What are the Best Tips for a Healthy Vagina?

wiseGEEK Writer

Maintaining a healthy vagina is a matter of real concern. There are many tips for how to stay healthful and these include advice on behavior, basic protections, and medical care.

Kegel exercises may be important for pregnant women to prevent incontinence.
Kegel exercises may be important for pregnant women to prevent incontinence.

Numerous “feminine” products are marketed to women and these include items like soaps, deodorizers, scented maxi pads and tampons, and douches. Most gynecologists suggest women do not use anything with a fragrance and to avoid douching or using feminine soaps, which may disturb the vagina’s natural balance. It’s generally thought that the healthy vagina is best left alone, and that aside from minimal cleaning or wiping on the outside, cleaning on the inside is not necessary. On the other hand, if women seem to need these products to get rid of unpleasant smells, medical attention should be sought because this may suggest a build-up of yeasts or bacteria, which can affect vaginal health.

Women should see a gynecologist yearly for a routine exam and should undergo a pap smear test every three years to check for abnormalities.
Women should see a gynecologist yearly for a routine exam and should undergo a pap smear test every three years to check for abnormalities.

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All parts of the body benefit from a little exposure to air, and another behavioral tip to have a healthy vagina is to wear breathable fabrics. Cotton underwear, or at minimum, undies with a cotton crotch, are considered more healthful. Super tight jeans or non-breathable underwear (including nylons without a cotton crotch), should be avoided to prevent yeast infections.

Scented tampons and sanitary pads can disrupt the vagina's natural balance.
Scented tampons and sanitary pads can disrupt the vagina's natural balance.

The vagina has muscles, and women should consider doing Kegel exercises, which tighten and loosen these muscles. This is especially important for pregnant women, but all women may loosen up as they age, making them prone to things like urinary incontinence. Committing to a little exercise daily may help reduce this risk.

Most gynecologists advise their patients not to douche or use any scented hygiene products.
Most gynecologists advise their patients not to douche or use any scented hygiene products.

While many women may suffer the occasional yeast or bacterial infection, one goal in having a healthy vagina is to make certain that other types of infections are prevented, especially those that fall into the class of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It’s most advised that sexual behavior be monogamous with a monogamous partner, but many women don’t pursue this route. To increase protection, using condoms with every sexual encounter and using vaginal dental dams can help prevent spread of disease. Knowing partners and getting tested for major illnesses prior to sexual encounters is also strongly advised. If a partner has an STD, sexual activity should be avoided until this is cured or no longer contagious.

Kegel exercises can be used to strengthen the pelivic floor.
Kegel exercises can be used to strengthen the pelivic floor.

The healthy vagina needs regular doctor’s visits. Women should plan on seeing a gynecologist yearly throughout their life. In their teens and early 20s, if they are sexually active, they should have a once yearly PAP smear to test for cervical cancer, and might consider new vaccines for human papillomavirus. These exams are also good opportunities to talk about birth control, plans to have children, hormonal changes, and menstrual irregularities. Once a year care helps provide physician oversight so women have the best chance of continued vaginal health.

Changing pads or tampons often during a woman's menstrual period is important for maintaining a healthy vagina.
Changing pads or tampons often during a woman's menstrual period is important for maintaining a healthy vagina.

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Discussion Comments

famnfriends

@artlover--When I was in my forties, my doctor suggested I could get a pap smear every two years. I would get an annual pelvic exam to check for any other vaginal abnormalities, like an infection of any kind. If you do not have a history of vaginal cancer and have had normal pap smears for three years or more, I would think this would be OK, if you and your doctor think it is a good plan.

artlover

I am in my forties and have gotten conflicting recommendations for my annual exam. One doctor told me I still need a pap yearly and another doctor told me I can now have it every other year. Does anyone know what the ideal is for a women in her forties?

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