I recently came across a post on Twitter that said, ‘do not wash your vagina’. This post got a lot of attention, especially from men who clearly do not have vaginas and surprisingly enough, do not know where the vagina is. I will explain why I am for that statement and why it is important.
For those in the back who do not know what a vagina is, it is the internal portion of the female genitals. As such, the vagina is an internal organ and like other internal organs, it does not require cleaning. It is a tube of muscle inside a woman’s body that runs from the cervix (the opening of the womb) to the vaginal opening. Then you have the external sex organs, which are the clitoris, the labia majora and labia minora, and the vaginal opening.
The vagina contains healthy bacteria that help to maintain the pH (acidity) level inside it. These complex good bacteria and other microbes help keep the vagina healthy. As such, this means that the vagina is a self-cleaning organ. And washing it, especially with harsh soaps or douches, can throw the vaginal pH level out of balance, increasing the risk of infections and unpleasant odours. Your vagina is a sensitive area and, thankfully, maintaining good hygiene is incredibly simple. When cleaning your intimate parts, you should only clean your vulva, but not with soap or any intimate gel. The vulva should be cleaned with lukewarm water only. Once you use soap, the balance of bacteria is disturbed and this can lead to infection and inflammation.
The most important part about vaginal hygiene is maintaining its pH level. A normal vaginal pH level tends to be slightly acidic and when this is thrown off, women start to experience symptoms of infections.
These symptoms might include irritation, itchiness and pain. A lot of people who commented on that Twitter post argued that if a woman does not wash her vagina, then she always has a fishy smell.
Guys, if you are being intimate with someone who gives off a fishy odour, that person needs to see a doctor immediately. It either means that they have a yeast infection, sexually transmitted infection or another infection that requires immediate treatment.
When you do wash up, make sure to wash the area with lukewarm water daily, even if you skip a shower.
Always avoid using scented soaps and gels. The scents can irritate the area and will only serve as a mask to cover up an actual issue that might be causing odour. Remember that even if you’re experiencing vaginal odour and other problems, douching will only cover up the problem and possibly make it worse – not fix it. Thus, seeing a doctor is best in such a situation. After using the toilet, wipe front to back. Even better – rinse with lukewarm water to remove unwanted bacteria and pat dry.
It is also important to change condoms when switching between vaginal, anal and oral intercourse to avoid spreading bacteria. Don’t share sex toys with your partner because, during sex, bacteria can sometimes get into the urethra. After sex, make sure you urinate to flush out bacteria and avoid contracting a urinary tract infection. You should also shower or at least clean the vulva after sex with lukewarm water and thoroughly dry it.
Remember, if you are experiencing an unusual discharge or an unpleasant vaginal odour, you should see a doctor. These are among the first signs of an infection, which will require treatment. Remember, your vagina need not need smell like flowers ladies.
• Frieda Mukufa’s lifestyle section concentrates on women-related issues and parenting every Friday in the New Era newspaper. She also specialises in editing research proposals, proofreading as well as content creation.