Tips for Putting Vaginal Health First

It is important to prioritize your vaginal health, whether it be scheduling a visit to the gynecologist, exploring period relief solutions, preparing for safe sex, or proactively maintaining vaginal flora.

Don’t neglect vaginal health as it is the prelude not only to sexual intimacy but everyday comfort. Women have the power to maintain their vaginal health just as all other parts of the body. Putting vaginal self-care first can be empowering and rewarding. And, most times, all it takes is a quick trip to the drugstore, but you’ve got to know what to look for.

Top tips for maintaining vaginal health and wellness include:

  • Schedule a visit with your gynecologist: If you find that you haven’t seen your healthcare provider in a while, schedule a check-up and book regular annual gyn appointments. Ask any questions or concerns you might have, even though you think they may be embarrassing. Feel awkward asking about sex or discharge, odor, itch, or dryness? Don’t worry—your gyno’s heard it all!
  • Let her breathe: Lingerie is a popular item to shop for around Valentine’s Day, but not all underwear is created equally. Tight nylon underwear or spandex can cause friction, trap moisture and irritate the vagina. Instead, look for cute, breathable cotton underwear that makes for a healthy vagina.
  • Consider pH: Taking a bath is an easy and relaxing way to treat yourself this Valentine’s Day. However, fancy fragranced bubble baths and salts often do more harm than good as they can upset vaginal pH. Instead, try a few drops of natural essential oils, as they are more agreeable with the vagina’s pH balance. Consider incorporating a vaginal probiotic, into your daily routine to proactively maintain vaginal flora in the normal range—especially if you’re taking an antibiotic or suffer from chronic yeast and bacterial issues.
  • Indulge in some chocolate: If you’re on your period this Valentine’s Day, don’t be afraid to indulge in some dark chocolate, which satisfies period cravings and helps alleviate period pain. In fact, studies suggest that eating between 40–120 grams of dark chocolate per day, which is a source of magnesium (a.k.a. a muscle relaxer), may help reduce pain. Of course, if you are not on your period, you can still reap the health benefits of chocolate. The sweet treat is also known to be an aphrodisiac, as it contains chemicals that are linked to arousal.
  • Lube up: Whether practicing self-pleasure or having sex with a partner, don’t settle for vaginal dryness, which can be experienced by women of all ages and can be especially severe during breastfeeding, when on the pill, if you are postmenopausal, and more.  Remember to always use a high-quality silicone lubricant just before penetration to decrease abrasion, help increase comfort and enhance intimacy for hours. Avoid silicone lubricants when using silicone toys and instead, try a water-based lubricant.
  • Protect your ‘V’ from STDs: Despite lockdown restrictions during the pandemic, STI rates are at an all-time high and continue to climb. So, protecting yourself from STIs has never been more important. The most popular STDs among women include gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. Thankfully, these infections are easily preventable with condoms.

Valentine’s Day is a great time to check in with your vagina. No matter how you’re planning to celebrate, have fun, show yourself some love, and put your vagina first on this romance-filled holiday.

Maria Sophocles, MD, Gynecologist, and Medical Director of Women’s Healthcare of Princeton, NJ

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