If you’re not doing these things already, your vah-jay-jay could be suffering.
Our vaginas might be a taboo topic, but neglecting to acknowledge their existence is doing us more harm than good.
As things stand, most of us don’t even really know what a ‘normal’ vagina is supposed to look like, let alone how to take care of it so as to avoid potential health issues.
In fact, the chances are high that you’re currently neglecting to do some of these essential upkeep items right now…
1. Going panty-free
Yep, even your vagina needs a break from time to time. Constantly keeping it covered in underwear means you’re never giving the area a chance to air out, and that can spell disaster for your gynecological health.
“Often, if someone is prone to infection, I’ll tell them to sleep without underwear to aerate the area. I’ll also tell them to put a hairdryer on cool when they come out of the shower and blow-dry their bottom to get rid of excess moisture,” says gynecologist and Mount Sinai School of Medicine assistant clinical professor, Alyssa Dweck.
Dark, damp environments promote yeast growth, so if you want to avoid a nasty thrush breakout, try to ditch your underwear altogether a couple of times a week; ideally when you go to bed.
2. Following correct tampon etiquette
So you wash your hands after you’ve inserted a tampon, but did you know you should be washing them thoroughly beforehand, too? Failing to adequately scrub-up prior to insertion can cause bacteria contamination, which can lead to infections, so don’t risk it.
Additionally, you should never leave a tampon in after you’ve pooped. This is because microscopic particles of fecal matter make their way onto your tampon string, leading to cross-contamination, which can cause a urinary tract infection, or UTI. Additionally, because your digestive system sits closely to your vagina, a bowel movement can dislodge your tampon and cause discomfort, so always change out your tampon after you’ve done a number two.
3. Peeing after sex
This really can’t be stressed enough; you should always, always pee after sex. Okay, so running to the loo post-coitus isn’t exactly sexy, but foregoing this critical self-care task puts you at increased risk of developing a UTI.
“It’s different for men, who have a big distance from their anal area to their urethra because of the penis length. Think of the mechanics of thrusting during intercourse. Bacteria can move around,” explains Dweck.
4. Conducting regular self-examinations
If you’re like Sex And The City‘s Charlotte and have never actually taken a hand mirror downstairs to check out what’s going on down there, now’s the time to start. Just like conducting regular breast self-exams, examining your vulva is the only way you’re likely to discover something’s up.
“Feeling around in the shower is how a lot of people find out they have something going on. They’ll notice a bump, and sometimes it turns out to be something that shouldn’t be there. Other times it’s just their cervix,” says Dweck.
To do a proper self-examination, you should use a hand mirror with a long handle and a small light, like the one on your phone. Sit somewhere comfortable with a pillow wedged behind your back, and with washed hands, carefully inspect your labia (the outer and inner vaginal lips), clitoris (the sensitive bump responsible for arousal, at the top tip of your labia), urethra opening (where you pee from), vaginal opening (the largest opening), and anus opening (the small opening below your vagina). If you notice anything that seems out of place, like general lumps or bumps, but especially warts, sores, or discharge that has a strange smell or hue to it, book in for an appointment with your gyno to investigate.
According to Indiana University’s National Survey Of Sexual Health, only 7.9 per cent of women between the ages of 25 and 29 masturbate two to three times a week, a tiny number in comparison to the estimated 23.4 per cent of men that do, and something we should work to improve.
Masturbation is an important part of vaginal self-care for a number of reasons; it allows you to get to know where everything is downstairs, work out what gets you going sexually, increases feelings of calm and self-confidence whilst decreasing stress levels, and can even help to keep your vaginal muscles taut and toned and stave off period pain.
“If you have a uterine contraction while self-stimulating, and a uterine contraction can help menstrual blood come out faster…theoretically it’s going to help with cramps,” confirms Sex Rx: Hormones Health And Your Best Sex Ever, author, Dr Lauren Streicher.
6. Being kind
This one’s simple: be kind to your vuh-jay-jay. That means giving it some breathing space from time to time by avoiding constrictive clothing, not douching the area or using perfumed products likely to irritate the delicate genital area, and ensuring you take your vagina for regular check-ups with your gyno in the same way you do your general health with your regular doc.
It’s really not rocket science. Be good to your lady garden, and it will be good to you. Really, really good.
Images via tumblr.com, giphy.com and pinterest.com.
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