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Your Vagina & You: How To Take Care Of Your Vulva

Your Vagina & You: How To Take Care Of Your Vulva

 

Lately, the internet is riddled with information surrounding our vaginas and vulvas and the ways we should take care of it. First things first though – we should know that vaginas and vulvas are not the same thing. But what’s the difference?

 

 

Let’s talk about the vagina

 

The vagina is also a muscular canal for those who bear children. The vagina connects with the cervix and the uterus, and is where the lining of the uterus is shed during menstruation. It is also where penetration happens during sex and where a baby descends during birth.

 

So what’s the vulva?

 

The vulva is the part of the female sex organs that is on the outside of the vagina. These organs include: folds of sensitive tissue called the labia (labia means ‘lips’). The labia essentially have two parts: the labia majora (outer fold) and labia minora (inner fold within the labia majora). The vulva also has a mounded area made by the pubic bone (mons pubis), the clitoris (which is even more sensitive than the head of a penis), and the openings of the vagina and urinary canal (urethra).

 

Now that we know what the difference is, let’s get down to the Don’ts and Do’s for your vulva and vagina care!

 

 

Don’ts!...

 

Don’t douche. 

Here’s a fun fact: vaginas are self-cleaning. They possess the magical ability to give life, and the ability to clean themselves by balancing healthy bacteria and the pH scales. The problem with douching is that it kills off that good and healthy bacteria and leaves you vulnerable to infections, such as bacterial vaginosis and even UTIs. (I don’t need to tell you that they’re a killer, do I?)

 

Don’t use ‘feminine hygiene products’. 

Such as: feminine sprays and deodorants (FemmeFresh is a no-go! Vaginas are meant to smell like vaginas), bubble baths (preferably avoid them, or only have one occasionally), powders or scented perfume. (If anything, you can use coconut oil on your inner thighs).

 

Don’t forget to use condoms with new partners.

This shouldn’t even need to be said really, but condoms are what you need to avoid getting STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Condoms also help to keep your pH levels balanced, so all the good bacteria in your vagina can stay healthy, says a 2013 study in the PLoS One journal.

 

Don’t overuse antibiotics.

It turns out that unnecessary antibiotic use can kill off both good and bad bacteria, which will then cause a flurry of yeast and other infections to grow in your vagina.

 

Don’t use panty liners.

Using panty liners increases the risk of vaginal infections, due to these products keeping the vulva area warm and building up moisture. If you do need to use a panty liner, make sure to change it regularly.

 

Don’t store your razor in the shower where it is a breeding ground for bacteria in the warm dampness! Keep it in a cool, dry place.

 

 

Do’s-- Make your vulva happier!

 

Do use warm water to wash the vulva. Dry it with a cool towel, or even a hairdryer on the cool setting.

 

Do check your lube ingredients! Using lube during sex is amazing – in fact, it can be a game changer. However, some of them can have ingredients that aren’t entirely healthy for your vagina. Glycerine is related to sugar and it can add to bacterial growth in the vagina. Other ingredients to avoid:
- petroleum
- parabens
- scents
- flavours
- nonnatural oils
- dyes

 

Do wear 100% cotton underwear! It’s breathable and absorbent – meaning it can help prevent yeast infections.

 

Do wash new underclothes before wearing them.

 

Do use a free and clear detergent for your underwear, free of all dyes, enzymes and perfumes.

 

Do pee after sex! (Please, for the sake of your vaginal health and to avoid that horrendous UTI, go pee after sex!)

 

Do go front to back. Going from anal sex to vaginal sex is a big no-no, especially if you’re not changing condoms or cleaning up first. It’ll leave the vagina exposed to a variety of bacteria and can increase the risks of infections.

 

Do your kegel exercises. Three sets of 10 kegels a day will help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, reduce strain on your pelvic organs and improve your bladder and bowel function. Plus, make your orgasms stronger. Win-win, right?

 

Do clean from front to back after using the toilet, to avoid unwanted dirt or bacteria going from your butt to your vagina.

 

Do avoid high sugar and carbs diet as sugar favours the growth of yeast.

 

Do increase probiotics intake (such as yoghurt, fermented milk like kefir, or kombucha), as taking care of your immune system helps to keep vaginal infections in check.

 

Do moisturize your vulva with something that is free of parabens, perfumes and glycerine. You can use Vaseline or small amounts of coconut oil.

 

Do change your razor after a few uses as it will dull the blades and cause nicks and cuts, or those little red spots. It’s also important to rinse your razor every time you shave.

 

 

 

 

Sumaiya Ahmed is a lifestyle journalist and writer, aiming to break down the boundaries of cultural stigma and shame attached to mental health and sexuality within the South Asian culture and bring marginalised topics to light.
photo by: czulanaswiatlo

 

 

 

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