What does a healthy vagina look and feel like? Is it okay to get frequent discharge? Why does it itch and burn sometimes? All these are common questions every woman has but are skeptical in exploring more about – because hush-hush! Women feel shy to open up even in front of a female doctor. But vaginal health and hygiene are two very critical things to be aware of for every woman. This is exactly what this article takes a look at – busting myths, clarifying facts, and taking the natural yet effective route to a healthy vagina.
Before we understand how to maintain vaginal health and hygiene, there are some basic things which need clarity: what is vaginal health, what do women commonly do to maintain it, the impact of these processes, and the right way to do it.
Naturally acidic vaginal PH is capable of preventing all types of microbial infections caused by bacteria, virus or fungi. Hence, it is absolutely essential to maintain its balance.
This is a type of bacteria naturally present in the vaginal tract, and can prevent entry of infections from the vaginal orifice. They play a critical role in vaginal immunity.
The moisture in the vagina has to be maintained in the right balance. If it is too high or low, it can lead to problems such as feeling of vaginal discharge, or itching, dryness, discomfort and inflammation.
It is commonly believed today that using various intimate hygiene products is essential for good vaginal health. The widely used products include the following.
Chemical, soap-based, and scented intimate washes are widely used in metro cities, Tier 2, and even Tier 3 cities across India.
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These are gaining popularity but it needs to be understood that being external objects, if they remain inside the body for a while, they will have some impact.
To avoid the unpleasant smell that sometimes occurs during period bleeding, a lot of women use scented pads and pantyliners which are commonly available in the market.
Apart from these, using 100 percent chemical-based pubic hair removal products is also becoming a common practice. Some women even go to the extent of using intimate hygiene powders and creams which are mostly chemical-based. It is also common to consume antibiotics for cold or flu, often without a doctor’s consultation.
The challenge here is that consumption of these antibiotics not only eliminates the harmful, but also good microbes, which include the gut bacteria that helps in digestion and the Doderlein bacteria responsible for vaginal immunity. In my clinical practice, I’ve observed that women who’ve just completed a course of antibiotics are highly vulnerable to infections. A similar impact is made by consumption of contraceptive pills.
Unfortunately, doctors typically don’t share information on these topics, and women remain oblivious to the real impact of their habits. This must change, and a knowledge sharing approach needs to be cultivated. For instance, Ayurveda has options that can help in preventing the harms caused by chemical-based products and ensuring good vaginal health. Ayurveda emphasizes on consuming a balanced diet, getting proper sleep, and reducing stress in life, alongside avoiding usage of chemical-based intimate washes can be the game changer in this area. Ayurvedic principles have been implicated for 1000s of years and are backed by scientific research.
The key to overcoming these challenges lies in getting the right knowledge and this is where there is a need for awareness.