Let’s get real: We should celebrate our vaginas more often! After all, the muscular tube that leads from the external genitals to the cervix of the uterus in women is pretty freakin’ awesome. Not only are vaginas self-cleaning, but they are strong enough to birth a human being, and can feel twice as much as a penis (that’s right — the clitoris contains over 8,000 nerve endings!) For these qualities, and then some — it helps make orgasms happen! — the vagina is often referred to as a superhero, and for good reason.
I bet at this point you may be asking yourself, “Am I taking the best possible care of my vagina?” You’re not wrong to think about your own self-care practices, especially if you’ve experienced pain or discomfort in your lady parts before. There’s nothing quite as terrible as feeling an unexplainable yet painful below-the-belt sensation. That’s why we want to make sure that when it comes to your own personal superhero, you’re providing the best care possible. To do that, we’ve partnered with AZO, which provides products for UTI relief and beyond, to learn about seven things you can do every day to ensure your vagina is healthy.
1. Wipe the Right Way
You know what it means to practice safe swiping (i.e., don’t go on your dating apps when you’re drunk). But safe wiping is something you probably learned when you got potty trained, but may have forgotten: After using the toilet, wipe from front to back.
“Wiping in this direction helps to avoid contamination with bacteria from the rectum and anus (where bacteria are heavily colonized) to the vagina and urethra,” says Alyssa Dweck, MD., a gynecologist based in New York. “In fact, women are more likely than men to get UTI because the urethra in women is short and close anatomically to the rectum.”
2. If You Love It, Lube It
Don’t buy into the myth that lube is just for old people. Dweck recommends considering lubricant during intimacy to spice things up, and enhance sexual play.
“Many women experience vaginal dryness due to hormonal fluctuations, medication use and even nursing,” she says. “Over-the-counter lubricant choices are abundant and varied and help to diminish friction during intimacy.”
3. Pay Attention To Your Panties
At this point, we hope you’re changing your underwear every day! Yet some days call for multiple pairs of underoos — like on days you work out, hit the pool, or do any activity that makes you sweaty.
“Yeast and bacteria tend to thrive in moist, dark places, so changing into dry panties is best for vaginal and vulvar health,” Dr. Dweck says. “Ensure the undergarments you choose — including thongs — have a cotton crotch which provide better absorption of natural secretions and perspiration for ideal vulvar health.”
When it comes to hitting the sheets, Dr. Dweck recommends sleeping in loose undergarments, or even going commando to reduce the risk of infection.
4. Don't Douche
While douching — or forceful cleansing of the inside of the vagina — can seem like a good idea, the practice actually does more harm than good.
“The vagina is like a self-cleaning oven, with mechanisms to maintain a healthy pH,” Dweck explains. “This habit passed down from older generations is a no-no because it can disrupt the pH of the vagina and wreak havoc; in some cases vaginal bacteria can be forced into the pelvis [during the process] and might lead to infection.”
5. Use Condoms
This is a no-brainer, but it’s so important it’s worth emphasizing. And while we’re all aligned on the fact that condoms help prevent the transmission of STIs and pregnancy, what you might not know is that not all spermicidal condoms are equal.
“The spermicide Nonoxyol-9 should be avoided, since it might result in tiny vaginal micro abrasions which can actually increase one's STI risk,” Dr. Dweck says.
6. Embrace Your Natural Odor
Although there are an abundance of ‘feminine sprays’ that exist to deodorize and freshen up ‘down there’ available on the market, the truth is you don’t need ‘em. But if you do feel like you’re experiencing a strong unpleasant odor, Dr. Dweck recommends visiting the gyno to rule out an infection.
7. Eat A Balanced Diet
Your diet can affect your vaginal health, which is why it’s important to eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids.
“For those prone to vaginal yeast infections, it’s best to avoid high sugar and [drinks with] high alcohol content,” Dr. Dweck says. “For those concerned about urinary tract infections (UTIs), we can take steps daily to help maintain our ongoing urinary health, including taking concentrated cranberry supplements. Concentrated cranberry supplements can help make the bladder more slippery to bacteria, cleansing the urinary tract and keeping it healthy (and free of UTIs)."
This post is sponsored by AZO.