Just like you, your vagina is always growing and changing. And, just like the rest of your body, your vagina requires proper care to stay healthy. But with so many myths online about vaginal health and wellness, sometimes it’s hard to know fact from fiction.
You also can’t exactly go running to your OB/GYN every time you have a question. That’s why we have compiled this checklist to help answer some of your biggest questions about your vaginal health.
1. Use a vaginal moisturizer
Vaginal dryness during menopause is more common than you think, but as many as 90% aren’t seeking treatment for it. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you’re experiencing dryness, itching, or sensitivity on your vulva. The solution? A high-quality, water-based vaginal moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid will do the trick. Look for one that you can use on-the-go because you never know when dryness will strike.
2. Try Kegels exercises
Kegels exercises can have a wealth of benefits for women at all stages of life, from post-partum to menopause. They help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, including the uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum, and they help prevent urinary incontinence. To try Kegels for yourself, contract your pelvic muscles as though you’re stopping urine flow, hold for three seconds, relax for three seconds, and repeat 10-12 times.
3. Don’t douche
Douching does more harm than good to your vagina. It upsets the natural pH balance, increasing your risk of irritation and infection. If you’re experiencing vaginal dryness or any vaginal sensitivity, douching is the absolute last thing you want to do. All you need to clean your vagina is clean water - that’s it. Learn more about vaginal care in our post about vaginal dryness.
4. Let it breathe
Your vagina needs to breathe, so let it! Cotton underwear is your best bet for breathability. If you’re working out, it’s important to change your underwear as soon as you can afterward. Otherwise, your sweat can just sit there, elevating your chances of getting a yeast infection.
5. Stay frisky
Vaginal atrophy is a real concern for many women, both pre and post-menopause. Vaginal dryness, itching, burning, and pain during sex are all common symptoms of vaginal atrophy, which can happen as a result of the decline of estrogen during menopause. But there is a way to avoid it: regular sex can ward off vaginal atrophy by increasing blood flow to the vagina, keeping the surrounding tissues healthy.
6. Ditch the chemicals
As a rule, you should avoid any products with long lists of ingredients that you can’t pronounce, and that’s especially true when it comes to your vagina. Sodium lauryl sulfate is one common synthetic ingredient found in a lot of body washes that you’ll want to skip, as it’s believed to cause cystic acne. You should also avoid products like detergent and soaps with artificial scents that can cause vaginal irritation.
7. Pay attention to any changes
A sudden change in the way something looks or feels down there could indicate that your vagina is trying to tell you something. If you’re experiencing itching or burning, it could be a yeast infection - or it could be bacterial vaginosis or even an STI. It’s best to check with your doctor to be sure. And while it’s perfectly normal to have a slight smell down there, a strong odor could mean that something is wrong. Finally, your vaginal discharge can change depending on other factors, like your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or a possible infection. Keep a close eye on it and see your doctor if you notice a significant change.
8. Don’t use just anything for lube
As we mentioned earlier, a lot of different products can irritate your vagina. That’s why it’s important to be choosy about any product you use in or near it - including lube. It’s best to avoid petroleum jelly, oils, or anything that isn’t intended to be used as a lubricant during sexual activity. In general, water-based lubes are ideal for anyone experiencing vaginal sensitivity or dryness. Be sure to check the ingredients list too.
Make vaginal wellness a priority
Vaginal wellness is an important part of your overall health, no matter what life stage you’re in. Use this checklist to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to take great care of it.
To learn more about vulva sensitivity and vaginal dryness, read our article: Everything You Need to Know About Common Vulvar Skin Conditions.