Top 12 vaginal hygiene tips every woman should know

Just like menstruation, vaginal hygiene is a taboo subject in India.
Many women till date refrain from talking or sharing tips on how to
maintain feminine hygiene. However, it is important to know about
vaginal hygiene to keep your genitals clean and your reproductive tract
healthy. No matter what age you are, there are few basic vaginal hygiene
rules every woman should know about!

Vaginal health: Why is it important?

it is hardly spoken of, vaginal health is extremely important. Ignoring
the problems associated with poor vaginal hygiene can lead to many
complications in the future. From affecting your sex drive to fertility
to your ability to reaching an orgasm, being indifferent about your
vaginal health can have adverse effects.

That said, every woman
should be aware of the signs and symptoms of vaginal problems and take
important measures to ensure a healthy vagina.

1. Keep the undergarments dry

wiping the vagina after urinating can cause the panties to get wet,
which can not only lead to bad odour but put you at risk of vaginal
infections. Hence, it is always advised to wipe the area using toilet
paper or a soft cloth so your underwear is always dry.

The vaginal
fluid or discharge is a part of a healthy vaginal environment. The use
of products such as talcum powder or excessive wiping of the vagina can
make it very dry which can cause itchiness and vaginal dryness. It can
also lead to pain during sex and make it prone to injury. Moreover,
according to a research study[1] it was reported that perineal use of
talcum powder can increase the risk of endometrial cancer.

2. Change sanitary pads after 4-6 hours

to a Delhi-based gynaecologist Dr. Nupur Gupta, women who have normal
blood flow should change a sanitary napkin every four-six hours. The
same applies to the days when you have light blood flow. However, if you
have heavy flow during menstruation then changing sanitary pads every
3-4 hours is a must. If you are using a tampon, then change it every six
hours without fail. Also, clean the area every time you visit a
washroom during menstruation.

If sanitary napkins or tampons are
not changed for a long time, it can lead to skin rashes and bad odour.
In certain cases, it can also put you at risk of infections. Also, some
women tend to use reusable cloth pads, which needs to be washed and
dried properly before using it.

3. Clean the vagina after intercourse without fail

it a habit to clean the vagina every time after indulging in sex. This
is because body fluids and particles from condoms can cause irritation.
Also, not cleaning up after the act can make you prone to vaginal
infections. So always clean the vagina after sex with water to prevent
infections like urinary tract infections (UTIs).

4. Avoid using soap while washing your vagina

using harsh soaps or scented soaps to clean the vagina. The use of
soaps laden with harmful chemicals such as glycerol, perfumes and
antiseptics can affect the healthy balance of the bacteria in the
vagina. Moreover, it can also change the pH in the vaginal region, which
can cause irritation and lead to the growth of unhealthy bacteria.
Instead use plain soap and water, preferably lukewarm water to wash the
area around the vagina.

5. Avoid douching

A douche is
a device which flushes up water into the vagina to clean vaginal
secretions. Douching involves the use of certain chemicals which can
interfere with the vaginal pH. This can, in turn, disrupt the normal
vaginal bacteria. Moreover, there is no evidence that douching can
protect you against sexually transmitted infections or vaginal

6. Say no to scented feminine hygiene products

is not a good idea to use feminine hygiene products such as scented
wipes, vaginal deodorants or scrubs to keep the vagina healthy. In fact,
these products can worsen the condition and make you prone to
infections. Moreover, using vaginal scrubs can lead to peeling of the
skin, which can further up your risk of infections.

7. Practice safe sex

sex carries the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as
chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, warts, syphilis and human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Hence, using protection such as condoms
every time you have sex is one of the simplest and effective ways to
prevent STIs and vaginal infections and unwanted pregnancies. But before
you use one, check if you are allergic to the material of the condom
and pick the one that suits you.

Also, avoid using lubes during
the act as it can damage the vagina and also put you at risk of
infections. The use of lubricants, which contains glycerin, can damage
or irritate the vaginal cells, which in turn, ups the risk of STDs such
as herpes and HIV[2]. If your partner suffers from any sexually
transmitted disease, then it is advised to abstain from sex till the
time the symptoms subside or as recommended by your doctor. It is always
better to be safe than sorry.

8. Avoid wearing tight clothes

experts recommend that you should wear undergarments made from
breathable fabrics like cotton. This is because wearing tight clothes
and inners made from synthetic fabrics cause sweating due to reduced air
circulation. Excessive sweating and moisture can lead to the growth of
bacteria and yeast, causing vaginal infection. Avoid using leather
pants, tight spandex, and wet bathing suits for a long period of time.
Also, do change your clothes after working out or exercising or any
activity which can be sweaty.

9. Learn the right way to wipe

you wiping the area down the right way? Well, probably not! The right
way to clean the vagina is from front to back (the vagina to the anus)
and not the other way round. This is because, if you do the other way,
then the chances of dragging the harmful bacteria to the vaginal are
high. So if you have been wiping in the wrong direction, then it is time
to change.

10. Do not shave pubic hair

Some women
prefer shaving pubic hair as they think the pubic hair looks gross and
unclean. But if research has to be believed, pubic hair acts as a safety
net which protects the vulva (outer part of the female genitalia that
surrounds the opening of the vagina) from bacterial infections[3].

the use of non-electric shaving methods such as razors for shaving the
genital hair was found to cause genital injuries. Also, if you are
planning to get it done at a parlour, then beware of the products used
which might be laden with chemicals and instruments which can be used
without cleaning.

11. Do not ignore signs of vaginal infections

but most importantly, do not ignore any signs and symptoms of vaginal
infections. Whether you have a stinky smell or excessive vaginal
discharge or coloured vaginal discharge, do consult your doctor
immediately. Also, do not ignore an itchy vagina or pain in the vaginal
region as it could be a sign of an underlying health condition.

12. Never try self-medication

women are reluctant to consult a gynaecologist when it comes to
infections or diseases of the genital areas such as ringworm infection,
pubic lice infection, vaginal dryness, or itching. They, in fact, try
some quick home remedies such as using baking soda solution to wash the
vagina or applying some homemade paste to get rid of the odour.
Moreover, using over the counter antifungal or antibacterial ointment or
creams is the go-to remedy if home remedies fail to provide any relief.
But this approach is completely wrong. It is best to consult a doctor
for all these problems.

Every woman should follow these basic
feminine hygiene tips to ensure a healthy vagina. Do share this
information with all your friends to spread awareness including your
daughters. Because knowing these tips right from puberty can make a huge
difference in the overall health and wellness.