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Taking Care Of Your Vagina Is Important. Here Are 10 Useful Tips To Get You Started

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By Rohini Banerjee for Cake

vaginaAlthough it’s an extremely important organ for those who have it, we often don’t talk enough about vaginal health and hygiene. Talking about vaginas is as much a taboo as talking about sex is, and hence, in our efforts to keep it all “hush hush”, we forget to take proper care of this organ, which might lead to various diseases and complications. From douching to avoiding an annual vaginal exam, there are tons of common misconceptions about what you should do to maintain a healthy vagina. So, here’s breaking down some common myths, and telling you what you should actually know in order to achieve good vaginal health:

Vaginal pH

pH refers to the vagina’s acidity level. Vaginas naturally contain a balance of different bacteria (these are the good guys!), that protect the vagina from external bacteria and fungus. They provide natural disinfectants and help maintain a healthy vaginal pH of 3.5-4.5. A vaginal pH in this range indicates that there is a perfect amount of good bacteria (lactobacilli), and no overgrowth of the bad bacteria that can cause odor, irritation and sometimes infection.

Myth: Every vagina has the same pH, and hence requires the same amount of care.

This is absolutely untrue. Vaginal pH varies from person to person, day to day, depending on your cycle, your diet and many other external factors. And hence, one’s pH can be either high or low, depending on various factors. Just as every person is different, every vagina is different, and requires different amount of care!

Smell

All vaginas have a scent, and no two vaginas smell the same.

Myth: Vaginas Should Smell “Fruity” or “Floral”

Absolutely freaking not! These are nothing but patriarchal myths made to appease the heterosexual male gaze. However, if you are worried about your scent, you can place an organic fragrant oil to an area around your vulva but not on it (places like between your thighs or on your lower stomach, for example). But remember, all vaginas have their own unique scent, and if yours doesn’t pander to what is conventionally considered “aesthetic”, there is nothing wrong with that.

Discharge

Your body secretes natural fluids, which is commonly known as ‘discharge’.

Myth: Discharge is Something “Abnormal”, and Something to Worry About

This is totally and completely wrong. Discharge is how your vagina self-cleanses and it is completely normal and vital to healthy vaginal function! Discharge can vary in amount, colour, texture and scent depending on your cycle. Don’t be frightened at all if you see those white stains in your underpants often. However, if you feel that your discharge is unusual or abnormal (green, grey, very yellow, smelly, itchy, chunky, and so on), definitely go visit a doctor. In case you experience abundant discharge, you can remove the excess discharge in your shower by inserting one clean finger into your vagina, moving it from one side to another and ‘scooping’ the discharge out.

Cleansing

Cleansing your vagina properly is extremely important for healthy vaginal function. Dead skin cells, oil and germs can build up between your clitoris and your clitoral hood, as well as inside your vagina, so it’s important to lift your hood up and rinse thoroughly so it doesn’t harden and cause infections or diseases.

Myth: “Douching” is A Good Way to Cleanse My Vagina

Do not, and I repeat, do NOT douche. Douching is a method to wash out the vagina with a mixture of water and vinegar. ‘Douches’ are sold in drugstores and supermarkets and come in a bottle or bag which is sprayed through a tube upward into the vagina. You may think it helps, but it only masks any problems while causing more! Douching throws off your natural scent, alters your PH and forces bacteria into your cervix. Water and a soft, clean washcloth is actually all you need to clean your vulvar areas that contain a mucous membrane.

Myth: Soaps and Conditioners Are Nice Too

Nope with a capital N. Remember those helpful bacteria? Soaps and conditioners will remove them and the natural necessary lubricants that protect the vagina. They may also cause irritation, inflammation, major discomfort and dryness. There should always be some amount of moistness present in your vagina, and soaps take that away.

Myth: Vaginal Washes Sound Like a Great Thing

Nowadays, you see a variety of vaginal washes (such as V-Wash) in pharmacies, which claim to cleanse your vagina without disturbing the pH balance. But that’s just capitalism trying to fool you, all over again. A vast majority of vaginal washes, even those touted as hypoallergenic, still contain dyes and fragrances which are known irritants, so it is important that you read the label before you use them. While vaginal washes are used to cleanse “bad” bacteria from your vulva, they might often wash away the “good” bacteria too. To be safe, always consult a trusted gynaecologist before we use something like a vaginal wash.

Myth: To Ensure It Gets Properly Cleaned, I Should Insert The Cleaning Agent Inside My Vagina

Never, EVER do that!! Inserting cleansing agents into your vagina—and this applies to any gels, deodorants, perfumed products and wipes, too—can MAJORLY disturb your vagina’s natural balance. Always apply these externally, around your vulva, and never inside it. While they still pose a possible risk of irritation, unscented baby wipes are the lesser of evils if you want to “freshen up” your vagina. However, always pay attention to your irritants and triggers while using any external cleansing agent.

Myth: Tight Thongs, Lacy Underwear Are Cool

While they may look good aesthetically and often make you feel sexy and beautiful, they can affect your vagina adversely! It is important to allow your vagina to breathe, so don’t wear clothing that is too tight in the vaginal area. Cotton panties are the best option, as they are both comfortable and healthy.

A Few More Important Mythbusting Tips:

  • Use the washcloths and towels you use to clean and dry your vagina on a rotation basis, because they might accumulate germs that can have unfavourable effects.
  • Wiping from ‘front to back’ keeps rectal bacterial away, and is also an easy method of cleansing.
  • Another extremely important thing that many people aren’t aware of is the fact that urinating after masturbation or sex reduces the amount of bacteria in your urethra. This in turn, can prevent diseases such as UTI or vaginal infections.

Diet

The food you eat affects your vagina too!

What To Eat, What to Avoid:

Balancing your diet in general and including things like pineapples, strawberries, yogurt, soy (the list goes on!) can influence your pH balance in positive ways. Beverages like water, cranberry juice and pineapple juice are also proven to improve vaginal health, and keep it moist and hydrated. Adding a probiotic supplement to any part of your diet can increase the amount of “good” bacteria in your vagina called lactobacillus. So, eat healthy, and your vagina will thank you!

The less ideal your vaginal pH balance is, the more susceptible you are to infections, STDs and other diseases, and hence, it is important for all of us to take care of this wonderful, organ. Our biology books and sex education classes often don’t teach us more about our vaginas, and more about how to keep it healthy. So, through this piece, I hope I have been able to introduce you to the important aspects of vaginal hygiene. Apart from following the tips that I have talked about, it is also important to go for regular vaginal exams to a trusted gynaecologist, and not be afraid or hesitant to do so. You are beautiful, and your vagina is beautiful, so let’s show it some love, yeah?

This article was originally published here on Cake.

You must be to comment.
  1. Mysterious

    Great article! You are right we often forget to talk about taking proper care of our private parts because speaking of them is taboo even tho you get some disease you won’t speak about it and rather die.
    Useful information provided.
    However you haven’t mentioned wiping is important after peeing.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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