Vaginal Health

Vaginal discharge (fluid that comes out of the vagina) is common and normal. It is made up of cells from the vagina and cervix, bacteria, mucus, and water. Bacteria (germs) live in a healthy vagina. Some are considered "good" bacteria, like Lactobacillus; they help keep the vagina acidic and protect against infection. It is important to know your normal vaginal discharge. Most women who have a monthly period have one teaspoon of white or clear, odourless vaginal discharge each day. Changes in your discharge can be a sign of a vaginal infection or a sexually transmitted blood borne infection (STBBI). Other bacteria can cause unusual symptoms (itch, changes in discharge, odour) in the vagina. If this happens, you should seek medical advice.

Here are some general guidelines to follow to keep your vagina healthy:

  • Do not douche. Your vagina has the ability to clean itself. Douching can cause an infection by destroying your vagina's "good" bacteria. Douching products can irritate the delicate lining of the vagina. Wash genitals with a mild unscented soap and warm water when you shower or bath.
  • Skip the scents. Avoid feminine hygiene sprays, scented deodorant tampons or pads, using baby wipes, bubble baths, scented toilet paper or spraying perfume in the vaginal area. This can lead to irritation or allergic reactions. If you have sensitive skin, use mild, scent-free soap to wash under wear.
  • Loosen Up.Thongs, tight spandex suits and tights can rub during exercise and trap sweat leading to irritation. It is best to wear cotton underwear. Also tight pants and synthetic clothing may cause abnormal vaginal discharge or infection.
  • Use tampons and pads wisely. Choose a pad or tampon with the right absorbency depending on the day of your period and change it regularly throughout the day. Do not wear a pad or panty liner every day as these can be irritating. If you have so much discharge that you need a panty liner every day, see your clinician who will help you find the cause.
  • 'SEX it SMART'. Be aware of your partners' sexual history and use condoms. Having multiple partners can increase your risk of vaginal infections and STI's.
  • Don't self-medicate. If you are experiencing genital itch or irritation, change in vaginal discharge or odour seek medical advice to obtain a diagnosis and discuss possible treatments. Using over the counter Feminine Hygiene creams, wipes or washes won't make the problem go away.
  • Vaginal dryness - There are many reasons for vaginal dryness such as hormonal changes, medications, irritants and anxiety. If dryness is making sex uncomfortable or even painful be sure to talk to your doctor about all possible treatments. There are a variety of treatments for dryness. These range from lifestyle changes to natural supplements and alternative treatments. Lifestyle changes can include wearing cotton underwear and avoiding douching. Additionally, there are many types of lotions and creams that you can use to lubricate your vagina prior to sex including coconut oil, olive oil, vitamin E and water soluble creams that you can get at your local drugstore. Oil-based substances, like Vaseline, may harm or dissolve the latex in condoms.

While not all vaginal problems can be prevented, regular checkups can help ensure that problems affecting your vagina are diagnosed as soon as possible. Don't let embarrassment prevent you from talking to your doctor about any concerns you might have about your vaginal health.

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