No one likes the feeling of being sweaty all over. But when temperatures soar, it can also be quite natural to wonder
how heat waves affect us, and our bodies. And even though a heat wave on its own won't hurt your gynecological health, OB/GYNs do want you to pay attention to your health habits when the summer is particularly brutal. Otherwise, you may experience health issues down the line.
Most importantly, OB/GYNs want you to understand that your
vaginal health largely regulates itself — and rising temperatures won't change that. "A heat wave does not necessarily affect your gynecologic health," Dr. Sheila Loanzon, MD tells Bustle. "It depends on what you do during that heat wave that could affect your gynecologic well-being. A heat wave (or being in and out of air conditioning) does not change your menstrual cycles, make you more or less fertile, change the efficacy of your contraceptive method, cause issues with breastfeeding, does not affect pap smears, or cause patients to have a more increased risk of an STD." So, you're safe for most of the major issues.
Nevertheless, certain habits can be harmful to your health if you don't know how to best protect your body in a heat wave. And gynecologists want you to understand how to care for yourself during the most scorching parts of summer.
Here are eight things your OB/GYN doesn't want you to do during a heat wave.
Don't Obsess Too Much About Vaginal Hygiene
Once again, your vagina cleans itself. So, even if you're feeling sticky and sweaty, OB/GYNs want to remind you not to start falling for products that take care of non-existent problems.
"I would avoid being overly aggressive about 'vaginal hygiene' just because of the warm weather,"
Dr. Katie Bolt, an OB/GYN at Partners in OB/GYN Care at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women in Houston, tells Bustle. "The vagina does not need extra attention, wipes or cleaning of any sort just because it’s hot outside ... The vagina is able to quickly adjust itself back to normal after these regular occurrences all on its own and that won’t change in the summer." Instead, just wear clothes you feel comfortable in, and cleanse your genitalia gently — just as you typically would.
Don't Worry Too Much About Your Wet Bathing Suit
It may not feel good, or lead to anything too fantastic, if you sit around in a wet, tight bathing suit all day in a heat wave. But your OB/GYN wants you to understand what is actually a concern about bathing suits, and what isn't. "A commonly discussed anecdote among women is that wearing a wet bathing suit for a long time can cause an imbalance in the vaginal pH which could lead to vaginitis (yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis)," Dr. Bolt says. "This is simply not true."
Tight or wet clothing can lead to external irritation of the vulva or labia, she explains, but it's uncommon and completely different than a yeast infection. Your vulva skin can tolerate clothes all other times of the year, and sex, after all. If you're really concerned about chafing and other unfortunate aspects of a day by the pool, that's OK, too. "You can avoid this by changing out of your wet bottoms into drier clothes and still be able to hang out with your friends," Dr. Loanzon says.
Don't Neglect Proper Grooming Care
Your pubic region is
healthiest ungroomed, but it can be tempting to get rid of your hair in the season of minimal clothing and maximum sweating.
"During the summer months, women do more frequent pubic hair removal," Dr. Bolt says. "Depending on your method for removal, this can lead to ingrown hairs, uncomfortable razor burn and infections in the hair follicles (folliculitis). Grooming can also lead to skin injuries including burns from hot wax, cuts from shaving or even non-visible microabrasions, all of which can become infected and increases risk of sexually transmitted infections like human papilloma virus and
molluscum contagiosum [a viral skin disease]." Dr. Bolt suggests not grooming to avoid all health risks, but recommends the utmost hygiene if you definitely want to wax or shave. Just be careful, and monitor for signs of infection, and you should be OK.
Turns out, staying hydrated during a heat wave is important for every aspect of your health, gynecological included. "It is extremely important to stay well hydrated during a heat wave," Dr. Loanzon says. "Dehydration can lead to headaches or migraines, sluggishness, fatigue, changes in skin texture, difficulty with urination which decreases removal of toxins in your body. The general recommendation is to take your weight, divide by two, which calculates to total fluid ounces of water ... that you should intake a day."
Your vagina will thank you. "Dehydration can always lead to vaginal dryness,"
Dr. Lakeisha Richardson, an OB/GYN in Greenville MS, tells Bustle. " Vaginal dryness can increase your chances of vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis." So keep drinking as much water as you can.
Don't Ignore The Chances Of A Hot Flash
Menopause can happen for a variety of reasons. And if you're experiencing menopausal changes, or perimenopause, it's especially important to take care of your health during a heat wave.
"For those who are perimenopausal and experiencing hot flashes, a heat wave can trigger an increase in hot flashes which may equal misery and discomfort," Dr. Loanzon says. "It is important to support your symptoms by dressing in light loose layers, carrying a handheld fan, increasing water intake, maintaining cool temperatures at home if you are able, exercising regularly, managing stress, avoiding spicy foods, and avoid consuming caffeinated beverages or alcohol." That may sound like a lot, but it's worth it to avoid intense discomfort. Your health comes first, after all.
Don't Throw Caution To The Wind With Your Sexual Health
A heat wave can make spending all day in bed particularly tempting. So if you're having a lot of sex during these warm weather days, your gynecologist wants you to remember to stay safe.
"Warm weather ... and cooping up in air-conditioned areas can cause patients to be friskier than other seasons," Dr. Loanzon says. "It is important to consider your birth control methods to prevent undesired pregnancies and use protection ... to avoid STDs." So whether you're taking a trip to get out of the brutal heat, or staying inside for relief, make sure you always have reliable protection. Again, your health should not be compromised just because it's hot out.
Be Careful Taking Hot Showers
If you don't have proper AC, how you take care of yourself around the house can become quite important during a heat wave. So listen to your OB/GYN about how to stay safe.
One of the first things to change when the temperatures are rising is your shower habits. "Women should avoid taking hot showers or baths during a heat wave," Dr. Richardson says. "The excess heat can increase a woman's chance of blacking out in the bathroom. In addition, the excess heat along with potential dehydration can cause
vaginal dryness which can also lead to painful intercourse." So turn the temperature down a bit, and have a refreshing moment to yourself. Your vagina, and blood pressure, will thank you.
Don't Get Too Preoccupied About Your Gynecological Health
Most importantly, OB/GYNs want you to know that a heat wave isn't that serious of a risk to your gynecological health. Even though you should be practicing good hygiene and hydration, you shouldn't be absolutely preoccupied with your vaginal health just because the temperature is up.
"A heat wave, summer, or any change in season does not affect gynecological health or cause changes in the vagina ..." Dr. Bolt says. "The vagina is inside the female body and therefore the temperature of the vagina is regulated just like the temperature of our bodies — which is by our brain and normal physiology." Your body will regulate itself, you just have to treat it right so it can do its job.
Learning to take care of yourself
during a heat wave can feel brutal, since the weather can make you feel like doing absolutely nothing. But regardless of the fact that your body will mostly take care of itself, it's still important to make sure you aren't practicing any harmful habits. So listen to what OB/GYNs say, and be safe.