Your vagina is pretty pro at taking care of itself, ridding itself of bad bacteria and keeping itself lubricated and clean. But when we make little health mistakes, we get in the way of its natural process and can inhibit its ability to keep itself healthy.
How many of these vaginal health mistakes are you making?
1. Over-cleaning your vagina
Soaps, douches and cleansers have no business going near your vagina. These products – even ones that are marketed as ‘specially for’ your lady parts – are notorious for messing with your natural pH levels, leading to dryness and increasing the risk of infection. Water alone is enough to clean your vagina.
2. Wearing clothes that are too tight
Pants that are too tight increase the amount of moisture in your genital area while reducing airflow: the perfect environment for bacteria to breed and cause irritation, odour and infection.
3. Not changing your tampon or pad regularly
If you use tampons, you should be changing them at least every four to eight hours to reduce your risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but very serious bacterial infection that can be caused by leaving tampons in for too long. But besides that, not changing your pad or tampon often enough can lead to bad odours and irritation.
4. Sitting for a long time
Your vagina needs a regular flow of air to stay dry – remember, moisture can lead to all kinds of unpleasantness. Get up and walk around often. Plus, it’s good for your overall health.
5. Not wearing cotton panties
Silk, satin, going commando… these may feel great but they’re not ideal for your vagina. Cotton is breathable and keeps the skin cool and dry, helping to stave off the growth of bacteria.
6. Swimming right after hair removal
Whether you shave, wax or pluck, you should wait at least 24 to 48 hours after removing hair before you jump into a pool. The chlorine could irritate your freshly-dehaired skin and lead to bacterial growth and infections.
7. Ignoring unusual symptoms
Most women experience unpleasant vaginal symptoms at least once or twice in their lives, so there’s no need to be embarrassed. It’s critical to get any abnormal signs checked out before they lead to more serious issues that are complicated to treat. Got an itch, a discharge, pain or other kind of discomfort? Get to your doctor or clinic ASAP. You may just need something as simple as a course of antibiotics.
8. Not using condoms
STIs are real and highly prevalent, and no one is immune to them. From HIV to herpes, chlamydia, syphilis and others, STIs are on the rise among all age groups in South Africa, and contracting one can seriously affect your reproductive health, as well as your overall well-being. Having unsafe sex is one of the worst things you can do to your vagina, so if you’re wanting a healthy, happy, pain-free and odour-free vagina, make sure you use a condom every time you have sex.
Get reproductive health advice, contraceptives and more at Marie Stopes
Your vagina is precious; take good care of her. Whether you’re needing some unusual symptoms checked out, want contraceptive advice, or have questions relating to your reproductive health, we’re here to help you in a safe, confidential and judgement-free zone. Find your nearest Marie Stopes centre and make an appointment online now.