Gyno re­port: It’s OK just to let your V be

Don’t fret about down there – we’ve got the low­down on all your queries

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Contents -

YOU MIGHT AS­SUME THAT ANY­ONE un­der age 40 is more likely to call some­one a douche than to use one. But you’d be wrong. Re­cent data from The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion shows that 1 in 5 women* aged 15 to 44 use vagi­nal douches. Rea­sons in­clude want­ing ‘to be clean/fresh’ (84 per cent), ‘to pre­pare for sex’ (54 per cent), and ‘to clean up af­ter sex’ (70 per cent), ac­cord­ing to a new study.

Un­for­tu­nately, one hun­dred per cent of these peo­ple have un­der­es­ti­mated the in­nate power of their lady parts. The vagina doesn’t need scrub­bing, pol­ish­ing, or rins­ing hacks. It doesn’t re­quire di­luted am­mo­nia, lime juice, body soap, or any of the other sur­pris­ing prod­ucts women told re­searchers that they squirt ‘up there’ to stay fas­tid­i­ous. Vag­i­nas, mag­i­cal or­gans that they are, are born with in­cred­i­ble self­clean­ing abil­i­ties. They don’t need your help.

In fact, try­ing to tidy up your vag isn’t just a waste of time and money, it could also be harm­ful

to your health.** That’s be­cause cleans­ing of any kind can wreak havoc on the del­i­cate in­ter­nal struc­ture, leav­ing you vul­ner­a­ble to in­fec­tions or worse. Al­low us to ex­plain...

Meet your mi­cro­biome

You’ve prob­a­bly al­ready heard of the gut mi­cro­biome, that ac­cu­mu­la­tion of in­testi­nal bac­te­ria that is in­creas­ingly be­ing linked to ev­ery­thing from your mood to acne. Turns out, the vagina has a mi­cro­biome too – and it’s also a key player in your over­all well­ness.

In a healthy vagi­nal mi­cro­biome, the Lac­to­bacil­lus bac­te­ria strain reigns supreme, pro­duc­ing lac­tic acid that keeps your vagi­nal pH level slightly acidic. That, in turn, makes the en­tire area less hos­pitable to or­gan­isms that cause odour, ir­ri­ta­tion, itch­ing and in­fec­tions, says ob­gyn Leah Mill­heiser. Cases in point: Re­search shows that women with thriv­ing vagi­nal Lac­to­bacil­lus are less likely to con­tract HIV than those who are miss­ing a bunch of the bac­te­ria. They’re also able to kick hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus (HPV) in­fec­tions much faster.

What wipes out Lac­to­bacil­lus and other ben­e­fi­cial strains? You guessed it – soap, douch­ing so­lu­tions, and quirky home reme­dies like lime juice. All these dis­rupt your vagina’s frag­ile pH bal­ance, mak­ing good bac­te­ria feel less at home and leav­ing the door open for de­struc­tive germs to take over, says ob­gyn Caro­line Mitchell.

Iron­i­cally, women who douche of­ten are five times as likely to de­velop bac­te­rial vagi­nosis,*** or BV, a smelly, painful con­di­tion that af­fects nearly one in three young women. It’s the most com­mon vagi­nal in­fec­tion in those of child­bear­ing age,* ac­cord­ing to The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. (Bac­te­rial vagi­nosis can up your odds for pelvic­in­flam­ma­tory dis­ease, a re­pro­duc­tive tract in­fec­tion that may cause fever, pain dur­ing sex, and bleed­ing be­tween pe­ri­ods. If left un­treated, it can even dam­age fer­til­ity.)

Other mi­cro­biome bombs in­clude an­tibi­otics (they wipe out good bac­te­ria along with the bad and en­cour­age vagi­nal yeast to mul­ti­ply) and lubes made with parabens (the preser­va­tives that pre­vent con­tam­i­na­tion be­fore you open the bot­tle may also kill help­ful bac­te­ria in­side you). Un­washed sex toys or a pe­nis that hasn’t been cleaned af­ter anal sex can also sab­o­tage your V­zone’s mi­cro­biome, says Dr Mill­heiser. Oh, and in­sert­ing any food into your vag is a no­no – that whipped cream bikini is hot... un­til some gets in­side you and wrecks your pH bal­ance.

Leave her alone

Se­ri­ously, in al­most all cases, your vagina is al­ready clean­ing it­self (even as you read this!).

‘Just leave it alone,’ con­firms Dr Mill­heiser. ‘It’s per­fectly ca­pa­ble of get­ting the job done.’

If you in­sist on lend­ing a help­ing hand, try sleep­ing in cot­ton un­der­wear or go­ing commando at night. This helps stop mois­ture­lov­ing bad bac­te­ria from in­fil­trat­ing the vagina and crippling its healthy mi­cro­biome. Snack­ing on pro­bi­otic­rich dairy prod­ucts like ke­fir and yo­ghurt may also sup­port a strong pH bal­ance, which is es­pe­cially help­ful if you’re tak­ing an­tibi­otics. And go easy on your vulva – i.e., your outer gen­i­tals. All you need to wash it is plain warm wa­ter. If you must, a gen­tle, fra­grance­free soap is OK, says Dr Mill­heiser. And that’s it.

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