The vagina is part of a woman’s organs. It is just one part of the vulva. The vagina is an elastic, muscular tube connecting the cervix of the uterus to the vulva and exterior of the body. It can be delicate and complex.
The “vulva” describes all the external organs that make up female genitalia. It includes the vagina, the pubic mound, the labia majora (the outer folds of the vulva) and labia minora (the smaller, inner folds), the opening of the urethra (the pee hole) and the clitoris.
Paying enough attention and maintaining a healthy vagina is important, since it is an extremely sensitive part of the body. The vagina (vulva) does some awesome things.
“The vagina is like an incredible, self-cleaning oven and it has its own ways of maintaining an acidic pH to keep things balanced and prevent infection,” say experts.
Women should be concerned about their (vulva) vaginal health, and what constitutes a healthy (vulva) vagina. The vagina (vulva) generally has an acidic pH, contains rich quantities of beneficial bacteria that help fend off infections, and is naturally lubricated.
A healthy vagina also secretes small amount of discharge. While some women might not even be aware of it, others “can notice anywhere up to a teaspoon or tablespoon of discharge a day. Discharge is a normal physiologic reaction, it’s essentially shedding of cervical and vaginal cells,” experts say.
If you experience changes in vaginal odour, a change in colour of your discharge that may be associated with discomfort – whether it’s pelvic discomfort or vulva discomfort, itching, or burning – it should be evaluated. You should therefore seek medical help.
Every female has a natural vaginal scent that can change throughout her menstrual cycle. Normal vaginal discharge is usually clear, white, light yellow and sometimes sticky.
Your vagina and vulva area are usually healthy if you do not have an odour that is different for you or fishy smelling, itchiness, redness, or burning. It is important to know that some vaginal infections, such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia, can cause no symptoms.
Not all vaginal odours are caused by an infection. Poor hygiene can cause an unpleasant smell. Wearing tight fitting clothing or underwear made of nylon that doesn’t allow air freely can cause sweat and bacteria to get trapped, which can also cause an unpleasant odour.
So, here are a few hygiene tips for a happy, healthy vagina (vulva) that every woman should know.
You can keep your vagina healthy by doing the following:
• Eat a vagina vulva-friendly diet: Your vagina (vulva) relies on healthy bacteria to ward off bacteria that cause infections. Probiotic foods, like yogurt and cheese and prebiotic foods, like raw onions, garlic and leeks, are important for maintaining these good bacteria. Fruits are also very important.
• Always wipe from front to back: You do not want to bring what’s lurking in the back over to the front. This can introduce E. coli and other bacteria from the GI tract into the vagina.
• No douching: Experts don’t recommend douching (washing with soap) because it can disturb the pH balance in your vagina. You should only wash with mild, unscented soap on the outside and just water on the inside. If you’re sensitive or easily irritated down there, you may want to forgo soap entirely and try warm water wash.
The vagina cleanses itself, so you don’t need to flush it out with water or vinegar or any other fluid.
The vagina is self-cleaning, but the vulva, which is the external part of your genitals, which includes the labia, needs to be washed. Bacteria and smegma (a buildup of oils and dead skin) can hide in the folds of your vulva, and you’ll want to clear it out from time to time.
You don’t need to vigorously scrub the vagina with a washcloth to get it clean. “We’re talking about the most sensitive tissue in the body; so, the less perfumes and chemicals, the better,” experts say.
• Stay away from deodorised pads and tampons: Menstrual blood doesn’t need to smell a certain way or be masked by floral or other scents. Deodorised pads and tampons are full of harsh perfumes. Scented tampons can disrupt things in the vagina and cause irritation or an allergic reaction. To stay healthy during your period, change your tampon or pad frequently.
• Mind your other hygiene products: Experts say one major cause of vulva irritation is an allergy or sensitivity to ingredients in products we use every day, which can cause irritation, itching and abnormal discharge.
These products include soaps, lotions, shaving creams, sprays, laundry detergents, and anything else that comes into contact (directly or indirectly) with your vulva or vagina. Beware of wet wipes.
• Get rid of tight underwear: Experts recommend underwear that’s cotton or has a cotton crotch. They should be comfortable and breathable. If your vulva and vagina don’t get enough air, this can make you more prone to yeast infections. Yeast thrives in warm, moist places, so sitting in suffocating underwear all day is not a good idea.