you have to clean any of your other internal organs? No, of course, not. You only have to worry about cleaning the outside of your body. Everything on the inside is cleansed naturally, including the vagina. So avoid washing your vagina with douches, soaps, or any other cleaning products because they can increase infection risk and throw off your vaginal pH balance.
Women usually wash their vaginas because they smell a strange vaginal odor coming from them. But they may not realize that a vaginal odor is natural and healthy. Therefore, let the odor persist without attempting to wash the vagina. Then you can reduce the risk of a vaginal infection or something worse.
Some soaps have ingredients that dry out the vaginal tissues and create minor tears in them. Once those little tears form, bacteria will quickly infect the vagina.
Long-Term Risks of Vaginal Cleaning
Much medical research has already been done into the long-term risks and effects of vaginal cleaning. Virtually every study concludes that vaginal cleaning can cause long-term health effects, such as pelvic inflammatory disease or preterm labor.
Pregnant women suffer the highest risk from vaginal cleaning. Some of the possible outcomes for pregnant women include reduced birth weight for the baby, ectopic pregnancy, preterm birth, and a membrane infection around the baby called chorioamnionitis
As for all women, vaginal cleaning may increase the likelihood of developing cervical cancer, bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted infections, endometritis (uterus lining inflammation), vaginal pain, and yeast infections. Besides, would you want to risk putting chemical-based cleaning products inside your body to clean your vagina? That sounds risky in itself.
The Safest Ways to Keep the Vagina Clean
Let your body handle most of the vaginal cleaning duties. You only need to avoid irritating your vagina, especially when engaging in sexual intercourse.
For example, ensure you or your sexual partner wears a condom during intercourse. Also, don’t go right from anal sex to vaginal sex because that could place dangerous bacteria in your vagina.
When you finish having sex, immediately urinate in the bathroom to help prevent a urinary tract infection. Be sure to wipe your back and front once you finish urinating. You must maintain a dry vagina without fluids, sweat, or menstrual blood building up in it from your underwear. Change your underwear after workouts and periods if necessary.
How to Clean the Vulva
Use simple warm tap water to clean your external genitals and vulva. But if you feel the urge to wash the vulva with soap, ensure it is a mild soap without any scented ingredients. Then rinse the soapy vulva with warm water until the soap is gone completely.
Never use cleaning products containing detergent soaps, perfumes, feminine deodorant sprays, douches, and soaps with perfume. These ingredients will cause minor to severe vulva or vaginal irritation, especially if you put them inside your vagina.
Is Vaginal Steaming a Good Cleaning Solution?
Some so-called experts recommend vaginal steaming as a sufficient vaginal cleaning alternative. You would basically have to draw up a steam bath and mix various herbs in the water. The herbs are supposed to have a natural ability to clean the vagina and heal the uterus.
Unfortunately, there is not much credible scientific evidence to verify the effectiveness of vaginal steaming. After all, steam doesn’t go through the vaginal tissue or end up in the uterus. So how would it keep the vagina clean?
Besides, many herbs tend to irritate the vulva and vaginal tissues. It is even worse if you draw up a sweltering sauna, hot tub, or steaming bath because your vagina or vulva could suffer severe burns.
When Should I See My Doctor?
A minimal amount of vaginal odor is normal. However, if you start smelling a stronger and more fishy odor from your vagina, it is time to see the doctor immediately.
It could signify a vaginal inflammatory condition like bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection. Then you may experience unwanted symptoms like vaginal itching, burning, discoloring, chunky textural discharge, white-coated vulva lining, urination pain, and painful intercourse.
Overall, there is no scientific or medical purpose for douching or cleaning your vagina with any products. Numerous studies only seem to show people worsening or aggravating their condition when they attempt to clean their vaginas and vulvas.
The best thing you can do is call your doctor when noticing scary or unwanted symptoms. If they spot an infection, they will know the best treatment to provide you. Also, consider taking a vaginal probiotic such as Pro-Fem that can help maintain a healthy pH balance and keep away bad bacteria.