May’s blog was contributed by our CNM, Shelia Love. Shelia’s focus in this blog is on Women’s Health Care. One of our goals at The Midwife Group Women’s Health and Birth Center is to provide care to women throughout their lifetimes, and Shelia is one of our midwives helping us achieve that part of our mission.
Vaginal irritation, infections, discomfort, odor and leaking of urine are the most common reasons women seek out gynecological care. Thousands of dollars are spent annually on feminine hygiene products. Many of these items cause more harm than good. Most women self diagnose and treat for prolonged periods of time before contacting a health care provider.
Many of these disorders and discomforts are self-induced. Social media, magazines and television bombards us with products for various disorders or just to make us feel “fresh”. So we purchase and use these items, not knowing that they may actually cause more problems.
So let’s sort out the facts. Nature has physiologically provided the vagina with a self-cleaning balanced environment. Vaginal discharge and personal odor are normal and fluctuate with hormonal changes, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, sexual activity, breastfeeding, menopause, diet and many types of medication. Odor should not be offensive or fishy. Normal discharge may change from a slippery egg white consistency to creamy or thick white. Normal vaginal balance supports lubrication, pleasurable sexual experience, urinary functions prevents infections, and assists in facilitating conception and birth.
Vaginal balance is measured by the secretion’s pH. pH is the measurement of a solution’s acid or base status on a scale from 0-14. 0 being the most acid and 14 the most base. The vagina’s ph ranges from 3.5 to 6-7 associated with hormonal changes. This range can leave the vagina/genitals more susceptible to common infections.
Common feminine products, laundry detergents, aggressive cleaning, or personal hygiene practices can interrupt this fluctuating environment. Your sexual partner’s cologne, lotions or soaps can also disrupt the vaginal eco system. Plant based oil lubricants (coconut, olive oil) are very popular, but are not compatible with safer sex barriers made from latex or polyisoprene.
So here are the do’s and don’ts of maintaining proper vaginal balance:
- Use mild soap for washing your body including anything that enters the vagina hands, objects, penis (i.e. plain bar Dove or Pure and Natural)
- Remove underwear as often as possible for better air flow
- If necessary, use lubricants compatible with vaginal pH (ex. Luvena)
- If you notice an odor, itch or discharge fill bath tub with 4-5 inches warm water add ½ cup table salt, sit in tub, depress vaginal opening and swish water in vagina for 2-3 minutes 3 times a week.
- If you are prone to vaginal infections consider daily probiotic specifically for vaginal and urinary health (ex. Fem Dophilus, RepHresh Pills)
- Routinely use panty liners
- Use feminine wipes
- Deodorant pads or tampons
- Bleach underwear (peroxide will remove stains especially blood)
- Use dryer sheets for underwear (air dry is ideal)
- Use antibacterial or perfume soaps, lotions or sprays (including sexual partner) on anything that enters the vagina
- Wash sex toys with antibacterial soap or alcohol (use warm soapy water with Dove or Pure and Natural, rinse and air dry)
- Share toys
REMEMBER – if you experience pain, fever or abdominal tenderness or signs and symptoms increase, contact your healthcare provider for evaluation.
Protecting and maintaining vaginal health is a part of your long-term health and wellness. Like many health issues our choices may make the difference between wellness or disease and impact quality of life
There are many over the counter homeopathic products that maintain vaginal health or treat imbalances or infections but only your health care provider can recommend the proper one for your specific situation.
If you have concerns about any ongoing vaginal or urinary issues, contact me and together we can make a plan to improve your intimate feminine wellness and quality of life.
Certified Nurse Midwife