All women should be concerned about their vaginal health. There are many suggested tips you can follow to provide a healthy vaginal environment, but we have taken the time to narrow it down to the five most essential:
1. Maintaining a normal pH balance is important for a healthy vaginal environment.
It is recommended to avoid douching, using harsh soaps or feminine fragrances. Any alteration in the vaginal pH could lead to an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria, leading to infection. Some women have a difficult time maintaining a normal vaginal pH, despite their greatest efforts. There is an over the counter product, RepHresh (available in a variety of forms), which can help normalize the vaginal pH.
2. It is imperative to practice safe sex.
Using condoms will reduce and protect you against transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Some of the more common STD’s are Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Trichomonas, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Herpes. These STDs commonly cause vaginal discharge, odor, itching, burning, lesions or painful ulcerations.
3. Vaginal hygiene is another important key to a healthy vagina.
The genital area should be kept clean and dry. A mild soap, like Dove, is recommended. Proper wiping techniques (front to back) will prevent contamination of bacteria into the vagina. This is especially important after a bowel movement. Cotton under garments should be worn and thongs should be avoided. It is important to remove wet bathing suits and work out clothes after use to avoid creating a warm and moist environment allowing the perfect environment for yeast production.
4. Adequate vaginal lubrication is another important aspect of vaginal health.
Vaginal dryness can potentially lead to labial and vaginal irritation, chafing, tearing and pain during intercourse. There are several over the counter products (KY and Replens, to name a few) which offer daily moisturizers and vaginal lubricants. Water based lubricants are the safest as they work well with condoms. Silicon and oil based lubricants stay slippery longer but should only be used when you are in a relationship where condoms are not needed for STD prevention. If you are in your menopausal years, your vaginal dryness could be a result of decreased estrogen production. You may benefit from a vaginal estrogen cream supplement to aid in your dryness and comfort. Newer products that contain DHEA and not Estrogen are now available.
5. Your overall health also plays a major role in your vaginal health.
If you are a diabetic, it is important to control your blood sugars. Chronic elevated blood sugars can increase yeast production in the vaginal tissue. Managing your weight is strongly recommended as well. Being overweight in the abdominal region can lead to weakness of the pelvic, bladder and vaginal muscles, which can result in poor control of urine and prolapse of the bladder and/or your uterus. If you are a smoker, you should quit! Smoking can have devastating effects on all organs. Smoking weakens your ability to fight off infection. Smoking will also increase your likelihood of developing cervical and vaginal cancers.
In conclusion, it is important to see your provider yearly for your annual pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. It is advised to seek medical evaluation for vaginal symptoms including discharge, odor, itching, burning, dryness, lesions or ulcerations, and pain during or after intercourse.