It might not be the most comfortable topic in the world, but it’s important to know about your vagina and how to look after it.
You and your vagina have been through a lot together; the good, the bad and the, sometimes, quite ugly. But how much do you actually know about your lovely lady bits?
Dr Jen Gunter, who has been a practising obstetrician-gynaecologist in the US and Canada for 25 years, is on a mission to debunk all the untrue myths about our reliable vaginas, and has released a book aptly named The Vagina Bible. And people are raving about it.
Filled with advice on how to look after vaginal health and facts she feels all should know, the book is a God send. Here are the top five to take away from it…
Knowing the difference between your vagina and your vulva
Confused already? Listen up…
The vagina is inside the body, where as the vulva is on the outside and is the part that touches your clothes.
Gunter explains: “When you can't say the word vagina or vulva, there is an implication that there's something dirty or shameful about that.”
But she believes that labels are harmful to women on an emotional level and can have an impact medically. This is because patients might feel embarrassed and therefore not be able to get the right treatment.
Your vagina is like a garden
Apparently, the vagina is like a garden and whilst this might conjure up a rather disturbing image, we encourage you to read on.
“The vaginal microbiome is like a garden of all different kinds of bacteria that function together to keep the vaginal ecosystem healthy," explains Gunter.
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Basically, the good bacteria produces substances that create a bit of an acidic environment and this stops “bad” bacteria getting in.
This is why using an antibacterial wipe isn’t good because it’s important to keep a balance. Also, the skin is supposed to be moist so no hairdryers ladies.
The vagina cleans itself
Yes, the vagina does indeed clean itself – clever thing.
And Gunter, vagina know-it-all, goes on to explain: "It is a self-cleaning oven," she says, but scented douches are a no-no, she warns.
"It's a vagina, not a pina colada," she says. "Douches are like cigarettes for your vagina."
The outside of the vagina, the vulval area, can be cleaned with water or a gentle cleanser.
When it comes to soap, this can strip the acid mantle which isn’t good – but if hormonal changes make things feel uncomfortable then opt for coconut or olive oil.
Vaginal feels are replaced every 96 hours, so it’s a constant cleaning machine.
Pubic hair is there for a reason
Perhaps not the best thing you want to hear if you’re one of those who likes to remove all of the pubic hair from this area, and Gunter has some things to say.
"When you wax or shave or sugar, you are causing microscopic trauma to the skin," says Gunter. "We see cuts, abrasions, infections from pubic hair removal as well."
"Pubic hair has a function, it is probably a mechanical barrier and protection for the skin.
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“It may also have a role in sexual functioning because each pubic hair is attached to a nerve ending – that's why it hurts to remove it."
Gunter recommends using a clean razor and shaving in the direction of hair growth to avoid ingrown hairs.
Ageing affects the vagina
As you get older, have more periods and maybe even children, the ovaries stop producing eggs and then menstruation stops.
Hormone products stops and low levels of oestrogen are prominent.
Then, tissues which were once kept moist can start to become dry which causes pain during sex because of lack of lubrication.
Gunter says: "I think it's really important for women to know about that," she says. "You don't have to suffer."
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