Vaginal Hygiene is the first point of personal hygiene for every woman. The vagina is self cleansing, however, to have optimum vaginal health, one must observe active and knowledge based practices. 

A healthy vaginal is one that is free from all abnormal conditions, structurally and functionally. In this article, we will cover how you could take care of your vagina, prevent it from various illnesses and promote the best vaginal health practices.

How To Care  For The Vagina 

Starts from the Vulva –

The vulva is the first line of defense against infection in the genital system. Increased wetness, perspiration, menses, and hormonal variations impact vulvar microbial development and species balance, which can lead to odor and vulvovaginal infection.

Because of its higher hydration, occlusion, and frictional qualities, vulvar skin is more vulnerable to topical treatments than forearm skin in terms of hydration, friction, permeability, and visually visible irritation.

The genital skin is coated differently with numerous hair follicles, these make it easier for bacteria and other substances  penetrate the skin.

The Anatomy of the Vagina:

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The outer part of the vagina is the vagina opening, seen at a glance to the vulva region. When people talk about the vagina, they usually erroneously referred to the vulva.

The Vulva is the outermost part of the female genitals and consists’ of the vagina it’s self.

The Vulva is made up of –

  • Labia majora, 
  • Labia minora,
  • Clitoris, 
  • Urethral (opening), 
  • Vagina (Opening) and 
  • Anus (opening)

The vagina is a muscular tube that  extends from its opening at the vulva, and then runs up to connect to the cervix inwards and to the uterus, enabling intercourse, menstruation and childbirth. (See diagram above)

Vaginal Self Defense: The Vagina can Protect Itself to a good extent

There are factors that helps the vagina defend and protect itself from invading organisms and resultant infections, these factors include 

  • Normal vaginal flora ( protective bacteria)
  • Acidic vaginal pH, and 
  • Vaginal discharge.

Individual’s protective bacteria aid in the maintenance of an acidic pH and compete with external microorganisms for vaginal mucosa adhesion. They also produce antimicrobial chemicals like bacteriocin to fight infections.

Acidic vaginal pH is important because it corresponds with vaginal health, reduces the development of bacteria associated with bacterial vaginosis, and may have a role in local immunological response. Antimicrobial substances (such as lysozyme and lactoferrin) are produced by vaginal epithelial cells, and fast vaginal epithelium turnover is another defensive mechanism.

A woman’s vaginal discharge, which consists of bacteria and desquamated epithelial cells that slough off the vaginal walls, as well as mucus and fluid generated by the cervix and vaginal canal, is normal and healthy and can protect her from certain microorganisms and infection.

Here are recommendations on how to care for the vagina –

• In order to maintain the genital area clean, women of all ages require daily personal hygiene. 

• Cleanse the vulva from front to back before and after intercourse, paying specific attention to the clitoris and vulval folds; do not irrigate the vagina. 

• Avoid sensitivity and scarring by using a safe method of pubic hair removal. 

• Post delivery care should include frequent cleansing, drying, and the use of pads as needed. Maintain a dry environment around any sutures. No creams should be used. 

• Hands should be washed before children’s genital care. Separate the towels.

• Vulva skin irritation can easily happen. Avoid coming into contact with irritants, like some over-the-counter creams, including baby or nappy creams, herbal creams (e.g. tea tree oil, aloe Vera), and “thrush” treatments, may be irritants.• Avoid using panty liners or sanitary towels on a regular basis.
• Avoid using antiseptic soaps to clean the vulva and the vagina.

• Use a hypoallergenic liquid cleanser with a pH of 4.2 to 5.6 that has minimal detergency. 

• Avoid abrasive bar soaps and bubble baths, which have a higher alkaline pH. 

• Lactic acid-based solutions with an acidic pH may aid to maintain skin homeostasis and have been demonstrated to be effective as an adjuvant therapy but not as a treatment for vaginal infections. 

• Vaginal douching (scrubbing the vagina with sponge and soap) isn’t advised. 

• Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear and avoid wearing clothing that is too tight. 

• Frequently change your underpants. 

• Avoid using talcum powder. 

• Use deodorants and perfumes sparingly (after allergy testing). 

• Replace tampons and sanitary pads on a regular basis. 

Feminine hygiene products should be avoided where direct advantages have not been shown since harsh soaps can irritate the vulvar skin and mucous membranes, causing or exacerbating vulvar dermatitis. 

Water and a highly hypoallergenic soap are all that is required to clean the vaginal area. 

Given the natural ways the vagina has been known to protect itself, most recommendations for the adoption of additional measures, particularly with popular intimate feminine products, are thought to be for commercial purposes.

We contend that the marketing of vaginal hygiene products adds to the problematization of women’s genital area by indicating that women need to use these products to achieve an ideal (i.e., clean and fresh) vagina in a culture where female genitalia are constructed as unclean. 

The reliance on vaginal hygiene products to achieve sensations of vaginal cleanliness and freshness raises concerns in light of medical literature showing that some of these items may pose health hazards.

Bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and increased susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases are all possible hazards. 

We feel that corporations who promote these items as beneficial to vaginal health and cleanliness are not only misleading women, but are also benefiting from harmful products.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7789027/#!po=37.8205