Before we jump right into the blog on Female Genital Hygiene, I have a story.
For the second time, I started watching my favorite Netflix series, The Bold type. Now you might think, how does it relate to this blog post? It does because of the word punani. The first time you’ve heard it? Even I did that day. In the pilot episode itself, there was an objection taken to the word punani by a group of Indian females, and why not? That word really sounds cringy to me. Although it does actually mean the female genitalia, and that should be the vagina.
So in this blog, I’m not going to use any cringy words like that, and let’s just grow up and go with the terms vagina and vulva because that’s what the doctors call them.
Now, coming to the blog topic, and that is genital hygiene for the starters, many vagina owners might think that rubbing scented soaps should be the right way to do it, at least many women in the rural areas with no access to proper knowledge do think that, and even some women with an urban lifestyle, but it is not the right way to go about it, which brings us to our topic on how to do proper genital care and genital hygiene.
What You Should Not Do to Maintain Genital Hygiene?
#1 It’s a big no-no to scented soaps!
Yes, this is the number one tip for your genital hygiene.
Some soaps just tend to smell very flowery, but remember, your vulva (which doesn’t include your vagina; they are two different parts) is not a garden. Washing your vulva with soap is just fine, but using a scented soap that contains harsh chemicals can lead to an unhealthy imbalance in your vaginal PH, as it affects the healthy bacteria and is a sign of poor genital hygiene and health. This can lead to irritation.
So to clean your vulva, use a gentle soap that isn’t built with a line of chemicals and doesn’t have a solid scent. Also, see that the washing is limited only to the vulva and does not come anywhere near the vaginal opening. It is okay to clean the vulva daily with soap and warm water but totally refrain from it if you suffer from a vaginal infection.
Always remember, your vagina is self-cleaning, and it doesn’t need anything extra than some warm water and regular soap.
#2 Say no to everything scented when it’s about your vageen.
Tiny Jane Sloane, from The Bold Type, would say that she learned this the hard way, after spraying that scented scent on her vageen; but that was her lesson to learn.
Yes, it’s good to smell good when it comes to your body, and that’s basically why the soaps and scents industry is flourishing. No doubt we all love to have a whiff of that good scent, but when it comes to your vagina, it’s not meant to smell flowery, and anyone who tells you otherwise just wants you to buy that product and up their sales. After all, that’s what the beauty industry is for. It’s a real no-no for your genital hygiene.
Products like scented body gels, vaginal scrubs and deodorants (What? Really? For a vagina?), or wipes, no matter how much they promise to keep your vagina healthy, are not trustworthy at all. All of these products end up exposing your vagina to infections.
#3 Dry and clean panties? Yes, please.
This mostly happens during summer due to excessive sweating. Or a typical day where you’ve run errands. Or after a hard workout.
There’s nothing more perfect than wet and warm underpants for unhealthy bacteria and yeast to grow. If risking an infection is not on your list, then you might as well not wear damp underwear for too long. Change them after finishing whatever sweaty task that was to avoid putting your vagina into the poor genital hygiene category.
On the other hand, wet panties due to vaginal discharge are not a sign of poor genital hygiene but a healthy vagina. Our vagina is self-cleaning, and the discharge is nothing but just that.
If you are making use of any talcum powder or rubbing with wipes to keep it extra dry, that might be another reason to worry. It leads to itching and vaginal dryness, and excessive use of talcum powder only results in exposing your body to endometrial cancer.
The key take here is to keep it dry but not Sahara dessert dry!
#4 To keep the pubes or to not keep the pubes? That is the question!
Mostly, I would say that it is all your choice; it is your body, after all. You can pull them out or let them be; it is up to you; but since we’re on a blog that says good genital hygiene, here is why you should not remove your pubes: Now, we all know those mosquito nets that keep those irritating little creatures out, your pubes act like those nets. It protects the vulva from bacterial infections.
And if you plan on shaving at all, then you should keep that razor aside and go for an alternative that doesn’t cause the three I’s around your vagina, and those are inflammation, irritation, and injury.
#5 We need more cotton underpants.
