Are you one of those women who neglect your vagina? Do you only think about it when something is wrong, such as unusual discharge or itchiness?
The vagina deserves plenty of care. Think about how important it is – it serves as the channel for a woman to deliver a baby, which means that it can expand far beyond its normal size and ensure the baby’s safe passage out of the mother’s womb.
The vagina is also crucial in sex and reproduction.
If you’ve never thought about the ways in which your vagina can be neglected, injured or unhealthy, it’s not too late.
Here are seven ways to make your vagina happy:
1. Wear cotton underwear
Cotton absorbs moisture and allows for better ventilation.
This keeps your vagina dry, otherwise it will be prone to fungal infections.
2. Cycle with care
A fan of indoor cycling classes? Have you ever experienced some numbness, pain or tingling in your vagina while cycling?
This is caused by the way you sit on the cycle seat, where you may be compressing the nerves and blood vessels in your crotch, which over time can reduce genital sensation.
If you ride with the handlebars lower than the seat, you are likely to experience the most discomfort.
Protect your vagina by using a harder seat, but wearing padded shorts.
Check your seat and handlebar positioning – when you are standing next to the bike, the seat should be at or right below your hip.
Your handlebars should be at the highest position that feels comfortable.
3. Keep it clean
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Of course I keep my vagina clean! But there are actually a lot of common mistakes that women make when it comes to vaginal hygiene.
One is not changing out of gym or exercise clothes right after a workout.
Even if you think that they’re not very dirty, the sweat (especially in the genital area, which is packed with sweat glands) causes bacteria to breed.
Overgrowth of bacteria in your vagina can upset the balance of good and bad bacteria that reside in there and lead to yeast infections.
After every workout, change out of your gym clothes and have a quick shower, taking care to rinse your vaginal area well.
4. Don’t douche or use scented soaps
Another common mistake when it comes to vaginal health is douching the vagina (spraying water into the vagina) or using feminine hygiene products that involve rinsing or inserting into the vagina.
This can actually increase your risk of infections, pelvic inflammatory disease and sexually-transmitted infections.
You should also keep scented soaps and body gels away from your vagina. These can cause irritation and dryness to the labia and area around the vulva.
Just rinse with warm water or a plain, gentle, unscented soap once a week (or after an exercise session).
Worried about the smell? Your vagina actually keeps itself clean by producing discharge. It is only when the discharge is abnormally heavy or foul-smelling that it becomes a cause for concern.
5. Keep tattoos away
The skin on the vaginal area is the most sensitive part of your whole body. Getting a tattoo there will guarantee an itchy rash and inflammation.
Even temporary tattoos on your vagina are a bad idea, as the cheap dye will cause the same irritation.
6. Say ‘no’ to antibiotics unless absolutely necessary
Antibiotics not only kill the disease-causing bacteria in your body, but also the good bacteria, like lactobacilli, that protect the vagina from yeast infections.
If your doctor prescribes you with antibiotics, ask whether it’s really necessary.
If it is, supplement your diet with probiotics while you are taking the course of antibiotics.
7. Use the right kind of lubricant
Vaginal dryness happens to a lot of women. It can be due to contraceptive pills, antihistamines, antidepressants, pregnancy or menopause.
Lubricants help to make sexual intercourse more comfortable and pleasurable. However, make sure you choose the right kind of lubricant.
Oil-based lubricants like baby oil or petroleum jelly products are thicker and don’t wash out very easily.
These lubricants can get stuck in your vaginal canal, trapping bacteria in it and leading to infections.
Instead of oil-based lubricants, use silicone- or water-based lubes instead.
Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist. For further information, visit www.primanora.com. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.