Ah, the vagina. It’s a magical, moist microcosm that everyone both loves and hates, reveres and loathes. It is worshipped yet misunderstood, longed for yet terrifying, fascinating and mysterious.
But before we deep dive into the mystery of the vagina, let’s talk about the answers we CAN find about what the health of your vagina says about your overall health, and how you should be treating your delicate organ (that is to say, with utmost respect and care).
Vaginal health is often overlooked, especially coz women have so many other things to worry about – the state of society, the state of our pores, and the state of our mental health, to name a few – but it shouldn’t be! What affects you downstairs affects the quality of your overall health and comfort, so always pay attention to what’s happening in your pants.
To back up our research and get some real answers to your questions, WAMN reached out to outspoken gynecologist Cibai Lokter on Twitter (yes, the most accurate and hilarious Twitter handle you’ll hear today).
Now, let’s talk about hygiene – specifically, feminine hygiene. I see ya’ll with those Sebamed and Lactacyd and Betadine feminine “intimate” washes. While these products may promise you a gentle wash and a “fresh” cooch, there’s actually no need for these products at all.
Cibai Lokter said: “Women’s products are big business. Hence, lots of people come up with many different types of products for women to the extent that some of these products actually do more harm than good.”
“Vaginal douching or spraying, or any “cleaning” or the inner vagina is bad because it eliminates the normal, good bacteria within it – this makes it easier for bad bacteria to enter from your smelly neighbor, the anus.”
Yeah, eww. Even though these products claim to balance out the pH of your vagina and make you smell fresh as a daisy, they’re completely unnecessary. Washing with water and keeping other good hygiene practices are perfectly adequate, and won’t feed into the global feminine hygiene products market, which has been forecasted to be worth hundreds of millions of US dollars by the end of 2026. Asia Pacific is the most lucrative region for this market.
Some good hygiene practices to keep include not putting anything dodgy in there. Yeah, make sure you clean those sex toys real good before putting them anywhere near your kitty. Oh, and for anyone who enjoys the penis, make sure your sex partner washes properly – Cibai Lokter recommends stretching out the foreskin and cleaning the edge below the bulb of the penis, as that’s where most bacteria hides.
Another important way to keep clean is to ensure proper toileting hygiene. “Bathe and change your underwear regularly, and clean and dry after every big and small business,” says Cibai Lokter. “Wipe from front to back. 50% of my adult patients with abnormal vaginal discharge have done it wrong since childhood, surprisingly.” Failing to keep things clean down there could result in a UTI, and that shit is nasty.
Uhh, what’s a UTI?
If you’ve never had a UTI, lucky you! But many of us have experienced them, particularly those of us who are sexually active. A UTI is a urinary tract infection, and it results in awful, burning sensations in your urethra. The infection travels up your urethra to your bladder, and if left untreated, can also infect your kidneys.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to beat UTIs before they ever get to that stage. To prevent it, remember to wipe front to back after going to the toilet, and also – this is VERY IMPORTANT – PEE after penetrative sex! I cannot stress how helpful this will be. Sex is not like the movies where you just roll over and go to sleep. Get up, pee and wash, and THEN get comfy.
If you start to feel a pinching sensation in your pelvis and it starts to burn when you pee, it’s time to load up on water. Water helps flush out bacteria, so drink lots of it. If you have cranberry juice, chug that too – NOT the Ocean Spray kind! Cranberry juice drinks have lots of sugar, which can exacerbate the bacteria situation in your urethra and bladder, so pure cranberry juice is the way to go.
But if the pain persists and you feel like you need to pee all the time after a day or so, see a doctor. I once spent three days not being able to sleep because of a UTI. DO NOT DO THIS TO YOURSELF. I beg of you.
An itch, a scratch, and a – wait, what’s that?
Another major concern when it comes to our hoo-has is itching and vaginal discharge. One of our readers asked about panty liners and pads that cause them to itch downstairs – I’ve been there, it ain’t pleasant. You’ve already got to deal with blood and bits, AND itching? The discomfort is real, ya’ll.
Cibai Lokter said: “You probably have sensitive skin. Try alternatives such as tampons or try a different type of pad or panty liner.” Scented panty liners could also be playing a part in causing the itch, so switch to a non-scented one and see if it makes a difference. However, if redness or rashes persist, you should see your GP or gynecologist about it ASAP.
Itching can also be a sign of infection, which you can also judge by your vaginal discharge. Vaginal discharge is normal, and there are three types – bloody discharge (usually your period, or something can be indicative of inflamed or infected surfaces if outside of your usual cycle). Pussy discharge (that pus-related discharge, not pussy like meow) means there’s an infection. Bacterial infections usually result in clear or whitish, and smell bad; fungal infections (candida) usually result in curdy discharge like “tofu” (thanks, Cibai Lokter) and are accompanied with severe itching.
But if your discharge is clear and kind of mucus-y, then that’s totally normal! This type of discharge spikes during the second half of your menses cycle, or when you get turned on! AKA you getting wet down there is also a type of discharge, which doesn’t sound as sexy. C’est la vie.
Every woman should make regular visits to her gynecologist (note to self), because it’s really important to keep your vaginal health in check. This might sound intimidating or awkward, but here’s what you can expect: “First, we will take a full history (oral statement) on related symptoms and do some screenings of any red flags,” said Cibai Lokter.
“Usually, we’ll do a pelvis ultrasound to look at your reproductive organs and a vaginal examination, which is only necessary if you have symptoms of particular problems. This usually applies to those who are sexually active. We’ll also do a screening for cervical cancer through cervical smear (also knows as a pap smear).”
That’s not so scary, is it? Other than the idea of airing your muff for the doctor and the nurse, but it can’t be helped.
Does my vagina look strange?
No two vaginas look the same, unless you’ve had surgery to make yours look like your favourite porn star’s. Which is actually a thing that’s been happening quite a lot these days. There’s been a surge in demand for labiaplasty, which involves reducing the size of your labia minora to give a more “dainty” appearance.
Fuck that noise. Your vagina is beautiful, flappy labia and all. The porn industry has given everyone who watches it unrealistic expectations of both themselves and their partner. Lots of men can’t last 20 minutes (alas), and lots of women have big, small, uneven, dark-coloured, fleshy, boney vaginas. And they’re all wonderful.
Obviously we’ve not been able to get to all the questions this time, but if you have more, please feel free to hit us up! We’ll do our best to get the expert answers. In the meantime, give your beloved peach some lovin’!