August 20 ,2018 / Feminine Care
All women should be concerned about their vaginal health, but what constitutes a healthy vagina? While it depends somewhat on a woman’s age, the vagina generally has an acidic pH, contains rich quantities of beneficial bacteria that help fend off infections, and is naturally lubricated.
A healthy vagina also secretes small amounts of discharge. While some women might not even be aware of it, others can notice anywhere up to a teaspoon or tablespoon of discharge a day. Discharge is a normal physiologic reaction — it’s essentially shedding of cervical and vaginal cells. However, if there is an odor in the discharge or if there are additional symptoms such as burning, it can be a cause for concern and should be reported to a Healthcare practitioner.
There are many steps you can take to prevent vaginal issues before they get out of hand. Simple steps to maintain a healthy vagina can save you a barrel-load of discomfort and trouble later.
Protect Vaginal PH Balance
Normally, vaginal pH is about 3.8 to 4.5, but using harsh cleansers and douches can interfere with the vagina's pH levels, reducing acidity and disrupting a healthy vaginal biome — the bacterial makeup of your vagina — and setting the stage for bacterial infections.
If your vagina has a strong or unpleasant odor, see your doctor; a douche will only cover up the smell without curing the problem that's causing it. If there is no underlying cause for the odor, choose a gentle product which will not interfere with the healthy PH balance.
Maintain a Healthy Diet or use Natural Products for Vaginal Health
You may not realize it, but following a balanced, nutritious diet and drinking plenty of fluids are both key to vaginal and reproductive health. In fact, certain foods may be effective in treating vaginal health problems.
Yogurt can potentially help prevent yeast infections and aid in their treatment. Yogurt is rich in probiotics, especially plain Greek yogurt, so if a woman is prone to yeast infections, taking a probiotic that is rich in [the bacteria] Lactobacilli, or eating plain Greek yogurt every day can be helpful.
If you’re prone to urinary tract infections, cranberry, is an excellent natural compound to prevent infections. It binds to harmful bacteria and fungi and prevents them from adhering to the mucosa, therefore preventing infections from settling in
For those who don’t like eating supplements, these products are now available in topical forms that can act directly on the vagina.
Practicing safe sex
Using condoms — either the male or female kind — during sex helps to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV, genital herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, genital warts, and chlamydia. Some of these, like HIV and genital herpes, have no cure. And others, like the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes genital warts, are known to cause cancer.
However, some birth control devices like condoms and coils can interfere with the vaginal ecosystem by changing PH, causing irritations etc. It is important to notice and rectify their impact to prevent any secondary infections. See Your Gynecologist — or Primary Care Doctor — for Preventive Care
It is also recommended that women undergo Pap smears starting at age 21 to screen for changes in vaginal cells that might indicate the presence of cancer. Gynecologists and many primary care physicians are trained to diagnose diseases and disorders that can harm the vagina or your reproductive system as a whole.
Treat Infections When They Arise
Three types of vaginal infections are common: yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis. If you’re prone to yeast infections and you recognize the symptoms, it’s okay to self-treat with an over-the-counter medication. But if the symptoms don’t go away, then you need to be seen as soon as possible.
While yeast is a fungal infection, bacterial vaginosis is caused by bacterial overgrowth in the vagina. Trichomoniasis is an infection caused by a parasite and is sexually transmitted. Treating these infections is crucial because not treating them can lead to unpleasant, painful, and serious reproductive health problems.
Use Enough Lubricant, but Not Petroleum Jelly
Lubrication is an important part of intercourse. Without it, the skin of the labia and vagina can become irritated and chafed. While vaginal lubrication usually occurs naturally during female arousal, some women do not produce enough natural lubricant. In this case, they should use an artificial lubricant to reduce friction and to enhance pleasure.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, certain lubricants can interfere with the sperm and make it difficult to conceive. In this instance, she recommends using a pH-balanced product. If you’re not trying to get pregnant, water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based lubricants are fine.
Never put petroleum jelly or baby oil inside of your vagina. It causes inflammation and can set you up for infection.
Choose Clothing Carefully to Stay Dry
Your vagina should stay clean and dry — and what you wear can affect that. Certain types of fabrics and tight-fitting clothing create warm, moist conditions in which yeast thrive. Wear breathable cotton underwear and avoid thongs. If you’re prone to yeast infections, change out of wet swimsuits and sweaty workout clothes as quickly as possible.
Follow Good Hygiene
Common sense can go a long way in protecting the health of your vagina. Change sanitary pads and tampons regularly during your period.
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