A healthy vulva is a happy vulva! Conversely, when our vulvas are experiencing symptoms such as itching, burning or pain it makes for a uncomfortable daily experience. In this post, I will review best practices in daily personal care to ensure your vulva is living its best life.
First, let’s cover some anatomy. Many women may not be aware of the location and names of all the parts that make up their vulva. This often arises from the embarrassment or shame of one’s body that can be impressed in childhood. Knowledge is power and it’s never too late to empower yourself when it comes to your body and it’s amazing abilities.
Frequently, you may hear people say vagina referring to female anatomy when they really mean vulva. The vulva is the outside of the female genital organs. It includes the labia minora, labia majora, clitoris and vaginal opening. The skin of the vulva is delicate and requires care to avoid irritation and discomfort.
Hygenie Do’s and Dont’s
~Wash your vulva with water only.
~It is self-cleaning and has a sensitive pH balance.
~Ensure to dry yourself with clean towels.
~Always wipe from front to back when using the toilet.
~Use vaginal douches or feminine hygiene products such as sprays. Again, your vagina is self-cleaning and products can disrupt the internal pH balance.
~Use products such as soaps, shampoos, bath bombs, bath oils or bubble baths on a regular basis. They can be very drying and irritating, often leading to an increase in urinary tract infections (UTI’s) or yeast infections.
Lastly, our vulva’s were designed to function well without any interference (yes, I mean letting your hair grow free)! However, if you feel the need for grooming in this area, trimming with scissors or electric clippers is recommended over shaving or waxing.
What you choose to wear for undergarments can greatly influence your vulvar comfort. Cotton panties are always best. Synthetics, such as nylon or polyester, don’t allow appropriate air circulation.
When purchasing new underwear, be sure to wash them prior to wearing.
How you wash your panties is important as well! Avoid perfumed detergents, bleach, fabric softeners and dryer sheets. Unscented laundry soap is best such as one formulated for babies or recommended by dermatologists.
Try to not wear underwear at night while sleeping, or if you do, choose good quality cotton!
Swimming Pools & Hot Tubs
Swimming pools and hot tubs are kept sanitary by way of harsh chemicals that can cause irritation. If you are experiencing an itch or any discomfort, refrain from entering a pool or hot tub as this can aggravate your vulvar irritation.
Your vulvar health is impacted by your sexual practices!
Birth Control and Protection
If a lubricant is used during sexual intercourse (it can make a world of difference!) choose a water-soluble one that is free of added colour, perfumes or dyes such as YES Water Based Personal Lubricant. I have some high quality lubricants on sale as a great stocking stuffer idea here
Contraceptive spermicides, mousses, foams, sponges and condoms can cause irritation. If you have a sensitivity or allergy to any of these, you may have to consider another form of birth control. Also, not all lubricants are condom compatible - be sure to check before you buy!
Hormonal birth control such as the pill can cause vaginal dryness which can make intercourse uncomfortable, so be sure to use a high quality lubricant as suggested previously.
Sexual Hygiene Practices
If you use a diaphragm, vaginal dilators or sex toys, make sure to clean them well with gentle soap and water after every use, or according to the manufacturers cleaning instructions. Rinse and dry well.
Never have genital contact after anal contact. *I hope this goes without saying!*
Lastly, always go pee after sex. This helps flush away any germs that may enter into your urethra and bladder, thus preventing urinary tract or bladder infections.
There are many reasons and conditions that cause irritation, pain and discomfort of the vulva. If you experience any of these symptoms, notice a discoloration of the skin or lump in the vulvar area, consult your doctor or ask a pelvic health therapist.
As an Occupational Therapist who specializes in women’s pelvic health, Lindsey can recommend best practices like those covered here to keep your vulva in the best health.