Laces, satins, silks – all of it sounds luring due to how sexy they look, but are they really worth the money? Do they lead to poor genital hygiene?
Some fabrics are just not breathable, and that leads to sweating since there is no proper air circulation. Now we all have discussed what happens when you wear wet underpants for a long time, or even pants made out of synthetic fabrics; they pave the way for bacteria and yeast.
So better yet, ditch those fancy pants and go for that safe cotton.
#6 Please. No douching!
If you’re thinking that spraying water with a jet spray within your vagina should do to keep it hygienic and clean from vaginal secretions, then that method is called douching. And that’s something you should strictly avoid. Some women also douche as a method of contraception. It is done by using a liquid solution that is sprayed inside the vagina.
Now, why would you want to spray anything inside your vagina, also water, when it is self-cleaning and literally not some utensil you need to scrub and wash with jet spray!
Douching can cause bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and vaginal dryness, which signifies poor genital health. OB/GYN physicians strictly advise avoiding douching because it can put you at risk of STDs. The force of the spray can send the bacteria way up, which can also lead to gonorrhea and chlamydia. Infertility is also on the list, and even if you douche once a week, there are still chances of ovarian and cervical cancer.
#7 Ignoring signs of vaginal infections is not the right thing to do.
Genital hygiene and hygiene include reading the signals your vagina sends you. Suppose you are experiencing any of the below-listed symptoms and yet you’re postponing booking an appointment with your gynecologist. In that case, you should have a red alarm blaring behind you because that is a crime, and you can be booked for putting yourself at risk.
Symptoms to be on a lookout for:
- Burning or pain while urinating
- Vaginal discharge that smells foul or has a fishy odour
- Pain and discomfort during intercourse
- Vaginal discharge that is off-colored and may or may not have a smell
- Inflammation, redness, continuous itching, burning all in or around the vagina
- Ulcers or warts around your vulva
Although many women try to treat these things at home by buying randomly googled medicines from a medical (exactly how some women buy contraceptive pills, without any check-up or directions from an OB/GYN). These symptoms are not a part of hygienic and normal functioning genitalia and should be taken care of under proper treatment obtained from a gynecologist.
Also, here are some vaginal infections for your reference:
- Bacterial vaginosis:
This is nothing but an infection caused by the growth of unhealthy bacteria. This is prominently caused by using so-called feminine hygiene products that are scented and harsh, douching, and also the use of IUDs.
- Vaginal Thrush:
Poor genital hygiene can lead to itching, soreness, and irritation around your vulva. These may be the symptoms of Vaginal thrush, which is a fungal infection. You might also experience cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge and pain during sex. This one is also caused by using so-called feminine hygiene products, wearing tight clothes, or having sex.
- Genital warts:
Can bad hygiene cause genital warts? Genital warts are not caused by bad hygiene but by a virus named Human Papilloma Virus, also known as HPV. This virus spreads through sexual contact. A vaccine helps you with proper prevention against the virus.
Trichomoniasis is also a form of STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) like genital warts. This is caused by tiny parasites named Trichomonas Vaginalis. Most people do not experience any symptoms like foul-smelling vaginal discharge, which may be frothy, but pain while peeing and itching around the vulva are common symptoms.
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI):
UTIs happen due to the entrance of bacteria into the urinary tract, which further multiplies into the bladder. UTIs infect any part of the urinary system. Common symptoms are fever, nausea, burning sensation while peeing, and constant urge to urinate. The symptoms vary depending upon which part of the urinary system is infected. A prescription usually treats these antibiotics.
Many other infections are caused due to poor genital hygiene and not practicing safe sex. Make sure that you clean your vagina with water (no douching) after sexual activities to prevent catching common infections that are not listed here. This issues me with another blog topic for some other day.
Also, if you are making use of sex toys, then see that they’re sterilized and are covered with a condom. Don’t be like Kiara Advani from Lush Stories, who picks a vibrator and just puts it in along with the germs and bacteria.
#8 Sanitary pads are to be changed every 4-6 hours.
Now this one does not need much of an explanation. If not changed for a long time, sanitary pads can cause bad odour and rashes on the skin. Hence it is advised to change them after every 4 to 6 hours for proper hygiene and to avoid putting yourself at risk of infections.
