Check-Up: What is the correct way to wash the vagina?
Erica asks Check-up: What is the correct way to wash the vagina? She asks if “anything should be inserted in the vagina, like your bathing rag”.
The vagina is pre-designed to keep itself clean. Some of us have a hard time believing this fact, but it’s true. The vagina cleans itself quite well with the help of natural secretions which it produces. Douches, vaginal wipes, and certainly rags are not needed at all to maintain vaginal hygiene.
The vagina is that tube inside a woman’s lower body (where she has sex and where babies come out from) which runs from the opening of the womb inside, to the vulva outside, which surround the vaginal entrance.
There are several naturally occurring bacteria inside the vagina which protect the vagina from illness and infections.
These good bacteria function to:
- Provide a numerical dominance. They outnumber the potentially harmful bacteria which might want to enter the vagina.
- They help to maintain the acidity of the vagina at the required level for its ideal health.
- These organisms also produce bacteriocins, which are naturally occurring antibiotics that work to try to kill other bacteria entering the vagina.
Any change in a balance of bacteria (decrease in good bacteria like lactobacilli) in the vagina or change in PH or acidity in the vagina will lead to infection and inflammation in the vagina. Ultimately, this will result in bacterial vginosis or yeast vaginal infections.
This is why it’s a very good idea to avoid trying to clean the vagina with soap, gels, antiseptic, rags or most douches. These substances can affect the healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina as well as change the acidity in the vagina, resulting in abnormal vaginal infections.
It is best to use plain, unperfumed soap to wash the hairy outside area and labial lips around the entrance to the vagina, as some women are allergic to the scented soaps, which can cause irritation to the labial tissues. But inside the vagina will continue to clean itself with normal body secretions. Nothing more is needed. During menstruation, you can wash the outer area more often.
Many women like to douche and use the douche to flush water, sometimes mixed with other substances, up into the vagina, clearing out the vaginal secretions that will disrupt the normal vaginal bacteria.
We don’t want to do this, which is why douches just aren’t recommended (except in few situations when a particular type of douche might be used to help a vaginal fungal infection which is already present (vinegar douche, dilute hydrogen peroxide douche). Essentially, douches wash out everything out of the vagina, including all the good bacteria, and change the acidity. All bad!
If the reason you want to wash or wipe out your vagina is because you don’t like how it’s smelling, then visit your general practitioner for a check-up. You probably have an infection that needs treatment.
Good vaginal health is maintained by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Eat right and exercise. Practise regular good hygiene, bathing daily. Include Greek yoghurt in your diet.
So, Erica, you don’t need to insert a rag or anything else to clean the vagina. The really great fact is that your vagina has been built naturally to take care of itself just fine.
Please wear cotton panties, which keep the genital region cooler. And, all women between ages 25 to 64, remember to get your Pap smear done.