The Vagina Mystery: What Do You Really Know About it?
It’s strange how even though female sexuality is plastered all over the internet, the vagina itself remains a mystery to men and women alike. For women, taking care of your downstairs region obviously plays a huge role in your sexual health and wellbeing, so why are we so in the dark about it? There are almost too many vagina myths to count, so it’s definitely time to separate the facts from the fictions. Here’s all you need to know about vaginal wellness:
1. Kegel exercises aren’t just for orgasms: Although helping to enhance your orgasms is a key benefit to Kegel exercises, they also strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. This can be helpful if you have trouble holding in your urine, stool or gas. ‘You can do these exercises just about anywhere,’ says Dr. Courtney Leigh Barnes, a gynaecologist at the University of Missouri. ‘These exercises can also be used to help with pelvic organ prolapse.’ This is a condition in which your pelvis drops and pushes against your vagina.
2. Probiotics could help prevent vaginal infections: The friendly bacteria known as probiotics can help digestion, combat diarrhoea and target gut inflammation. However, research suggests that using probiotics could help you fight against vaginal infections, such as yeast infections. However, Barnes notes, ‘There isn’t enough proof to make a specific recommendation. More research needs to be done to say for sure when, how much, and what types of probiotics are helpful.’ Still, Barnes has had patients who suffered from chronic vaginal infections, and said they felt better after taking probiotics. Although it’s not right for everyone, particularly if you have a lactose intolerance, Barnes says, ‘If I have a patient with recurrent vaginal infections, I will recommend probiotics in the form of fermented goat’s milk.’ To remove problem bacteria, ‘I always tell my patients to avoid douching,’ Barnes comments. ‘Flushing out the vagina with anything that might kill the lactobacilli can result in an overgrowth of other types of problematic bacteria.’ She also advises that you only use soap on the areas of skin that are covered in hair. ‘Water is sufficient for cleaning the non-hair-bearing regions,’ she explains.
3. There are discharges women should worry about: Your vagina is self-cleaning, meaning that it’s perfectly normal to experience some discharge. However, according to Barnes, ‘Any vaginal discharge that seems excessive, painful, irritating or foul in odour should be evaluated by a doctor.’ Although you may be embarrasses about this problem, and tempted to diagnose and treat it yourself, Barnes points out, ‘Unfortunately, research has shown that patients aren’t very accurate when it comes to self-diagnosis.’ It may be that you have something as simple as a yeast infection, but ‘other times, the infection can be more complicated, or even a sexually transmitted infection,’ Barnes warns, and you definitely need a doctor to catch this early.
4. Sex can keep your vagina healthy — especially after menopause: As a woman, your body goes through multiple hormonal changes. Puberty, childbirth, breastfeeding, the ageing process and menopause all bring about hormonal changes that could lead to vaginal dryness. Barnes explains, ‘Oestrogen helps keep the vagina healthy and lubricated. Once oestrogen levels drop, the vagina can become dry, and sometimes even be a source of pain.’ However, Barnes asserts, ‘Safe vaginal intercourse can help keep the vagina healthy and dilated.’ Using lubricants can help make intercourse more comfortable, and using hormonal therapies in the form of pills, patches, vaginal rings or creams may be an option if you experience extreme dryness and discomfort. Barnes cautions, ‘There are some risks to certain types of hormone therapy, so it’s important for women to discuss them with their doctor before making a decision to use them.’