NEW HAVEN, Connecticut–(BUSINESS WIRE)–With the unlimited resources available online, more and more women are turning to the Internet to seek information about vaginal health. In fact, two out of five women search online before consulting a healthcare provider when experiencing discomfort or unusual vaginal health symptoms. However, there is still a lot of confusion and misinformation when it comes to what is normal and what is not down there.
“The abundance of mixed information online leaves women feeling uninformed and uneducated when it comes to the state of their vaginal health,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, OB/GYN, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale University Faculty in medicine. “There remains a lack of clarity about what is normal when it comes to vaginal health symptoms, what is healthy and what is safe in terms of vaginal hygiene. Education is essential as it is important for women to take responsibility for their vaginal health and understand what is normal.’
The vagina is a naturally acidic environment with a pH that should remain in the 3.8 to 4 range to promote a balance of good, beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus. However, the delicate balance can be easily disrupted by daily activities and natural phenomena such as menstruation, leading to discomfort, anxiety, stress and even low self-esteem. So understanding the vaginal microbiome, the problems that can occur and prevention strategies, and ultimately what keeps the vagina healthy is important to maintaining overall health.
Dr. Minkin, who is also the founder of MadameOvary.com, outlines the basics of vaginal health by answering frequently asked questions and sharing best practices for vaginal care.
- My vagina smells. Is this normal It is important to know this the vagina is not meant to smell like roses. All vaginas have a slight odor, but there is a difference between a healthy odor and an unhealthy odor. A change in odor is a good indication that the vaginal pH is off and the bad bacteria are overtaking the good bacteria in the vagina. Stress and anxiety, lifestyle changes and hormones can all affect vaginal odor, and a product like RepHresh™ Vaginal Gel can help eliminate odor and restore vaginal pH. But if you notice a sudden unusual change in smell, such as a fishy or rotten smell, it could be a sign of a bacterial infection, which could be more serious, and you should consult your doctor.
- I have a leak. Something wrong? Like smell, some secretions are completely normal and natural to prevent vaginal tissue from drying out, especially in young, premenopausal women. It is usually white or clear. If you notice a change in the color of the discharge, such as grayish, green, or yellow, especially if the color change comes with irritation or other symptoms, there may be cause for concern. Fortunately, many common vaginal health problems can often be treated with over-the-counter products.
- When should I start using vaginal hygiene products? There’s no right time to start using vaginal hygiene products, but it’s a good idea to establish a routine early on so you understand proper hygiene and what’s necessary and what’s not. There’s basically no need to use products if your vagina is healthy and there aren’t any noticeable or alarming changes in discharge, odor, or other new symptoms.
- How do I clean my vagina? The vagina itself is self-cleansing, so we don’t need to do much if the vagina is in a healthy state, as some products can disrupt the natural pH balance. However, basic hygiene practices such as cleaning the vulva with water and choosing your preferred fragrance-free pH-balanced soap when you bathe can be helpful in keeping bad bacteria to a minimum. Remember when cleaning the vulva that it is best practice to avoid any irritation that can occur with scented and harsh soaps.
- How can I keep my vaginal pH under control? The vulva and vaginal tissue are the most delicate tissues in the body, so it’s important not to expose them to things that can upset the natural pH of the vagina, such as fragrances and harsh chemicals. Semen, blood, certain medications, and more can affect pH, so using protection if you’re sexually active and maintaining good hygiene practices along with taking a daily probiotic like RepHresh™ Pro-B can help manage the acidic environment of the vagina. and help balance yeast and bacteria to support vaginal health.
- When should I make an appointment with my healthcare provider? It is very important for vaginal health to make sure you follow up with annual health checkups with your health care provider to make sure your vaginal health and overall health are in check. In addition to wellness visits, any time you may be experiencing pelvic pain, fever, or unusual discharge that doesn’t clear up with over-the-counter products, or have any other symptoms that are bothering you, it’s always best to make an appointment with your supplier.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to vaginal health, so take the time to ask questions when meeting with a healthcare provider and keep your overall health in mind when making choices about the best practices for daily care “, says Dr. Minkin.