11 Ways to Keep Your Vagina Happy and Healthy
You might think you know everything about keeping your lady parts in tip-top shape, but you could be wrong. From douching to ditching your annual exam, there are tons of common misconceptions about what you should do to maintain a healthy vagina. Allow us to enlighten you:
- Use Condoms
You know that rubbers are great at protecting against STDs and pregnancy, but one study found that using condoms helps keep your vagina’s pH level at the status quo so good bacteria, like lactobacilli, can survive in there. And this is super important since those little bacteria help prevent yeast infections, UTIs, and bacterial vaginosis. Just in case you needed another reason to wrap things up.
- Wear Cotton Underwear or Go Commando
When it comes to your underwear selection, your vagina has a preference: cotton. That’s why most underwear comes with a thin strip of cotton fabric in the crotch. Since it breathes and absorbs moisture, it’s the ideal way to clothe your lady parts, says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University. And when you’re laying around the house, feel free to go commando so you can let things air out, says Minkin. Just don’t go to the gym sans undies, because you’ll want that extra layer between you and germy gym equipment.
- Work it Out
Doing kegels is crucial for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, which are key in producing stronger, mind-blowing orgasms—not to mention bladder control. Note to self: Include kegels in every workout. (There are even geniuses creating a nifty app to make it easier to remember.)
- Embrace Greek Yogurt
Snacking on yogurt with live cultures helps boost the good bacteria in your hoo-ha, which, as you know, is all around fantastic for preventing annoying vaginal problems like yeast infections, says Minkin. Just be careful that you’re not noshing on the super-sugary kind, because that could make you more susceptible to those infections.
- Always Go To Your Annual Exam
Although new guidelines advise against annual pelvic exams if you’re symptom-free and not pregnant, a visit to your doctor isn’t just about poking around your lady parts, says Minkin. “I think an annual exam is important for talking about health problems,” she says. Using this time to chat about using condoms, fertility, and any random sex questions you might have is just as important as checking for STDs. So before you switch up your doctor visits, have a conversation about it with him or her first.
- Lube Up
Sometimes when you’re about to hit the sheets, it seems like your vagina just didn’t get the memo. But it’s totally normal—vaginal dryness can impact you if you take certain medications like antihistamines, antidepressants, or hormonal birth control. It can also crop up after pregnancy or shortly before menopause. When this happens, make sure you’re communicating with your partner so they don’t forge ahead before you’re properly lubricated, which is obviously painful and can cause abrasions. Or just use lube to speed up the process and make sex even hotter, says Minkin.
- Say No To Douching
Think you need some assistance keeping things all clear down there? You don’t. The vagina actually cleans itself, says Dena Harris, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University. Plus, studies have shown that using intravaginal hygiene products can put you at increased risk of infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and STDs. Just don’t do it.
- Handle With Care While Cycling
An unexpected place you might be putting your vaginal health at risk is the cycling studio. If you’re a frequent rider, you could be at risk for genital numbness, pain, and tingling (not in a good way) while cycling. In fact, a study of female cyclists in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that a majority experienced these symptoms. If you love to hit up cycling studios, try wearing padded shorts and following these form modifications to keep your vagina pain-free during your workout.
- Approach Antibiotics with Caution
Another threat to your nether region’s good bacteria are antibiotics. Those pills can kill off some of that wonderful lactobacilli that keep your vagina healthy, says Minkin. Obviously, if you have to take an antibiotic to fight infection, you shouldn’t pass up the prescription, just load up on probiotic Greek yogurt to reduce the damage, she says.
- Be Mindful of the Order of Sex Acts
Make sure not to go from anal to vaginal sex without changing the condom or properly cleaning off first, says Minkin. Going from backdoor to front exposes your vagina to a host of bacteria and can up your risk of infections, she says.
- Be Careful With Soap
That scented body wash may be awesome, but it doesn’t belong anywhere near your genitals, says Minkin. Soap can be really drying to the sensitive skin around your vulva, and you really only need to rinse with warm water to keep things clean down there. But if you just don’t feel right about going soap-free, stick with a plain, gentle, unscented soap, she says.
Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs (sometimes called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs) affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and from all walks of life. In the U.S. alone there are approximately 20 million new cases each year, about half of which occur among youth ages 15-24 years.
Getting the facts about STDs/STIs and sexual health is increasingly important. We invite you to explore our website and learn more about specific STDs/STIs, tips for reducing risk, and ways to talk with health care providers and partners.
STD or STI? What’s the difference?
Diseases that are spread through sexual contact are usually referred to as sexually transmitted diseases or STDs for short. In recent years, however, many experts in this area of public health have suggested replacing STD with a new term—sexually transmitted infection, or STI.
Why the change? The concept of “disease,” as in STD, suggests a clear medical problem, usually some obvious signs or symptoms. But several of the most common STDs have no signs or symptoms in the majority of persons infected. Or they have mild signs and symptoms that can be easily overlooked. So the sexually transmitted virus or bacteria can be described as creating “infection,” which may or may not result in “disease.” This is true of chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV), to name a few.
For this reason, for some professionals and organizations the term “disease” is being replaced by “infection.” ASHA has used the term STD since 1988 and it appears in hundreds of published ASHA documents, including this site. Users of this site will continue to see it for some time. But in moving forward, you will also begin to see increased use of the term STI. We’re interested in your thoughts about this as well. Send us your thoughts.
How to Keep from Gagging During Oral, Because It Happens
Don’t let upchucking kill the mood.
PUBLISHED: FEBRUARY 25, 2015 | BY THE EDITORS OF WOMEN’S HEALTH
The spontaneity that can make sex so amazing (mmm, what was that?) can also make it absolutely cringey (OMG, what the eff was that!?). Here’s the thing, though: Embarrassing bed seshes happen to the best of us. And while a rogue queef may kill the mood, there’s an upside in the long run. “The less-than-romantic times give you both a chance to show your vulnerability, to bond, to feel closer,” explains Emily Morse, a sexologist and host of the podcast Sex with Emily. And let’s not forget: to laugh your ass off about it later! We rounded up some “help!” scenarios straight from real women to get some insta-fixes from experts.
“I was going down on my BF when I started gagging—and, OMG, actually spat out some of the romantic dinner we’d just had. I’m now officially terrified of oral!” —Lisa, 31, in a relationship for one year
THE FIX: Regain your confidence. The truth is, your stress level and, yes, even what you had for dinner can mess with your oral game, say experts. (Fun fact: Having an overly full or empty stomach or drinking alcohol can loosen the trigger on your gag reflex. Not fun.) But that doesn’t mean you should completely avoid ye olde fellatio. The next time you venture downtown, remember to relax and breathe through your nose, suggests Morse. Then grip your man midway down his shaft with your index finger and thumb, moving your mouth up and down only to that point.