Vaginal Health: What's normal and what's not?
There are many misunderstandings about vaginal health and what a healthy vagina actually is. A healthy vagina is naturally acidic and has enough amounts of bacteria to keep infections away choma. But, do you know enough about maintaining a healthy vagina and can you identify when your vagina is either healthy or unhealthy?
Discharge is very normal
There was recently a silly trend on social media called #PantyChallenge where people post photos of their clean underwear, which is free of discharge, at the end of the day. This trend suggests that there is something wrong with your vagina if there’s discharge and you should be ashamed of this. That’s not true choma! Discharge is a normal bodily function and it’s your vagina’s way of staying healthy and clean. Your discharge is usually clear or white and it can have a slight smell. But, if there is any disturbance in your vagina, it can cause an irritation or an infection.
So, what are the signs that your vagina may be unhealthy?
If your discharge has a fishy odour or smell, then it could mean you have an infection called bacterial vaginosis. It’s caused when there is an imbalance of bacteria in your vagina, in other words there is certain bad bacteria that have changed the balance of your hormone levels. This smelly discharge may sometimes happen after you’ve had unprotected sex, therefore increasing your risk of contracting Sexually Transmitted Illnesses (STIs). Speak to a health professional when you notice this choma.
Itching, Burning and Yeast Infection
If you’re constantly scratching your vagina from an itch or burn, it may show that you have a vaginal infection. This is means there may be more harmful bacteria than good bacteria in your vagina causing you to itch or burn.
Another symptom of itching and burning could mean you have a yeast infection. A certain amount of yeast is needed to keep harmful bacteria away in your vagina but when there is an overproduction of yeast then that may end up in a yeast infection.
The itching can be your vagina’s way of reacting to chemicals in soaps, creams or contraceptives used that may be harmful. These chemicals can change the acidity of your vagina which protects it against infections.
Bleeding after intercourse or unusual bleeding
Choma, while it may be common to experience some bleeding during your first few sexual encounters, it’s not normal if the bleeding continues way after you’ve had sex for the first time. This indicates a vaginal infection or that you may be infected with chlamydia. Also, if you experience any bleeding between your periods or if your period lasts for an unusually long time then you may need to visit your healthcare professional because it may be a sign that you have an infection.
How to keep your vagina healthy
Drink lots of water
Water helps your bodily fluids function smoothly. Your vagina has mucous membranes and they need to be well-hydrated to keep your vagina naturally lubricated. Drinking enough water will also help prevent that ‘fishy’ smell.
Have safe sex
Wearing a condom every time you have sex not only protects you against pregnancy and STIs but they also help keep your pH levels in your vagina balanced so that the good bacteria can stay there. The good bacteria will help prevent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Also, always use a new condom when changing from anal or oral sex to vaginal sex to avoid any harmful bacteria from entering your vagina.
Be careful of the soap you use
Although scented body soaps seem great, most of them are not healthy for your vagina. This is because they can dry the sensitive skin, causing it to itch or burn, and can also interfere with the pH levels in your vagina. This may increase the chances of harmful bacteria entering your vagina. Just rinse with warm water to keep it clean down there choma.
Visit a gynaecologist
By visiting a ‘gynae’ or gynaecologist (a doctor specialising in the health of the female reproductive system) you will get better answers on anything that has to do with your vagina chomas.
Keeping your vagina healthy is important and if you notice some discharge on your underwear that is clear and doesn’t have a bad smell, then your vagina is healthy and normal. If you want to know more about feminine hygeine choma, read Dr Sindi's article on it. And if you have any other concerns or notice any other interference about your vagina, please Ask Choma.
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