The vagina is a closed muscular canal that connects the vulva (the external female genital area) with the cervix (the neck of the uterus). The vagina is just as important as any other body part of a woman, and should also be kept healthy. Fertility, sexual desire, and ability to reach orgasm can all be affected by vaginal problems.
Having vaginal health issues can affect your self-confidence, and cause stress or problems between you and your partner. Make sure you have optimal vaginal health; know what you can do to keep your vagina healthy, and watch out for symptoms that could be signs of any problem. Various factors can affect your vaginal health, and they include:
- Unprotected sex. You can contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if you don’t have any form of protection during sex.
- Forceful sex or injury to the pelvic area. These can result in vaginal trauma or micro-tears in the vagina.
- Health conditions or treatments. Endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) are just some of the conditions that might cause painful sex.
- Antibiotics. Taking certain antibiotics can increase the risk of vaginal yeast infection.
- Contraceptives and feminine-hygiene products. Barrier contraceptives such as condoms can irritate the vagina. Feminine-hygiene products can cause imbalances in the vagina’s natural environment and pH level, and make it easier for infections to set.
- Pregnancy and childbirth. While you are pregnant, you will have increased vaginal discharge, but you will not have your monthly menstruation until your baby is born. Vaginal tears and decreased muscle tone in the vagina are relatively common if you have a vaginal delivery during childbirth.
- Psychological issues. Anxiety and depression can contribute to a decreased level of sexual arousal, and lead to uncomfortable or painful sex. Trauma such as sexual abuse or a painful sexual experience in the past can cause pain associated with sex.
- Hormone levels. Hormones play an important role in sexual arousal; changes in hormone levels can affect your vagina and arousal. For example, estrogen levels decline after menopause and while breastfeeding. This can cause thinner vaginal lining and sparse lubrication, which can make sex painful.
Normal Vaginal Discharge
Just as how a mouth produces saliva, a healthy vagina produces its own secretions to cleanse and regulate itself. These are normal vaginal discharge, and should not be interfered with because disrupting the delicate balance of vaginal secretions makes it easier to develop vaginal infections.
There are a few reasons why the vagina produces normal discharge: it cleanses and moistens the vagina, and helps prevent or fight infections. The color, texture, and amount of vaginal fluids may vary throughout the menstrual cycle—this is normal, but there are some changes in discharge that may be signs of a problem.
Knowing the differences between normal and abnormal vaginal discharge will help you watch out over yours for any indication of a problem. Normal vaginal fluids are usually thin, sticky, and elastic, or they can be thick and gooey, and their color should be clear, white, or off-white.
Candidiasis (yeast infection), bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis are some of the common vaginal infections that cause abnormal vaginal discharge with or without having sex, while gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can also cause changes in vaginal discharge. Consult a doctor as soon as possible if you notice any changes in your vaginal discharge or if you think you have a problem.
Candidiasis, or commonly known as yeast infection, may make your discharge very white and thick, like cottage cheese. It usually does not make your discharge have a strong odor, but it may cause severe itching and a burning sensation.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) may make your discharge thin and grayish, and have an unpleasant, fishy smell.
Trichomoniasis is a common STI that often makes the vagina itchy, and urinating painful. Discharge becomes yellow-green and frothy, and have a strong odor.
Tips For A Healthy Vagina
- Always wipe gently from front to back after using the toilet. Doing so will prevent your vagina from getting any bacteria from the rectal area.
- Underwear during the day should ideally be cotton because the material lets your genital area “breathe.” Wearing underwear at night is not recommended.
- Avoid wearing tight pants, leggings, swimsuits, and sports pants for long periods.
- Change your laundry detergent or fabric softener to a gentler one if you think it irritates your genital area.
- Find out what condom and lube works best for you because some latex and gels may cause irritation for you.
- Take a bath daily, and pat your genital area dry before wearing clothes.
- Don’t use feminine-hygiene products inside your vagina. This may cause imbalances in the natural vaginal environment.
- Avoid using feminine hygiene sprays/washes, colored or perfumed toilet paper, or perfumed pads or tampons.