To Douche Or Not To Douche! How Do I Clean… Down There?
Vaginal wipes? Douching? Odor protection? With so many products on the market, it's difficult to know what the best way is to keep one's pubic area clean. But are any of these products really necessary for proper hygiene?
Our bodies harbor trillions of helpful microbes, including species of bacteria and fungus. Like the rest of the body, the vaginal area needs to maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms. When one organism is greatly reduced or greatly increased, infections occur. Yeast, for example, exists naturally in the vagina. Yet an abundance of yeast can result in a yeast infection. Likewise, too little yeast can lead to a bacterial infection. And, sadly, improper cleansing is often a factor.
Though doctors almost uniformly recommend gently rinsing the vulva with warm water, women may feel like the need more than that, especially when they're on their menstrual cycle. And let's be honest, that time of the month gets pretty messy.
To help you make an informed decision about vaginal cleansing, I've compiled a list of products and methods to avoid, as well as safe cleaning practices.
Unsafe Ways to Clean Your Vagina:
Unfortunately, many women have bought into the cultural myth that their pubic regions are gross and need to be cleaned. Douching is using liquid, usually a vinegar mix, to clean the inside of the vagina. This is very damaging to the helpful microbes that exist in the vagina. Gynecologist advise women not to douche, as it has no health benefit and can lead to serious health problems. Douching often causes infections, and has been linked to ectopic pregnancies and other reproductive problems.
Further, douching does not prevent pregnancy or STDs, and can actually increase your risk of contracting HIV. In this instance, forget the 'wisdom' of your mother and grandmother; douching is not safe or hygienic.
It may seem like common sense to use soap on your vaginal area, but this is not recommend practice. Anti-bacterial soaps kill bacteria, including the helpful species you need to maintain good vaginal health. There using them can create imbalances that cause painful yeast infections, as well as harm the natural secretion of mucus that protects you from other infections. Most doctors don't advocate using any soap at all, but especially not anti-bacterial.
Safe Ways to Clean Your Vagina:
Doctors are pretty much in agreement that water is the safest way to clean the vulva. You don't need any special products to stay clean, and such products often do more harm than good. A warm water rinse is sufficient to keep the vulva clean.
When you wash, your goal is to clear away sweat and anything foreign (such as lint from panties, pads, or tampons). You do not need to wash away “germs,” as your body's natural secretions already do this. Internal (vaginal) washing is never necessary for women in good health, and should not be done without the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Remember that sexual reproductive organs are no different from the rest of your internal organs, and should be treated with the same level of care and respect.
Yes, soap was on our list of unsafe products, but since many women choose to use it anyway, I at least want to provide a few guidelines. If you feel you must use soap, ask your gynecologist to recommend one that's less likely to cause an adverse reaction. You probably won't be able to find such brands at your regular grocery or supermarket, but don't be tempted to settle. You'll pay much more treating a yeast infection than spending a few extra dollars on extra mild soap. Avoid using a terrycloth wash cloth or anything that could damage the delicate tissue. Build a light lather, then simply run water through the soap and allow it to rinse your vulva.
At the end of the day, your body knows what it's doing. A daily rinse of warm water is the best way you can keep your pubic area clean. So many products are marketed toward vaginal cleansing, that it's difficult not to be tempted into using using harsh, unnecessary soaps and perfumes. Ultimately, these things are far less hygienic than plain water, as they create the imbalances that lead to bacterial and fungal infections.
So douching, NOT!
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