Feminine Care: Essential Health and Sexual Wellness
Vaginitis is one of the most common reasons women visit their health care providers. The term is a general name for any infection, inflammation, or abnormalities in the vagina; these conditions plague millions yearly.
If left untreated, complications from vaginitis can become serious. Severe instances include an increased risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy-related risks like premature birth, low birth weight, and infertility.
Attending to your feminine care is essential to your overall healthcare and wellness. It’s easy to neglect or shy away from attending to yourself because of the personal nature of feminine care, but making it a priority means an overall healthier you!
We’re here to help you understand the balance that exists in a healthy vagina, what might disrupt it and what you can do about it.
Your Body’s Microbiome
The human microbiome consists of all microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that exist naturally in our bodies. Microbiomes play a significant role in the health and wellness of all humans.
The vagina has a dynamic microbiome with unique characteristics and specific microbial species. It’s actually an ecosystem! An imbalance in that ecosystem can alter the vaginal pH and tip the scale to the point of causing issues, such as vaginitis, that require medical attention.
Understanding the Importance of pH
Part of the vaginal microbiome is pH level. Every substance, including different body parts like the vagina, has its own pH balance. When it comes to the vagina, this level affects susceptibility to infection, hormone changes, and having a healthy pregnancy.
The pH scale determines how acidic a substance is from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic, 14 being the most basic, and 7 being neutral. The normal range of pH for a healthy vagina is 3.8 to 4.5, which makes it more on the acidic side.
For another example of pH in the body, consider your stomach. It requires a pH level of 1.2-2.5, which is highly acidic, in order to break down food and kill harmful bacteria. If you’ve ever experienced gastrointestinal discomfort, you know what it feels like for your stomach’s pH to be off. Similarly, the vagina has an adverse reaction when something interferes with its pH level.
You don’t have to think that much about your pH levels; it’s a natural part of our body’s homeostasis, but you need to be aware of how you might be mistreating your vagina’s pH.
Some activities may affect vaginal pH and cause it to become imbalanced. You can throw off your own resident microorganisms by doing these things:
Having Unprotected Sex
Semen is relatively alkaline and can alter the vaginal pH, causing it to become elevated. This elevation in pH can last for many hours after unprotected sex, leaving the vagina more vulnerable to infection.
Antibiotics are effective at attacking the harmful bacteria that cause infections; unfortunately, they can also kill the good bacteria that exist in the vagina.
Douching or intense cleaning procedures and solutions can rinse away vaginal secretions and create an abnormal pH.
Generally, a healthy vagina is one that exhibits a high acidic pH, contains helpful bacteria that reduce infection, and is naturally lubricated. An amount of discharge is totally normal too. It’s simply a by-product of shedding vaginal and cervical cells.
It’s only when you notice changes in these characteristics that may be cause for concern or require you to seek treatment.
Signs and Symptoms
If you do have a condition or infection affecting your vagina, you might notice one or more of these symptoms occurring:
- A change in color, amount, or odor of discharge
- Redness or itching
- Bleeding is not related to your menstrual cycle
- Pain during intercourse
A good tip is also to pay attention to your body during menstruation. It may be that you’re period is showing signs of a feminine health care issue.
There are a number of factors that can affect the health of your vagina.
- Certain health conditions
- Birth control
- Pregnancy or childbirth
- Psychological issues
- Hormone levels
If you’re feeling something’s not quite right, consider which factors could be at play in your situation. You’ll have a better chance of getting to the bottom of the cause if you think first about these.
- Sexual problems
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Pelvic floor relaxation
The good news is that most of the time, you can take steps to resolve these issues and experience health and comfort again. For some issues, there are effective preventative measures.
There are plenty of easy, everyday habits you can adopt to ensure you’re treating your vagina with the proper care and consideration it needs!
Safe, Clean Sex
If you plan to use any lubricant or condoms during sex, read up on the ingredients and be aware of products that can affect the pH balance of your vagina.
Avoid products that contain:
- Fragrance or dye
- Petroleum products
Be conscious of what you are using and note if you experience any rash or irritation. It’s also a good idea to use the bathroom after sex and/or wash to flush out any unwanted contaminants.
There are no magic products or special routines. As a matter of fact, it’s advisable to avoid special scrubs, soaps, or douches. Your vagina has a self-cleaning function, and normal bathing and clean water are all it takes to maintain cleanliness and a healthy pH.
Good feminine hygiene is as easy as washing your vulva area daily with mild soap and warm water. It’s also preferable to clean using your own hands rather than with a washcloth.
Foods can affect your vaginal health. Overall nutrition and plenty of water lend to a healthy vagina. Specific issues can benefit from certain nutrients as well.
If you’re prone to yeast infections, a daily dose of Greek yogurt can help boost probiotics with yeast-fighting bacteria. For frequent urinary tract infections, taking a daily cranberry supplement may be helpful.
Other vagina healthy foods include:
- Sweet potatoes for vitamin A which is linked to fertility
- Foods with Omega-3 fatty acids for vaginal lubrication
- Apples to stimulate blood flow
- Minimally-processed soy products for increased estrogen
- Avocados can boost lubrication and strengthen vaginal walls
Healthy, nutrient-dense foods like these have myriad benefits for your body, including boosting vagina health.
For optimal health and comfort, your vagina should stay clean and dry. The best choice for underwear is white, pure cotton fabric. The absence of dyes lessens the chance of irritation, and cotton is a more absorbent, natural material that allows the skin to breathe.
These characteristics also make pure cotton the top choice for your period products. Products that contain plastics, dyes, and chemicals can not only cause irritation or allergic reactions but can also contain harmful toxins. A dye-free, full cotton top sheet is the best material for contact with your vagina.
Some other clothing tips:
- Change sweaty workout clothes quickly
- Avoid wet bathings suits for long periods
- Avoid tight-fitting undergarments
Many health professionals also advise ditching your underwear altogether at night as it can be helpful in allowing the vagina to breathe, a significant benefit for those who experience excessive dampness or are prone to yeast infections.
First, regular visits to your primary care physician or OB/GYN are such an important step toward maintaining health and wellness. Annual exams help you catch potentially dangerous conditions before they progress. Screenings for cervical cancer and breast exams are regular routines during yearly exams.
Aside from these major issues, annual exams can also help you feel good about the health of your vagina. Your doctor can spot anything out of the ordinary and answer any questions you might have.
Treatments as Needed
If you do have an issue or notice something, don’t delay making moves to treat it. For lots of symptoms, a simple change of habit or over-the-counter treatment will be sufficient, but if you notice your symptoms lingering, it’s essential to take the next step and call your doctor.
Consider Feminine Care Health Care
It can be uncomfortable to express the need for help with a vaginal issue, but neglecting symptoms could be detrimental to your overall health.
At Red Moon, your feminine health is our priority. We commit to providing helpful information along with quality period products to improve vaginal and, therefore, overall holistic health.
Alison Ferrell is the co-founder of Red Moon and has a passion for helping others discover peace and comfort amidst reproductive health issues. Alison draws on her deep empathy for those who’ve suffered from Endometriosis and reproductive illnesses as inspiration for her business. You can connect with her on Linkedin.