How to take care of your vagina
An unnecessarily taboo topic
The word vagina is treated like a bad word. Half the population of the world has one, so why is it considered a taboo topic?
Let’s say it together: vagina.
There are also many misconceptions about how to avoid messing up the natural processes of a vagina. This conversation about an such important body part should not be uncomfortable.
So let’s make it less uncomfortable, shall we?
Keeping it clean
Just ask your OBGYN and they will tell you the vagina is a self-cleaning oven.
I know it’s hard to put down that new limited edition summer Bath and Body Works body wash that you just bought, but you shouldn’t put that much fragrance and that many irritating chemicals anywhere near your vagina. You’re literally asking for a UTI or yeast infection.
For many women, Summer’s Eve is a really popular brand of various products with different purposes that you can use. They claim to balance out your PH level, but unless you have an infection or STI your vagina should do that naturally. As soon as you start using a different soap, you will stop smelling like mangoes. Good old bar soap and water should do the trick. And if anyone ever complains about smell to you, kindly (or not so kindly) tell them to take multiple seats, because believe it or not, that lovely mango smell that the Summer’s Eve was giving you, is not natural. If smell or irritation becomes alarmingly irregular, do talk to your OBGYN.
What happens if you have an STI/STD, UTI, or a bacterial issue?
If odor or irritation of the surrounding skin is a problem for you, it could be the sign of a yeast infection, or something much more irritating called Bacterial Vaginosis, and you definitely don’t want that either. Essentially it’s when too much bacteria builds up from unprotected sexual contact or frequent douching and the vagina isn’t able to clean it out like it normally would. The reason why this often goes undetected is because some women do not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms however, they would be along the line of itching, unnatural odor, or abnormal discharge. The smell will be very noticeable and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It is easily treated with a cream, gel, or medication. The vaginosis itself is NOT an STI so there is not reason to panic, however if untreated it can increase your risk of getting an STI.
Because the vaginosis can turn into an STI and/or STD, it is important that you make an appointment with your OBGYN sooner than later. Symptoms can overlap between certain infections and diseases. Depending on the severity of the STI or STD, your doctor will either give you a shot or pills to take. Some only require a cream. The treatment depends on severity.
If you want to lessen your chances of developing an STI, STD, bacterial vaginosis or something similar, USE CONDOMS. Many women are on birth control, but birth control will only help prevent pregnancy, and nothing else.
Yeast infections, on the other hand, can develop without being sexually active. My OBGYN informed me that anything from douching too frequently, sexual contact, or even wearing leggings and not letting your vagina “air out” once in awhile, can cause a yeast infection. Yeast infections don’t require a doctor’s visit (unless you want to have your doctor prescribe you a treatment or if they’re frequent) and can be treated with a drug store treatment, such as Monistat. Yeast infections have similar symptoms to Bacterial vaginosis, so if the drug store treatment doesn’t work, you should definitely talk to your doctor.
Getting rid of hair
There are such harsh societal regulations for what vaginas should look like. Then there’s the topic of shaving, waxing or any other form or hair removal.
Shaving: Did you know you can use conditioner instead of shaving cream to minimize ingrown hairs? It will lessen the irritation and it is more moisturizing. But by all means, if you hate shaving and someone complains to you about not shaving, they can also take multiple seats. Keep in mind that the hair is not supposed to be removed (which is why it’s there in the first place), but it’s all up to you.
Waxing: If you don’t fancy shaving, there’s always waxing. Shaving can cause pretty painful razor burn or even the dreaded ingrown hair. Wax strips are way more affordable than actually going to a salon, but if you feel like you don’t have the skills needed for dealing with a delicate area, then by all means get a professional to do it.
How much discharge is normal?
I can’t be the only one who freaked out when they started getting discharge in their early teens. Discharge is a completely normal process and it is how your vagina does that whole “self-cleaning oven” thing. But, if the discharge smells unusually bad and is followed by itching, it may mean you have too much bacteria or an STI/STD. You may also produce more discharge after ovulation. Just keep an eye on it if anything starts to concern you. Or you could always ask your mom, no matter how uncomfortable the question makes her.
Pads vs. tampons
Ahh, the age-old question. I’m going to be honest and say I really don’t like tampons. The Toxic Shock Syndrome scare really got to me. When I had first started getting my period, my pediatrician told me that really you should only use them if you have to go swimming or if you’re doing something athletic, but I know many women who use them regularly without problems. With pads or tampons just remember to change them regularly and don’t let either sit too long. Technically, yes a tampon could get stuck way up there, but I don’t think that happens too often. Just be cautious and practice good hygiene.
Or you can even try one of the many unconventional period products and find one that works for you.
Do what feels natural for you and don’t harm your vagina by masking it in perfumes and soaps and chemicals. It knows how to do it’s own thing, unless bacteria decides to really take over. As long as you use water and optional unscented, gentle soap of your choice, you’re good to go on your merry way of not caring what other people think, and doing what is best for you. Also, condoms are your friend and you don’t want to have to learn the hard way what happens when you don’t use them. Shave or wax if you want, but if you don’t, you’re just as fabulous.