Doctors advice for healthy vaginas – from underwear rule to sex tips
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According to research, nine out of 10 women consider looking after their gut health to be important, but the vagina can often be neglected.
Like the gut, the vagina is home to billions of bacteria and other microorganisms – known as the vaginal microbiome or vaginal flora – that help to keep the vagina healthy.
Looking after the vaginal microbiome can be a tricky and can be easily disrupted by everyday factors such as using scented bath products, having sex, taking antibiotics, and your period.
Behaviour changes brought about by the pandemic could also be causing many women vaginal health issues.
But what should women be avoiding if they want a healthy vagina?
We've compiled a list of six no-nos with the help of Dr Kate Stephens, Gut Microbiologist at Optibac Probiotics.
1. Don't be scared of bacteria
Dr Kate exclusively told Daily Star: "A healthy vagina should dominate in a friendly bacteria known as lactobacilli – in fact, ideally you’d want a vaginal tract containing 90%+ lactobacilli.
"One of the many functions of this friendly bacteria is to produce lactic acid which lowers the pH – this is ideal as many harmful microbes can't survive in these conditions.
"Therefore, a reduced amount of lactobacilli means an increased risk of infections such as BV or thrush.
The expert recommended taking a probiotic, we can help keep your vaginal flora balanced.
However, she added: "Although taking a probiotic is an excellent way to promote vaginal health and reducing risk of these types of infections, remember, just because a probiotic says it contains lactobacilli it does not necessarily mean they can reach the vaginal tract.
"Look for strains that have research for intimate health conditions, and reach the vagina alive like the Optibac Probiotics’ ‘For Women’ supplement."
2. Avoid feminine hygiene products
Dr Kate says warm water can be used to wash the vulva -the outer part of the vagina – daily.
However, she says you you should avoid using scented feminine hygiene products at all costs, as they're "completely unnecessary".
Experts say you don't any special products to cleanse to vagina in any way, including soap, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
This is because the vagina's odorous discharge is what allows it to naturally clean itself, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Fragrances can also potentially irritate the vagina and cause inflammation, itchiness, and pain.
3. Beware of unsafe sex
Practicing safe sex can protect you from STIs and unwanted pregnancies.
Infections can be passed on even if the penis doesn't fully enter the vagina or the man doesn't ejaculate. This is because infections can be present in pre-ejaculate fluid.
It is also advised to urinate immediately after, as this will help flush out any bacteria introduced into the vagina during intercourse.
4. Beware incorrect wiping methods
Experts recommend you always wipe from front to back when going to the toilet.
This can help reduce the risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs) and spreading bacteria that can make others sick.
Improper wiping can also cause anal discomfort and itching.
Wiping front to back could increase your risk for transferring bacteria to your urethra.
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5. Avoid wearing tight clothing or synthetic underwear
Your intimate area needs to breathe so try to avoid wearing tight clothing or synthetic underwear and remember to change tight clothes and underwear daily.
Wearing synthetic underwear for long periods of time can sometimes lead to yeast infections, UTIs and vaginal infections, according to experts.
This is because most synthetic fabrics are sweat absorbers and aren’t breathable.
6. Never douche
Your vagina is self-cleaning so there’s no need to wash the inside.
Douching can lead to many health problems, including problems getting pregnant, vaginal infections and STIs.
Studies have not found any health benefit to douching, so it's definitely best to avoid it!
- In the News
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