How to Care for Down There

Yes ladies, it’s time to talk about our vaginas. Our vagary’s and who-ha’s or whatever you feel comfortable calling it. We are constantly reminded about taking care of our hearts, working out and doing regular breast exams, but what about our most precious and powerful body part? Our vagina’s are important. Understanding how they work and how to care from them properly is the key to having a healthy vagina, high self-esteem and happy sex life.

We women experience a heavy amount of shame throughout life when it comes to our vaginas. As ladies, we are not supposed to talk about them, be able to smell them or share them with just anybody… not even ourselves. We are constantly told that our vaginas are not good enough in their natural state, and that we must cover them up with fragrances, scrub them down and wax them in the shape of the butterfly. We are bombarded with articles and advertising on how to make them taste good or smell like a garden of roses. All this pussy-shaming is not just annoying, but it is damaging to our vagina’s self-esteem.

There is nothing wrong with your vagina. It is perfect. It looks perfect. It smells perfect. It reacts perfect. There is no outside product that can make it more perfect. Overall, a healthy vagina comes from having a healthy diet and consistent exercise. Period.

Your vagina wants food. You really are what you eat, and your vagina is a part of that equation. And I am not talking about chowing down on pineapples and other sweet fruits that supposedly make your vajay-jay juice taste and smell better. Nor am I saying to avoid harsh-tasting foods that may have the opposite effect. I’m just talking about helping your body do what it does naturally by eating probiotic foods. “Eating natural probiotics is a great way to boost the “friendly bacteria” in your body – particularly your vagina,” says Deliah Brown of Miami Maternity Center.

Fermented foods are the best natural probiotic for your lady parts, and these foods can help prevent common problems such as the dreaded yeast infection. Natural probiotics include foods with live cultures like yogurt and kefir. Also, food made with fermentation such as kimchi, pickles and sauerkraut are excellent to help boost good bacteria. You should eat probiotics everyday, or at least 3-4 a week. Also make sure you drink plenty of water – it does the vagina good.

Antibiotics we take for some illnesses or after surgery can usually kill good bacteria. Because of this, you should avoid taking antibiotics if they aren’t necessary. If you just have a cold or small infection, try using a natural remedy instead of reaching for a prescription drug.

Despite the precautions we may take, no vagina is perfect and all women will experience vaginal issues and infections. The most common vaginal issue is yeast infection. Taking antibiotics that destroy the good bacteria in the vagina is usually what brings on yeast infections. All women will experience yeast infection in their lifetime – unfortunately more than just one time, but there are many natural remedies you can try to help your vagina get back to normal.

One of my favorite natural solutions for a bacteria infection is garlic. Not eating it, I mean actually inserting it up there. Simply take a fresh clove of garlic and make a few slits in it with a knife – depending on how strong you want your dose. Use a sewing needle to tie a string or piece of plain dental floss through the clove. Just make sure it’s long enough so that you can easily retrieve it. I have been a victim of having a garlic piece stuck up my who-ha, so this step is important. At night, insert it up your vagina and then remove it in the morning. Just a warning, your vagina and your breathe will taste and smell like garlic! So try not to get frisky with your partner or leave the house with it up there. You will not be well received, trust me.

Your vagina is muscle. In addition to feeding it right, you also need to keep it tight with regular maintenance exercises. Unfortunately, we have to face the fact that time marches on and our bodies are always changing. We have babies, exercise less and get older – and sometimes those changes lead to a looser vagina. Now this is all totally normal, but there are a few ways you can strengthen your pelvic floor to help keep your vagina muscles toned.

The most well-known vaginal exercise is doing kegels. Kegels are just tightening your vagina muscles, holding in for 30 seconds and releasing them. You can make sure you are holding the right muscles by inserting a finger up there and check if you feel your vagina walls tighten around your finger. There are also vaginal exercisers that aide kegel exercises in tightening the vagina. These exercisers come in different shapes, sizes and weights. You simply insert the exercises in the vaginal opening, tighten the muscles around it, release and then repeat.

Your vagina is clean. Now, most women forget that your vagina is self-cleaning. The vagina is technically never dirty, no matter what activity you do. The vagina is designed to maintain itself through natural secretions that are often clear or white. Sometimes these secretions happen during sex or masturbation – often leading your partner to think you are really turned on. No need to burst their bubble and tell them it is just your body cleaning itself – it is all natural and harmless so just let it be! Keep in mind that healthy discharge may make you feel uncomfortable wetness, but does not have a strong smell or color. It does not itch or cause soreness either. If you experience any of these symptoms, you may have an infection.

When it comes to washing your vagina, all you really need to do is run warm water over it in the shower. Yep that’s it – no fancy products needed. It’s helpful to avoid using scented soaps or gels as they can disrupt the healthy balance of bacteria and pH levels in the vagina. Personally, I have found that when I use scented soaps my vagina becomes more dry, making intercourse not so comfortable. Despite what society wants to sell you, your vagina is not supposed to smell like cupcakes. It is supposed to smell like a vagina – sweet and pungent.

According to Tania, a specialized mid-wife at Miami Maternity Center, “Your vagina knows what it is doing. Adding additional substances during regular washing won’t just agitate your vagina, but can also cause it to lose its natural good bacteria and lead to infection or unusual discharge known as vaginosis.” You should cleanse your vagina as well as your perineal area (that space between your vagina opening and your rectum) at least once a day using just plain warm water or a mild, unscented soap.

You can also try a cucumber cleanse once a week – except during menstruation – to naturally flush the vagina without upsetting its natural process. To do this, cut a fresh cucumber down to a size that will fit, peel it and insert it in your vagina. Twist in and out for about 20 minutes. You can do this treatment in the bed, in the shower or even in the bathtub. Ask your partner for help to make it even more fun!

So what about douching you may ask? The answer – don’t do it! Many women have been misinformed that douching actually cleans the vagina, but the reality is it only interrupts your vagina’s natural cleaning process. A much better and more natural alternative to douching is vaginal steaming. What the heck is vaginal steaming? Pure awesomeness. I experienced my first vaginal steam after giving birth to my son. My natural birth left me with a minor first degree tear that didn’t want to heal as quickly as I would have liked.

Vaginal steaming is actually an old process and is an effective treatment for many vaginal aliments including endometriosis, post partum, fibroids, infections and menstrual problems. Steaming brings heat to the pelvis and the womb, increasing circulation and energy flow. If you are postpartum, vaginal steaming can significantly speed up your vaginas recovery. “Vaginal steaming and soaking can really help with any vaginal issue. It is the most natural way to soothe, tone and heal tissues on the area,” says Kimberely Homer, the owner of Cultivate a Better U. “We choose specific herbs to increase the healing benefits of the steam, depending on the condition being treated,” she explains.

In addition to steaming the vagina, soaking the vagina is another great healing method. “Vaginal Teas” are a blend of carefully selected herbs that you can add to warm water and soak your lowers in. You can find them online, from your midwife or you can create your own. To get the most out of your vag tea, soak using a sitz bath or sitting in the tub with water just up to your hips. Soak your vagina and perineal area for 15-20 minutes for the best results.

No matter what you read here, remember it is your vagina. These are only natural recommendations that have worked for many.  Wear cotton panties, drink plenty of water, and always protect yourself. Your vagina is perfect.

By Nichole Dawkins

Image by Stephanie Pino

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