Do you ever feel like you are lurching between dealing with your period and dealing with vaginal itchiness, irritation or smells? It always amazes us that we forget these key facts when thinking about the reason behind this, so let's go back to basics:
1. Weird science
A healthy vagina has good and harmful bacteria. Like other parts of the body the vagina has a pH balance (i.e. how acidic it is) that needs to be maintained within a certain range (less than 4.5). The balance of these bacteria achieves this, which in turn protects the vagina from infections or irritation. Using scented soaps, bodywash, vaginal douches (flushing the vagina with water or other fluids) and sprays can upset the balance of pH, potentially leading to infection, irritation, and even bad smells. If you’re worried about the way your vagina smells you should see your GP as you might have an infection that needs treatment.
Is N.O.R.M.A.L. It is totally healthy to produce a clear or white discharge from your vagina as it helps keep it clean and keep your vaginal tissues moist. Your discharge will naturally vary throughout your cycle, however some changes could indicate that there is a vaginal infection or irritation. When this type of discharge is blood tinged, whether light or heavy, it is also sometimes referred to as spotting (see below for more information). If your vaginal discharge changes in colour, amount, smell or the addition of something else like itching or irritation please see your GP.
3. Front to back
Hands up who remembers learning how to wipe their bum? Nope, me neither. A majority of vaginal problems can stem from women not washing or wiping their bottoms correctly. When going to the loo, always wipe front to back. This prevents bacteria from the anus reaching the vagina which leads to infections.
4. Avoid the smellies
It may sound odd, but using scented soaps, body wash and sprays are not the best thing for your vagina. They often wash out the good bacteria that is supposed to be present to help fight off infection. Soap can be very drying and perfumes can change the pH levels of the vagina. You really only need to rinse with warm water to keep your vagina clean but if you just don't feel right about going soap-free, use plain, non perfumed soap to wash the area around the vagina (the vulva) gently every day. You do not need to wash inside the vagina as the body will clean this area itself with natural secretions (discharge). If you keep your vagina healthy there will be no need to make it smell different. If it smells bad then it is advisable to go and see a doctor to find out the cause.
5. Cotton bottom
When it comes to your underwear selection, cotton is the best. This is why most underwear comes with a thin strip of cotton fabric in the crotch as it breathes and absorbs moisture. Other synthetic fabrics can irritate. It is advisable to wear clean underwear everyday and to let some air get to the vulva. Therefore avoid wearing tight, sweaty clothing all the time e.g. leggings and cycling shorts.
6. Healthy gut
Often antibiotics can kill off some of the good bacteria (lactobacilli) that keep your vagina healthy. To help counteract this you can eat probiotic Greek yogurt, or take some probiotics such as Probio 7v which are made from 100% natural source ingredients. They’re suitable for vegans and are wheat free, dairy free, gluten free and yeast free and you can add them to your box . Please speak to your doctor about this if you require antibiotics.