Health

13 Things Your Mom Should Have Told You About Caring For Your Intimate Area

By Simone Sydel··  9 min read
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Wipe from front to back, keep the area clean, don't wear tight clothes, etc. We all know the basics, but even though we might think this is good enough, there’s likely a lot you don’t know about caring for this essential female body part.

Sometimes we find ourselves googling certain occurrences or worrying if something is normal or a sign of a deeper issue. Caring for your intimate area in the right way is extremely important, and often the proper care doesn't line up with all the things we subject our lady parts to simply because we don't know any better.

Well, prepare to be shocked as we take you through 13 surprising things your Mom may not have clued you in on about caring for your intimate area.

1. The Optimal pH Should Be Less Than 4.5

The pH (potential hydrogen) is a unit that measures the acidity or alkalinity of a substance or an environment. On a presented scale that ranges from 0 to 14, when a pH is below 7, it's known as acidic; around 7 is neutral, and above 7 is alkaline or basic.

So, why is this important for our lady parts? Everything in nature has a pH level, including our bodies and intimate areas. But do you know what else also has a pH level? Bacteria found in our intimate areas!

Lactobacilli are the “good” bacteria that dominate our lady parts and help to keep pH levels normal and prevent the growth of infection-causing bacteria. When levels of lactobacilli fall, vaginal pH levels can rise above 4.5, which is an ideal breeding ground for infections, such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. That's why it's so important to maintain a healthy pH balance down there.

Here are a few things you can do to make sure your intimate area is healthy and happy:

  • Choose unscented hygiene products. Scented soaps, wipes, and sprays can irritate the delicate skin in the intimate area.

  • Don't wash too much. Washing more than once a day can disrupt your intimate area's natural pH balance.

  • Skip the hot tub. The hot tub is a breeding ground for bacteria. So it's best to avoid it altogether.

  • Wear breathable underwear. Tight-fitting underwear can trap moisture and lead to irritation.

  • Change your pads and tampons regularly. Leaving a pad or tampon in for a long time can lead to infection.

2. Your Intimate Area Shouldn't Be Dry

Your intimate area is naturally self-lubricating. But sometimes, this natural lubrication isn't enough. This can be due to several reasons, such as stress, some medication, menopause, as well as certain medical and hormonal conditions, like low estrogen.

If the intimate area is dry, it can lead to discomfort, itching, and even pain during the most mundane things, such as using the bathroom. That's why it's important to keep the area well-lubricated.

Dryness can be caused by stress, some medications, and low estrogen.

To do this without putting yourself at risk of bacterial or yeast infections, you can use a tiny bit of a water-based lubricant to help get things going. On the other hand, avoid using silicone- or glycerin-based lubricants as these can cause bacterial and yeast infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs) and exacerbate the discomfort.

Lastly, if you don't know the root cause of dryness and discomfort in your intimate area, it's always a good idea to talk to your health provider and have them provide a suitable solution.

3. Your Vagina Is Self-Cleaning

Not all discharge is bad because this is a substance through which your vagina cleans itself and removes things like bacteria and fluid from the cells on the inside. Most women produce just under a teaspoon, or four milliliters, of white or clear discharge daily, which is considered healthy. You might also notice a change in your cervical mucus as you progress through your cycle.

On the other hand, if an imbalance leads to an infection, your discharge will be off or abnormal when it comes to the consistency and smell.

4. Douching Can Do More Harm Than Good

If you've been convinced that that you need to clean the insides of your vagina for any reason, we're here to say that you've been steered wrong. Douching can, in fact, lead to more issues such as infections and discomfort. This is because douching (even with plain water) upsets the natural balance of bacteria that protect you from disease.

When this balance gets, well, imbalanced, the healthy bacteria will have a harder time protecting against other, more harmful strains of bacteria, and this can lead to their overgrowth and subsequent issues such as infections. As already mentioned above, your vagina cleans itself, meaning it "discharges" things that shouldn't be inside, so there's no need for extra help.

5. Using Soap Can Disrupt the Natural Defense System

Much like douching with plain water, using soap can also disrupt the natural defense system of your vagina. When you use soap, it can remove the good bacteria that live down there, and without it, you become more susceptible to infection. The good bacteria that live in your intimate area help to keep it clean and healthy, so soap isn’t needed.

