Vulva and vaginal health is held in a delicate balance and childbirth, time, and the environment around it can all cause unwanted changes. These changes and vaginal health as a whole can impact women’s physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Prevention, exercise, and technology can work to reduce and reverse many of these effects. A particular area of concern is infection. Vaginal infections develop when bacteria, funguses, or other organisms reproduce excessively. The goal of vulvar care is to maintain a dry, irritant-free environment within the vulva and vagina. This can prevent the vulva from becoming red, inflamed, and irritated.
What is the proper vulvar care?
There are several ways to ensure that the vulvar environment is healthy which can prevent many conditions from developing, including:
- When washing the vulva, only use warm water. Dry thoroughly with a clean towel.
- The vagina cleans itself. Avoid using douches unless recommended by the physician as these products can disturb its natural balance.
- Wear 100% cotton underwear, avoiding those made of nylon, acetate, or other types of manmade fibers.
- Do not wear thongs.
- After washing, rinse underclothes carefully, even double-rinsing.
- Prior to wearing, wash new underclothes.
- Use a mild soap such as Woolite® for washing underclothes. Avoid harsh detergents and fabric softeners, including dryer sheets.
- Use soft, undyed toilet tissue.
- Use tampons to manage menstrual bleeding. Do not use tampons which have a deodorant and try to avoid super or heavy flow tampons. Do not leave them in for a long time. Do not leave them in all night.
- Do not scratch the skin.
- Avoid wearing nylon pantyhose or panty girdles as they can trap heat and moisture, creating an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. When nylons or leggings are needed, wear cotton or nylons with a cotton panty section.
- Avoid feminine hygiene products which can cause irritation including sanitary pads, oils, greases, bubble baths, bath oils, feminine spray and deodorants, Vaseline®, talc, or powder.
What can the office do?
At the practice, the doctor can provide annual well-woman exams to ensure no problems are present and offers treatments for a variety of concerns including infections, dryness, irritation, and symptoms associated with menopause or PMS.