The vagina is structured with natural discharges that helps keep it clean. Below are ways to maintain a hygienic healthy vagina as well as reasons why vaginal wipes or douches are not needed.
The vagina is a muscular tube that starts from the opening of the womb-cervix to the vaginal opening surrounded by the vulva.
According to Dr Suzy Elneil, a spokesperson for Wellbeing of Women and an urogynaecology consultant at University College Hospital, London, you can keep your vagina clean through your daily healthcare. She explains ensuring healthy lifestyle includes a healthy diet and exercise. Basic exercises aid proper functioning of the vaginal; running and walking help tone up the pelvic floor muscles and maintain general wellbeing.
Vaginal discharge or secretions
It is natural to have white or clear discharges aside your normal menstrual cycle. The secretion is naturally produced from the cervix (neck of the womb).
Dr Elneil says “Vaginal discharge is not ‘always a bad sign’ “. According to her, there is a misconception that white or clear secretion is connected to sexually transmitted infections. Menstrual cycle, menopause or pregnancy can cause changes in secretions level which is totally hormonal.
The amount and condition of vaginal discharge varies throughout your menstrual cycle. During ovulation, your discharge is usually stretchy and thicker. Healthy discharge is clear and odourless, no soreness or itching, although might feel some wetness.
Consult your GP if your discharge itches, smells or with colour.
Microorganism, mainly bacteria, in the vagina
The vaginal has a lot of bacteria which serves as protection. Professor Ronnie Lamont, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spokesperson says “The vagina contains more bacteria than anywhere else in the body after the bowel, however, the bacteria are there for a good reason”
The functionality of the good bacteria in the vagina:
- Maintain an even level of the vagina pH which facilitates a balance of healthy bacteria
- Good bacteria dominate potential bad bacteria that may enter the vagina
- Secrets a substance that prevents bacteria from gluing to the vagina walls thereby, preventing the bacteria from attacking the tissues
- Good bacteria in the vagina produce natural antibiotics called bacteriocins which kills or reduces other bacteria that enters the vagina
Infection and soreness can occur in the disturbance of the balance of bacteria. Lactobacilli bacteria control the pH balance of the vaginal at normal level-less than pH4.5 and prevent other organisms’ growth.
A increase in pH reduces the acidic environment which reduces the level of lactobacilli and hence increase in other bacteria growth. This can lead to infections like thrush or bacterial vaginosis with symptoms like abnormal discharge, irritation and itching.
The use of gels, antiseptic and fragrant soaps should be avoided as they can affect the healthy balance of pH levels and balance of bacteria that can cause irritation in the vagina.
Gently wash the vulva with ordinary non-fragrant soaps every day as the vaginal organ is cleaned with the natural secretions from your body.
Dr Elneil emphasize the need for maintaining a clean perineal hygiene by cleaning the area between the vagina and the anus using ordinary bathing soaps.
Professor Lamont explains that not all women are the same as some use fragrant soaps and have no problem. However, where irritation is noticed, a plain soap should be used to see if it helps.
Vaginal douches, deodorants and fragrant wipes
Douches flush water into the vagina washing out everything in the vaginal including healthy bacteria. There is no proven studies that douches help prevent vaginal infection or STIs. Douche is not recommended for cleaning the vagina as it disturbs healthy vagina bacteria.
The use of these fragrant products can disturb the natural healthy balance of the vagina. All that is required for a healthy vaginal is ordinary soap. It is natural for vaginal to have a scent. The odour varies at different stage of the reproductive cycle. Vaginal odour should not always be perceived as a symptom of an illness or infection.
Bacterial vaginosis is usually the most common cause of strange vaginal discharge and it usually cause unpleasant odour. This can be treated with antibiotics. If you are concerned, see your GP
There are possibilities of some viruses and bacteria entering the vagina during sex, including those that cause genital herpes, syphilis, Chlamydia, HIV, genital warts and gonorrhea. The use of condom can prevent these infections from entering your vagina.