Table of Contents
It can be difficult to know exactly what the best habits are to keep our vaginas healthy, so today we have posted the top 3 things you need to know about vaginal health. If you always keep these in mind, your vagina is on a healthy path!
What You Need To Know About Vaginal Health #1: Vaginas are self-cleaning
Vaginas contain bacteria, and some of these bacteria are good and some are bad. The good bacteria in your vagina prefer to live in an environment with a steady pH of around 3.8 to 4.5, which is slightly acidic. These good bacteria help to keep your vagina healthy as they outnumber the bad bacteria, prevent bad bacteria sticking to the walls of the vagina and kill bad bacteria when they enter the vagina. The vagina also cleans itself, and this is done with the health of vaginal secretions, commonly referred to as discharge, that is produced naturally.
As there is this natural and delicate balance within the environment of the vagina, it doesn’t need to be cleaned with fancy scented soaps or feminine fragranced wipes and deodorants. Douches also harm the vagina and are completely unnecessary. All of these practices only work to upset the healthy environment that already exists in the vagina, changing the pH and removing the good bacteria, causing infections.
So how should you clean your vagina? There is no need to use any soap when washing the vagina, but if you would prefer, you can use an unscented soap to wash the area. However, warm water is all that is required to keep the vagina clean and maintain that healthy environment of good bacteria and balanced pH.
What You Need To Know About Vaginal Health #2: Vaginas need some air
Bad bacteria that can grow in our vagina thrive in warm and moist environments, therefore it is important to allow our vaginas to have some space. Our underwear choice can affect our vaginal health and the best option is 100% cotton underwear. Cotton is moisture-wicking and therefore will not allow moisture to build up in the vagina, preventing the growth of bad bacteria that cause infections.
Other habits that can help let your vagina breathe are choosing the right workout clothes when exercising. Wearing loose workout clothes, rather than tight yoga pants that aren’t breathable is a good choice. Also, it is important to change out of sweaty gym clothes quickly after exercise and take a shower. This advice would also apply to wearing swimsuits, changing out of them quickly.
Another helpful tip to reduce the risk of developing vaginal infections due to a warm and moist environment is sleeping naked or not wearing underwear at night time. Again, this allows air to the vagina and helps to maintain a healthy environment where bad bacteria cannot grow. There are also other great health benefits of sleeping naked.
What You Need To Know About Vaginal Health #3: Your hormone levels affect your vagina
The levels of your hormones can affect your vagina in a number of ways. Estrogen can help the vagina to clean itself by promoting normal discharge from the vagina. It also keeps the urethra and vulva healthy. Levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body can also affect sex drive. When sex hormones in our body decrease, for example, as a consequence of menopause, there may be side effects on the vagina.
The vagina, as a result of changing levels of hormones, may become more dry, thinner and have less elasticity. This may lead to a condition called vaginal atrophy. Lower levels of estrogen can also result in a higher pH in the vagina, making it less acidic.
To try to prevent some of these side effects of changing hormone levels and promote vaginal health, regular sexual activity boosts blood flow to the vagina, which helps to promote the health of the tissues in that area.
The Importance of Maintaining Good Vaginal Health
If you do not keep your vagina clean and healthy, you are at risk of developing infections that will impact your health. Common vaginal infections include:
Bacterial Vaginosis: This infection is caused when the bad bacteria in the vagina grows, causing a bacterial infection. It is caused when the normal conditions of the vagina (acidic pH and more good bacteria than bad bacteria) are upset. Some potential causes for the onset of bacterial vaginosis include changing sexual partners or using douches and deodorants.
Yeast Infections: Yeast infections, such as thrush, are caused by fungal growth in the vagina. Potential causes of yeast infections include pregnancy, using ‘feminine hygiene products’ such as soaps or deodorants, wearing tight clothing and having sex.
To avoid contracting infections such as these, it is important to take care of your vagina, and most importantly, adopt the habits that work to maintain a healthy environment in your vagina.
Not maintaining good vaginal health can also lead to problems with fertility. The infection bacterial vaginosis can affect the probability of conceiving as it causes inflammation and promotes the activity of the immune system. This can create an environment that is toxic for reproduction. Bacterial vaginosis also harms sperm and cells within the vagina and interferes with the production of mucus in the cervix. Bacterial vaginosis can also block fallopian tubes, preventing sperm and egg from meeting. Bacterial vaginosis is 3 times as common in infertile women as compared to fertile women.
Along with affecting the chances of conceiving a child, bacterial vaginosis may also cause problems with pregnancy. The infection is thought to cause a two-fold increase in pregnancy loss following IVF, and there is also thought to be a higher risk of early birth and complications with low birth rate with women who have had IVF and have bacterial vaginosis.
Other infections in the vagina can also affect fertility, such as trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a protozoan parasite. Trichomoniasis can affect fertility and pregnancy as it increases the likelihood of preterm birth and also low birth weight. The inflammation caused by trichomoniasis can also make it more easy for HIV to be contracted or passed to a sexual partner.
If you have poor vaginal health and have developed an infection, it has the potential to decrease your sexual drive and desire. Vaginal infections can cause pain, inflammation and itchiness which may all make sex painful and uncomfortable, therefore decreasing your libido.
Stress and Self-Confidence
Having a physical health complication can also affect our mental health. If the natural environment of your vagina has been upset and you are experiencing a vaginal infection, this may lead to stress, anxiety and low self-confidence. If you work to maintain good vaginal health, potential pain and discomfort in the region does not have to be a worry.
(Nutritionist, MS, RD, LD) is a highly skilled Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition and exercise physiology. She owns a private practice specializing in hormone and digestive issues. With her integrative and functional nutrition approach, she is passionate about empowering women to build health from a place of connection: to self, to nature, and to community.
As an advisor at Hormone University, Kaely brings invaluable expertise and guidance. Her background in food science, coupled with her comprehensive understanding of integrative nutrition, enables her to provide insights and stay up-to-date with the latest research in the field. Kaely’s commitment to empowering others and her dedication to their well-being make her an indispensable asset to the Hormone University community.