This point brings us to another part of the blog, and I would like to call it the hangout point of sanitary products because there is no one product but many available for you to choose from according to your preference. On one hand, we have regular sanitary and cloth pads, and on the other hand, we have products that go inside the vagina. *Ahem* I mean sanitary products that go inside the vagina.
Let us see what we’ve got here one by one.
The very many sanitary products and how to use them.
#1 We have sanitary pads:
Female hygiene products are on a long list when it comes to sanitary, but first up we have sanitary pads. They’re easy to use and are commonly used by vagina owners around the world. One just has to unwrap the sanitary pad, place the sticky surface on the center of your underwear and wrap the wings on either side of the underwear to secure it.
For disposing, just remove the pad, wrap it in the wrapper and dispose of it off.
There are a variety of brands to choose from and also different sizes depending on the flow. Make sure to change the pad every 4-5 hours on a heavy flow day to avoid infections and leakage.
#2 We have cloth pads:
Now, as a child, when I was uncomfortable with the whole concept of pads, or how sticky and papery they were, my mother gave me the solution her mother and her mother gave her; well, in conclusion, it was used for generations and is still used in rural parts of the country. Using a cloth.
Cloth pads are just the upgraded version. They need thorough washing to keep them clean so as to maintain proper genital hygiene. They are reusable. But the downside of this one is that this isn’t leakproof. There is constant worry about leakage when you wear it, and apart from poppers or velcro, there is no other way to secure it to the panties.
And from a video I watched a good year ago, the cloth pad could easily rotate on the underwear as there is no proper way to secure it. So use it if you’re used to it. And if you want to start using it newly, you can try it when you’re at home to avoid staining yourself in public.
#3 We have menstrual cups:
The next one for sanitary hygiene products is menstrual cups. These are reusable and last for at least 10 years if properly cared for.
Although I’m terrified of this one because removing something filled with blood from my vagina and having to be paranoid about an oncoming blood bath may not be on my list for a long time; unless I’m ready to experiment for good.
Menstrual cups stand to their names. They are cups or funnel-like things that come in different sizes. You just have to whisk them up your vagina (which did not seem easy to me), put them in place, and they’re all set to hold that period blood for a good 6-12 hours. If you’ve inserted it correctly, then you should not be able to feel it while carrying on with the regular activities.
Now the upside of using menstrual cups is that once you buy them, you don’t have to worry about investing in period products again. In short, they’re budget-friendly. You can have sex, go swimming, and carry on with your day because it is leakage proof and you don’t even have to worry about infections. They are also eco-friendly.
The downside of menstrual cups is that inserting and removing them can be really messy. Also, you have to see that they’re inserted properly and the suction is created so no blood leaks out. Also, finding one of your sizes depends on a list in which one of the points is the strength of your pelvic floor.
If you are any more comfortable with a menstrual cup, then go for it. It’s actually great! But if you are scared like me, then you can take your time, do your research and then try the product that fits you best.
#4 We have tampons:
Tampons are single-use sanitary products that are to be inserted into your vagina. Unlike menstrual cups that hold the flow, tampons absorb the flow like sanitary pads, only within the vagina.
The downside of using tampons is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). If a tampon is kept for a long time within the vagina, as most women tend to forget they’ve inserted one, it leads to TSS. The toxic substance produced by bacteria can affect some of your major organs, can lead to organ failure, and even prove fatal.
So if you’re using a tampon, make sure you change it from time to time and not risk your life by forgetting that you’ve inserted one.
#5 We have period panties:
Although I have never really thought about using one or never even researched about it, I did for this article, and it seems that period panties which are also reusable prove to be a great alternative to cloth pads. Period panties use leak lock technology that can help prevent leakage, and also, there is no worry of securing it as it stays in place for hours.
Some panties are proven to last all day long, although that just depends on the absorbency level and the flow you are going through. Washing them is on the list, but period panties seem like a safe period product to me, that serves proper hygiene.
So, that’s all I had for this blog, and see you all beautiful women, genderfluid and nonbinary pals – basically people from the community – soon in another blog on vaginas!