Vagina 101: How To Keep Healthier…Down There

studio shot of african american woman standing in whiteKeeping your vagina clean, dry, and disease-free is vital for your reproductive health.

A healthy vagina is naturally acidic and contains rich quantities of beneficial bacteria that help fend off infections and maintain a normal pH level. A healthy vagina will also secrete small amounts of discharge to keep itself clean, much as saliva is produced to help cleanse your mouth.

Any interference with these normal conditions, and you may face vaginal irritation or infection.

Simple ways to keep things healthy down there include:

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1. Adopt “Common Sense” Hygiene Habits (HINT: It’s not as “common” as you think)

Just because it’s called common sense doesn’t mean that everyone is using it as they should. Common sense can go a long way in protecting the health of your vagina. After a bowel movement, wipe from front to back to avoid bacterial contamination of the vagina and to lower the risk of bladder infection. Change sanitary pads and tampons regularly during your period. When you’re not having your period, do not use pads or panty liners to absorb normal vaginal discharge; they will keep moisture and warmth near your vagina, which can result in infection. Also, avoid douching, which can interfere with the vagina’s pH levels, reducing its acidity and setting the stage for bacterial infections. Avoid using harsh soaps or cleansers on the vulva or inside the vagina, as these also can affect a healthy pH balance.

2. Practice Safer Sex

Using condoms during sex helps to protect against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, genital herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, genital warts, and chlamydia. Also, be sure to use some kind of protection when having oral sex. Among those who were surveyed, over 60% of women say they did NOT use dental dam or condoms when receiving or performing oral sex. You could be setting yourself up for a very nasty disease or condition.

Some of these diseases, like HIV and genital herpes, still have no cure. Others, like the human papillomavirus that causes genital warts, are known to cause cancer or lead to other diseases. You also should change condoms when switching from oral or anal sex to vaginal sex, to prevent the introduction of harmful bacteria into the vagina.

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3. See Your Gynecologist Regularly

The number one reason women give for not going to see a gynecologist is because they say the “don’t want to know” if something is wrong. Having regular gynecological exams is crucial to maintaining your vaginal health. Every woman should…