Ensuring that your vagina is healthy should be one of your top priorities, whether you’re sexually active or not. Here are a few pointers you should keep in mind when it comes to the health of your lady parts.
1. Do not douche. Douching (washing with a fragranced, antiseptic soap) affects the vagina’s pH levels by reducing its acidity – making it easier to contract bacterial infections. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, having a vaginal odour is completely normal – it’s not supposed to smell like a bouquet of roses! To keep it clean, wash with warm water and a mild soap.
2. Having a Pap smear annually is VITAL. Seeing your gynae regularly is crucial – a Pap smear can detect and diagnose infections and diseases – including cancer and the presence of pre-cancer cells.
3. Be careful when taking antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics kill off the good bacteria (lactobacillus) in your vagina. To prevent getting a yeast infection while on antibiotics, take a probiotic supplement and eat Greek yoghurt (contains live cultures).
4. Wear 100% cotton underwear (or panties with a strip of cotton in the crotch). The light fabric increases air flow and decreases moisture.
5. If your vagina gives off a strong fishy smell, this may be a warning sign that you have bacterial vaginosis. See your doctor if the smell continues – and if you have green discharge.
6. To avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases (including chlamydia, genital herpes and HIV), make sure your man always wears a condom when you have sex.
7. Choose the right lubricants. Avoid oil and Vaseline – a UCLA study found that women who used petroleum jelly as a lube increased the risk of bacterial vaginosis by 22%. Rather use water-based or silicone-based lubricants.