Vulvar health: Navigating the nether regions

As an obstetrician/gynecologist, I spend my days analyzing ladies’s reproductive organs. My sufferers come to my workplace with a wide range of considerations, a few of which could be grouped beneath the heading of vulvar well being.

Nonetheless, many ladies don’t really feel snug discussing exactly what’s bothering them. And reasonably than use the anatomically appropriate phrase — vulva — my sufferers typically inform me, “I’ve an issue down there.” My job is to determine what they imply, clarify useful factors about vulvar and vaginal well being, and empower them to grasp their our bodies.

A take a look at the anatomy

To start, let’s make clear and title the organs that comprise “down there.” The vulva refers back to the labia majora, labia minora, and the clitoris. The vaginal introitus is the opening of the vagina. The vagina connects to the cervix, which sits on the prime of the vagina and leads into the uterus. The cervix is the passage for menstrual blood move. Throughout childbirth, it dilates to permit infants to cross from the uterus by the vagina and into the world.

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Six common sense ideas for vulvovaginal well being

Many ladies have by no means been taught the way to deal with their vulva and vagina with care with a view to preserve vulvovaginal well being. A number of the most typical points I deal with, reminiscent of vulvar itching or folliculitis (pink bumps which can be infected hair follicles), could be prevented with excellent care and a few common sense guidelines.

  • In case you’re sexually lively, get screened recurrently for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), reminiscent of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. Working towards safer intercourse, through the use of barrier strategies like condoms or dental dams with each sexual encounter, can assist lower your threat for STIs. Though antibiotics assist deal with many STIs, some final for a lifetime, reminiscent of herpes, HIV, and HPV. In case you use diaphragms, cervical caps, vibrators, or intercourse toys, wash these earlier than and after use with heat soapy water.
  • Put on cotton underwear. I inform my sufferers that the pores and skin on the vulva wants an opportunity to “breathe.” When preparing for mattress, take away your underwear and put on free cotton pajamas or shorts, or no bottoms in any respect. Even in case you turn into contemporary underwear previous to mattress, the material is constraining and prevents the vulvar pores and skin from respiratory.
  • In case you have delicate pores and skin or have had eczema (which might have an effect on vulvar pores and skin), keep away from washing your underwear in bleach or cloth softeners. These merchandise can irritate the pores and skin. For ladies with notably delicate pores and skin, I like to recommend avoiding scented laundry detergents and utilizing a hypoallergenic detergent.
  • When showering, keep away from scalding scorching water and scented soaps, notably in case you have delicate pores and skin. Don’t use any harsh merchandise to scrub the vulvar pores and skin, reminiscent of sponges or loofahs. By no means use talcum powder, which some analysis hyperlinks with ovarian most cancers.
  • After a exercise, bathe and alter rapidly. Staying in sweaty underwear and tight exercise clothes might encourage the expansion of a yeast an infection or irritate your pores and skin.
  • In case you use tampons or pads, select unscented cotton merchandise and not using a mesh overlaying. Change them typically (about each two to 6 hours). Don’t put on pantiliners day by day, as even unscented cotton pantiliners may cause irritation if used day by day.

Does the vagina want cleaning?

The vagina has its personal cleaning mechanisms. Often, the vagina maintains its personal well being properly (until you develop an an infection, which must be handled by your gynecologist or well being care group).

Right here’s the way it works: The cells that line the vagina are shed periodically so new cells can develop. Glucose (a type of sugar) within the shedding cells feeds regular micro organism within the vagina referred to as lactobacilli. The lactobacilli convert glucose into lactic acid, forming an acidic surroundings that naturally maintains vaginal well being. Something that disrupts the pure steadiness of the vagina, reminiscent of douching, can result in an an infection.

It’s finest to keep away from all merchandise marketed to cleanse the vagina. The vagina doesn’t want cleaning or fragrance. Bear in mind, vaginal cells will shed naturally on their very own. Additionally keep away from scented female merchandise. These might disrupt the fragile bacterial steadiness within the vagina or trigger vaginal or vulvar irritation.

In case you assume that you’ve got any points with vulvovaginal well being, it’s finest to not self-diagnose and deal with your self. Name your gynecologist or well being care group, and have them consider your signs.

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