Vaginal Health and Hygiene – how clean is too clean?
Our vaginas support a whole ecosystem of tiny micro-organisms, existing in perfect balance.
When our vaginas are in good health, they maintain themselves pretty well. There’s really no need to start using a douche to push water and detergents in there. And washing once a day around the vulva, which is the skin around the opening, is the best way to stay clean.
In fact, trying to clean inside your vagina can upset this ecosystem to cause problems or make existing issues worse.
One of the many different micro-organisms defending vaginal ecosystems is lactobacillus. This good bacteria is the gatekeeper of vaginal health, producing lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide and bacteriocins. These may sound a bit strange, but they actually protect our vaginas from harmful bacteria that could cause an infection.
Our vaginas should always be slightly acidic and the lactic acid produced by lactobacillus does this job perfectly. If there are fewer of these bacteria present, then things can get out of balance and we’re more likely to pick up an infection like Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).
But there’s plenty we can do to avoid that. Here are some tips from sexual health nurse Helen Knox on keeping everything in balance:
- Don’t douche. There is no need to clean inside our vaginas and it can even cause problems.
- Avoid strong perfumed soaps or oils in the bath, and never put antiseptic solutions in the bath.
- Avoid strong detergents when washing underwear.
- Don’t take super-hot baths – these can damage the micro-organisms that are keeping things in balance.
- If you have sex with a male partner, use a condom or pee immediately afterwards, as semen is alkaline and can upset the natural acidic pH of the vagina.
- If you experience any symptoms of BV, which include a fishy odour or a watery, thin or greyish discharge, try using a gel or pessary such as Balance Activ®. This helps to fight BV and encourages the regrowth of lactobacillus to rebalance the vaginal ecosystem.
Watch Helen’s video on BV, plus others here.