When John Mayer wrote, “Your Body Is A Wonderland,” what I’m sure he meant to say was that your vagina is a wonderland… of bacteria. I mean, we’re so very concerned these days with antibacterial soaps and hand-sanitizers, we don’t realize that we’re covered in bacteria. Constantly. And the best place for that bacteria to live is somewhere that’s wet and warm– like the vagina.
Before you freak out about all the little tiny creatures roving your body, you have to realize something– not only are (many) of these bacteria completely harmless, even more are helpful. And you can get even sicker by not having them.
Think of it like an ecosystem. It has crocodiles, egrets, dragonflies. And they all, more or less, function together. If there were too many egrets, there would be no more dragonflies, and then all the egrets would die because there was no food. If the crocodiles ate all of the egrets, the dragonfly population would grow out of control. If that’s not metal enough for you, think about it like this: your vagina has its own army of bugs that go to battle against scarier bugs, Klaandathu-style.
Here are some tips and tricks about the ways you can keep your vagina and the surrounding bits and pieces as healthy as possible– through controlling your bacterial populations.
Believe it or not, those curlies down there are there for a reason. Those tangles help you keep our bacteria, dirt, and all kinds of other crap that just doesn’t need to be nestling up to your precious mucous membranes.
Now, this doesn’t mean that shaving them will put you at risk for infection. There isn’t substantial evidence just yet that clear cutting your hair forest will sign you up for the express train to infected vaginal canal. But women who have frequent infections find that keeping things au natural down there have helped them.
If you do decide to keep your pubic hair, the best way to clean it is just with lukewarm water. Soap is option, but if it gets up into your vagina, you may be in for a world of hurt, so many OB/GYNs don’t recommend it.
Did you know that a douchebag is not just a word that means your neighbor who revs his Harley at three in the morning? It’s from the French word for shower (douche), and in the US, it’s more colloquially known as a tool used for washing out downstairs orifices.
But did you also know that douching is bad for you? Really, really bad. Women who douche are not only at a higher risk for many types of infections, but some of these infections can even lead to worse consequences– like cervical cancer and ectopic pregnancy.
When you douche, you’re indiscriminately washing away the bacteria in your vagina. Doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad bacteria, you’re washing it all away. The problem is that when it comes time for your good bacteria to grow back, it can have trouble fending off the bad bacteria and giving itself enough time to grow back properly.
The other problem is that many of the douches found in the store don’t have chemicals that are beneficial to the vagina. Even if you don’t have sensitive skin, many of those chemicals can be harmful or even painful.
You shouldn’t even douche before seeing your OB/GYN or other doctors! Doing so can wash away harmful bacteria that your doctor should know about, or even discharge that may indicate a serious medical problem.
As far as anal douching goes, it may seem like a better option than vaginal douching, but it can still carry some of the same risks. While your anus might not have the same lubrication as a vagina, it does have some mucous that helps keep it from tearing, which douching can wash away. Additionally, anal douching too much can actually change the way that your bowels respond, which can make it harder for them to do their job in the future. If you decide to douche anally, do so carefully and sparingly.
We all have our days when we’re feeling a little less than fresh. Could be you just didn’t have the time to shower that morning. Could be that you’re on your period. It could even be a change in your diet or a new medication. Or it could just be the dumb new thing that your hoohah feels like doing.
As tempting as it may be to soap up with your favorite Bath and Body Works, DON’T. Soap does not belong down there. Detergent does not belong down there. Body spray and perfume don’t even belong down there. The only thing that belongs down there is your natural fluids, and lukewarm water.
Your vagina is a very sensitive machine, and not only can introducing chemicals down there that don’t belong kill off important bacteria, but they can irritate the mucous membranes and tissues that make up your vagina.
If you’re concerned about the smell, there actually are a few things you can do. The first is change your diet. Processed foods can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria that may change your musk. Instead, go for foods with probiotics– like yogurt. Some OB/GYNs even recommend inserting yogurt if you have a yeast infection because it can help encourage the good bacteria to grow. You can also put scented things (so long as you don’t have sensitive skin) on your thighs and belly near your vagina. Just be careful that it’s not distributed in anyway that sweat may make it run off into your ladyparts.
So how do I stay clean?
So long as you’re healthy, your body will keep you clean all on its own. You can help by washing your vulva (the outside of your vagina) with warm water. That’s really it. If you feel like you’re smelly and it’s really bothering you, you can always put some scented lotion on your legs or your belly, but keep it all away from your insides. If you aren’t healthy– and you can tell based on your smell, any feelings of pain or itchiness, and the color of your discharge– then you’ll need to see your doctor. Together, you can come up with a way to fix any problems.
You can also stay safe by making sure your lubes are suited to your personal flora, any toys you use are cleaned properly and that both lube and toys are free from toxic materials. After all, orgasms (including those from masturbation) is a great way to flush out unwanted bacteria from your uterus without cleaning it out too much.