Keeping things clean, down there

Okay, okay. Let’s get to the bottom of this. If you are a woman living in 2020 and you walk through the Feminine Care aisle of your local drugstore, you may be under the impression that your lady parts are dirty and need some serious attention. This is because the aisles are filled with products that are meant to GIVE you that impression (and take your hard earned $). Scented scrubs, douches, vaginal washes – they are everywhere. But the truth is, the vagina is a SELF-CLEANING oven. It does not need any of these products to stay healthy. Let’s break it down a little more.

First, let’s start by making a very important distinction. The vagina and the vulva are NOT the same thing. It all starts when we are teaching the little girls in our life how to clean once they start using the bathroom independently. We say, “wipe your vagina,” or “clean your (insert other misnomer here).” What we are really referring to is the VULVA. This is the part outside of your vagina that includes the labia, mounded pubic bone area, the clitoris, and the vaginal and urethral openings. The vagina is actually the muscular canal that is completely internal and leads up the to the cervix and uterus. And the vagina should never be cleaned – under ANY circumstances!  Living in your vagina currently are thousands of healthy bacteria called Lactobacilli, which maintain a normal and healthy pH level. Any products that are used to “clean” the vagina can harm these good bacteria, and make way for bad bacteria to move in.  These lead to infections like bacterial vaginosis, for example. And the BV infection may make you have more itching and burning, leading to more “cleaning,” etc. You can see where this is going.

Now let’s talk about cleaning the vulva. It is important to wash away sweat, urine, feces or any other contaminant from the area. What’s the best way to do this?  Use a mild bath soap and water. Or just plain water is fine as well!  Avoid anything scented or with dyes as these may irritate your vulvar tissues. Other tips to keeping the vulva healthy include wearing cotton underwear and washing your new underwear before you wear it. Avoid fabric softeners and scented dryer sheets. And as discussed, stay away from any scented hygiene products like douches, sprays, deodorants, bubble bath, and talcum powder.

Lastly, if you are concerned about any vulvar or vaginal infections, odors or discharge – have a conversation with your doctor or nurse practitioner. Don’t self-treat with a harmful over the counter vaginal wash. Most odors and discharge are normal, but sometimes they require further evaluation.  Best to check with the professionals, such as our Women’s Health providers at Maze!

To learn more about your sexual health, contact us for a free phone consultation.

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