Essential Practices for Maintaining Optimal Vaginal Health

Maintaining good vaginal health is essential for overall well-being. In this blog, we delve into best practices for keeping your vaginal environment healthy and balanced. Learn about the importance of lactobacilli, avoiding douching, and using fragrance-free soaps. We also discuss common signs of vaginal infections, tips for preventing yeast infections, understanding bacterial vaginosis, and managing vaginal dryness. Additionally, discover how hormonal changes during menopause affect vaginal health and the role of diet. Finally, get insights into vulvodynia, safe use of feminine hygiene products, and the importance of regular pelvic exams and Pap smears. This valuable information is provided by our knowledgeable Nurse Practitioner, Jennifer Barbosa, who is dedicated to empowering women in their healthcare journey.

What are the best practices for maintaining good vaginal health?

It is important to know that the vagina is well-equipped to maintain a healthy balance naturally. The presence of lactobacilli are “good/healthy” bacteria that protect the vaginal mucosa. This group of bacteria help keep the vaginal environment slightly more acidic, making it harder for many bacteria and viruses to thrive. It is crucial to avoid douching as this disturbs the vaginal ph balance. Best to use fragrance-free or dye-free soaps such as Dove.

What are common signs and symptoms of a vaginal infection?

Common signs and symptoms of vaginal infections may include alterations in odor, color or consistency of vaginal discharge. Symptoms such as swelling, irritation or itching may also be present.

How can I prevent yeast infections?

Yeast is a normal part of the vaginal microbiome. Symptoms of yeast infections can occur when there is an overgrowth of yeast. Avoiding douching or harsh soaps to vulva/vaginal area can help prevent yeast overgrowth.

What should I know about bacterial vaginosis (BV)?

Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is a bacterial imbalance in the vagina. Symptoms may include change in amount of vaginal discharge to an odor or irritation, although some women may not have any symptoms.

How do hormonal changes during menopause affect vaginal health?

With menopause, the lack of estrogen affects the vaginal mucosa. This causes cells to lose volume, less energy available to feed lactobacilli (good bacteria) and thus cells begin to die and other types of bacteria can take up residence. There is also less cervical mucus produced. The vaginal tissue can feel drier and lubrication during arousal is reduced. Overall, the vaginal tissue becomes thinner and resistant to stretching.

Is it normal to have vaginal discharge, and what is considered normal?

Vaginal discharge is normal and the vagina typically produces about 1-3ml of discharge per day. The amount and consistency of vaginal discharge can vary depending on phases of the hormonal cycle.

How can I manage vaginal dryness?

Consider a daily vulvar moisturizer such as coconut oil, use a gentle cleanser and not a soap. A variety of vaginal moisturizes can be found online or over the counter and help replenish moisture temporarily but do not affect production of lactobacilli.

How often should I get a pelvic exam and Pap smear?

Each year you should have a pelvic exam as part of an annual well woman exam. Guidelines according to the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology have recommended a time-line for when to obtain pap smears, starting at the age of 25.

What role does diet play in vaginal health?

Unpopular opinion maybe, but no, your dietary preference does not affect your vagina. Food cannot alter vaginal odor, nor is there such a thing as an “anti-yeast” diet. However, eating 25G of fiber per day will certainly help keep your gut healthy which can indirectly help your vagina.

What is vulvodynia and how is it treated?

Vulvodynia is a pain condition, most noted anywhere on the vulva. It is often described as burning pain, but can include irritation and pain with intercourse. It can be provoked with touch or stimulus, such as intercourse or tampon insertion, or even with the light touch of clothes. The cause is unknown. Some options that can help with vulvodynia include topical lidocaine cream, estradiol cream, physical therapy, and biofeedback.

How can I safely use feminine hygiene products?

Try to avoid products that claim “detox or fragrance”. It is best to use fragrance-free, dye-free soaps, or even a gentle cleanser. Avoid use of antibacterials to the vulva area as well.


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