Additionally, the pH value of a healthy intimate area should be around 4.5. So, using soap that has a pH value of 9-10 isn’t a good idea.

The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, so you don’t need to douche or use soap down there.

6. What You Eat Can Affect the Scent

If you’re worried that ditching soap might leave you smelling less than fresh, you might be interested in learning that any unwelcome odors could boil down to your diet. Some foods believed to alter vaginal odor include garlic, onion, and fish, as well as cheese and some spicy foods, specifically chilies.

A word of caution, however: if you notice that your lady parts smell particularly pungent or their scent has changed dramatically, it could be a sign of infection, so it’s worth getting it checked out.

7. You Can Really Benefit from Probiotics

Just as probiotic foods are great for balancing your gut health, they can also benefit your intimate health. Probiotics help replenish the good bacteria in your body and can even help prevent and treat yeast infections. They can also help reduce odor, itching, and inflammation. This is why eating foods that help support the growth of probiotics, such as bone broth, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh, kimchi, miso, etc. is important.

You can also take probiotic supplements if this is something you want to try; however, it's worth noting that there's very little research to support their effectiveness.

8. Shaving Can Increase the Risk of Infections

There is nothing wrong with shaving now and again. However, it's important to note that this hair removal method increases the possibility of experiencing bacterial or yeast infections, as well as ingrown hairs, itching, and discomfort.

Therefore, try to only shave under a few very specific circumstances:

  • Use a clean razor: Old and rusty razors can harbor bacteria, which can lead to cuts and infection when introduced to the intimate area.

  • Shave along the grain: Shaving against the grain can cause razor burn, which can lead to irritation, discomfort, bleeding, and infection.

  • Use a shaving cream or gel to reduce friction: This will help reduce the risk of razor burn and irritation.

  • Don’t shave every day: Shaving every day can strip the skin of its natural oils, which can lead to irritation, inflammation, and infection.

  • Soothe the skin afterward: Use a little bit of talc-free baby powder to soothe the skin and relieve discomfort after shaving.

9. You Don't Need a Moisturizer

Your intimate area has its own built-in moisture system that keeps it healthy and happy. But besides not needing it, using a moisturizer or heavily-scented body lotions can disrupt this natural moisture balance. In fact, some studies have shown that the use of moisturizers and petroleum-based products like Vaseline can actually increase the number of Candida yeast cells in the intimate area, which can lead to infection.

10. Pelvic Floor Exercises Are More Important Than You Might Think

Having strong pelvic floor muscles is important for more than one reason. These muscles help support the bladder and bowel and can improve bladder control, prevent incontinence (especially during pregnancy), and ease constipation. Pelvic floor exercises can also increase blood flow to the area, which can help keep the tissue healthy and improve sexual function.

Pelvic floor exercises increase blood flow to keep the tissue healthy and improve sexual function.

11. You Can't Really "Lose" Something Down There

I'm sure most of you have heard this myth; however, you'll be relieved to know that it’s impossible to get a tampon lost inside your intimate area. The opening at the top of your vagina is simply too small for it to escape through. It is possible, however, to get a tampon stuck. If this is the case, you should see your doctor to get it removed immediately. Leaving it there for too long can increase the risk of infections and even more serious conditions such as toxic shock syndrome.

12. You Should Pay Attention to Your Underwear

The type of underwear you wear can significantly impact the health of your intimate area. You should avoid tight-fitting underwear and materials that don't breathe, like polyester. Instead, opt for loose-fitting underwear made from natural fibers like cotton or silk, which are breathable and absorb discharge to help the skin stay dry.

Additionally, avoid wearing underwear with a middle seam or underwear with tiny gussets that could cut into the skin and cause itchiness and discomfort. All these things can potentially lead to something more serious than a little bit of itchiness, such as a full-blown infection.

13. Getting Screened for Cervical Cancer Is Essential

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, yet it’s still the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. And although it can be effectively treated, it can be deadly if it's not caught early enough. The good news is that cervical cancer is easy to detect with a simple smear test, which can be done at your doctor's office. This is why a smear test is recommended at least once a year for women who are sexually active or have been in the past.

Closing Thoughts

Although we may not think about it too often, our intimate area is an important part of our bodies that deserves special care and attention. By following the tips above, you can help keep your intimate area healthy, happy, and free from infections and other potentially serious concerns.

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