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Stay Fresh: 6 Tips to Maintain Vaginal Health

Oh, the vagina. We love you! From female orgasms to nicknames, we recognize that vaginas come in different sizes, colors and shapes. Hey! We even wrote an ode to the vagina. But let's talk more about vaginal health. What creates an environment for better vaginal health? What about douches? Luckily, staff writer and resident Lori Ritchie reports with 6 tips for maintaining and improving your vaginal health.

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Most women don’t think much about vaginal health but it’s a critical part of every woman’s overall well-being. Vaginal-related health problems can affect fertility, desire for sex and even the ability to reach orgasm. A healthy vagina hosts beneficial bacteria known as lactobacilli. It’s these bacteria that prevent other organisms from infecting the vagina and also assist in maintaining the vagina’s normal, mildly acidic environment (pH level).

Discharge: normal or not?

It’s normal for the vagina to have a slightly pungent odor and occasional small amounts of clear or white discharge. During a woman’s ovulation period, this discharge amount may even increase for several days.

Unhealthy vaginal discharge may cause an unpleasant odor and be accompanied by burning, itching, or irritation. The cause of these symptoms can be varied. Diagnosis by a medical professional is needed for appropriate treatment in this case. Women experiencing discharge accompanied by severe abdominal pain, painful urination, or a fever should consult their doctor immediately. We even have a whole article dedicated to vaginal discharge including a chart so check it out here.

The following preventative maintenance tips will help women keep their vagina in the best working order:

#1 Avoid scented or anti-bacterial washes

Anti-bacterial soaps can upset the natural pH of the vagina that your body naturally produces, causing yeast infections. Stay away from feminine hygiene sprays, douches, and deodorants. It’s even a good practice to opt for unscented (non-bleached, organic if possible) tampons. An alternative is the Softcup or Mooncup as these don't cause Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) and are more natural alternatives. But if you can't stand the sight of your own blood--tampons it is.

#2 Urinate after sex

Make it a habit to urinate following intercourse. This practice flushes your bladder of any bacteria introduced into your system during sex which helps in the prevention of urinary tract infections. Also, remember to wipe front the front to the back following urination. When engaging in analingus or anal play of any kind, take precautions to not bring UTI-causing bacteria into the vulva area by wiping in a front to back motion.

#3 Know what goes next to and near your vagina

Wear panties with cotton lining to allow your vulva to “breath.” Consider wearing no panties at night (or sleeping naked). Avoid tight-fitting clothing. Change out of sweaty workout clothing or wet swimsuits as soon as possible. Along these lines, don't douche. Douching can introduce new bacteria into the vagina which can spread up through the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. Research has shown women who douche regularly experience more vaginal irritations and infections such as bacterial vaginosis, and an increased number of sexually transmitted diseases.

#4 Medications

Prolonged use of antibiotics can make women susceptible to yeast infections because these medications can kill the good bacteria that keep yeast under control while battling the bad bacteria causing illness. Probiotics are a bacteria similar to the normal bacteria that live in the body and can be found in some organic yogurts. These types of yogurts can be used as a supplement during antibiotic treatment. Spermicide and vaginal ring birth control products can cause vaginal irritation. Certain antihistamines may contribute to vaginal dryness.

#5 Condoms and toys

Condoms, while helping to protect you against pregnancy, also help keep your vagina clean. Having unprotected sex often can lead to vagina problems as well as the obvious pregnancy and STDs. Consider using polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms. They’re a little more expensive, but the material tends to be less irritating than latex for some women. Remember to change condoms when switching from oral or anal to vaginal intercourse. Always clean sex toys after each use.

#6 Regular pap smear

Regular check-ups by a medical professional (ie. a gynecologist) are the best way to ensure vaginal health and early detection of vaginal-related problems. Don’t let embarrassment hold you back from discussing any concerns with your physician.

This a post by staff writer Lori Ritchie. We're so glad to have Lori join us from sunny southern California. Lori Ritchie is a Registered Nurse and freelance writer living in Southern California with the love of her life and two beautiful children. Lori enjoys using writing as a platform for teaching. When Lori isn't tied to her computer or iPad, she enjoys traveling and fine wine. Questions or comments for Lori? E-mail editorial@getlusty.com.
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