Vaginal health is a very important topic that sadly only a few women (and men) are educated about. Not only will vaginal health impact general health, but it will also influence fertility, pregnancy, the quality of life, and the quality of your relationship with your partner. To understand more about vaginal health and to learn how to take better care of your vagina, keep on reading:
The vaginal environment:
The vagina is a muscular canal that connects the uterus to the vaginal opening. It is the organ that permits sexual intercourse between man and woman, the evacuation of menstrual blood, and of course the delivery of babies. A speculum can also be inserted into the vagina to explore the uterine cervix .
The vaginal environment has unique characteristics, which if understood can make it easier to take care of the vagina.
The vaginal lining is a mucosa, which secretes mucus. That’s why the vagina is lubricated naturally. But these natural secretions can decrease with time as a result of age and lower estrogen levels .
The vagina is a self-cleaning environment. It can clean itself properly. It is populated by a variety of micro-organisms living in balance in a slightly acidic environment, with a vaginal pH of around 4.5 .
When one of these environmental characteristics is disrupted, discomfort or infections can arise.
The normal vaginal discharge:
Indeed, the woman cannot visually explore the vagina to check for her health, but there are many indirect indicators. The first and most important indicator of vaginal health is vaginal discharge.
The normal physiological discharge is transparent to slightly white, but each woman has her unique vaginal discharge. It is odorless and isn’t secreted in excess. The thickness of the discharge can also inform the current phase of the woman’s menstrual cycle .
Signs of infection:
A change in the quantity, color, or odor of the vaginal discharge is the most common sign of vaginal infections. There are mainly two types of vaginal infections: STIs and vaginal environment disruptions .
Trichomonas, Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea are the most common sexually transmitted infections or STIs. They can cause a foul-smelling discharge that is white or green in color, accompanied by symptoms like itching or painful urination. The context is usually evident, with a notion of recent unprotected sexual intercourse or a change in sexual partners. Aside from the discomfort that they cause, STIs are serious because germs like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea can travel to the uterus and infect the cervix or uterine tubes, causing infertility .
In other cases, vaginal infections are caused by non-sexually transmitted germs. It mostly happens when the microorganisms populating the vagina lose their balance because of a disrupting factor. In this case, one or more microorganisms will multiply and outnumber the rest of the strains causing vaginal infection. This is known as bacterial vaginosis and presents as itching, a foul fish-like smell, and a grayish discharge. Although bacterial vaginosis is not directly an STI, sexual intercourse can be a disrupting factor .
And last but not least, the fungi Candida Albicans can also cause vaginal infections. It is not transmitted sexually but is caused by environmental disruptions such as maceration from wearing non-breathable underwear, pregnancy, diabetes, a weakened immune system, or after having recently taken antibiotics.
Vaginal Candidiasis presents as a white discharge that looks like curdled milk. It is highly uncomfortable causing painful urination, swelling, redness, and itching around the vaginal opening and the vulva.
Aside from infections, an important thing to also look out for is cancer which can present as persistent foul-smelling or bloody discharges, accompanied by pain or discomfort, weight loss, fatigue, and low appetite.
How to avoid infections:
Lifestyle and diet interventions are helpful. To preserve vaginal health and avoid infections, it’s important to consume a diet that’s high in healthy vegetables and fruits, low in sugar, and processed products. Consuming fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, miso or sauerkraut is also helpful, or it’s possible to supplement with prebiotics and probiotics .
Female intimate hygiene is another important factor. It’s important to adopt the right hygiene habits, avoid vaginal douching and excessive cleaning. Limit the use of scented soaps, wipes, or vaginal deodorants that are high in harsh chemicals. Instead cleaning the vulva and the vagina with mild soap once a day is sufficient . Using a menstrual pad instead of tampons is also helpful, as tampons can cause many health issues.
If you are in menopause, it would be helpful to use natural lubricants to make up for vaginal dryness. Make sure the lubricants you use are as natural as possible and free of harsh and irritating chemicals. You can also discuss hormonal replacement therapy with your doctor to compensate for the low estrogen levels.
Practicing safe sex and being aware of sexual health principles are also important. It’s necessary to always use protection during sex to avoid STIs, especially with new partners. It’s helpful to know that frequently changing sexual partners can also cause vaginal infections.
And last but not least, regular doctor check-ups are necessary, especially if you are a sexually active female if you have diabetes, you are pregnant, you have a compromised immune system or you take some kind of medication in the long term.
Vaginal health is an important topic. Less is more when it comes to vaginal care because it’s a self-cleansing environment. Some signs of infection are good to know and should motivate a doctor consultation to avoid any more serious issues.
Living a healthy lifestyle, practicing safe sex, and going to the doctor regularly are all great ways to avoid infections and make sure that your vagina remains healthy.
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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our clinics website: GinSen where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.