The vagina is an organ that is self-cleaning and requires no special cleaning products. No cleaning products are even needed at all.
Some people might want to clean up the vulva, which is the outer portion of the genitals that surrounds the vagina entrance. Doing so can make a lot of people feel safer and more comfortable as a result.
In this situation, they will gently clean the lips of the vulva. Cleaning too much can have negative effects.
Attempts to clean the vagina with showers or similar products may cause inflammation and change the vaginal pH.
In this article we discuss the vagina’s anatomy, how to properly clean the vulva, and what strategies to prevent cleaning.
The difference between the vagina and the vulva
The vagina is female genital inner part.
The vulva refers to the outer portion, which comprises features such as clitoris, majora labia and minora labia, that vaginal openings.
The vagina is an internal organ and doesn’t need cleaning like other internal organs.
A diverse colony of good bacteria and other microbes can help maintain balanced vagina. Washing may throw the vaginal pH out of balance, increasing the risk of infections and unpleasant odours, particularly with harsh soaps or showers.
Does the vagina need cleaning?
The vagina and vulva contain a variety of fluids essential to overall health.
People should not try to wash the vagina to prevent all of the vaginal odor. A healthy vagina has a faint odor, obviously.
Washing the vagina won’t eliminate vaginal infections, either. That may even make them worse in some cases. Using harsh soaps will dry out the fragile vaginal tissue, causing tiny tears that make it easier for the vagina to contract dangerous bacteria.
Research finds consistently that vagina washing increases the risk of a wide array of health problems.
A 2013 study of Egyptian women who often douched found the practice increases the risk of preterm labor and inflammatory pelvic disease.
Douching correlates with an increased risk of various adverse effects on the outcomes of pregnancy including:
- ectopic pregnancy
- low birth weight
- chorioamnionitis, a type of infection in the membranes surrounding the baby
- preterm birth
Other risks of vaginal cleaning methods such as douching include:
- cervical cancer
- endometritis, which is an infection of the lining of the uterus
- increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV
- bacterial vaginosis (BV)
- yeast infections
- vaginal pain
Although a person may be able to clean his or her vulva, his or her proximity to the vagina means that any cleaning products may enter. Strong cleaning products can also cause vulva irritation.
How to clean the vulva safely
The vagina is an organ that purifies itself and people do not need to clean it. Daily douching is superfluous.
People can help maintain the environment clean and safe through:
- using barrier methods, such as a condom, to reduce the risk of pregnancy and STIs with a sexual partner
- keeping the vaginal area as dry as possible, which may involve changing underwear if it becomes wet with sweat, menstrual blood, or other fluids
- urinating after having sex, to avoid developing a UTI
- wiping from front to back after urinating
- refraining from having vaginal sex straight after having anal sex, as this can spread bacteria from the anus to the vagina
People will wash out the outer area with warm water to clean up the vulva. We can use a clean, unscented soap, if we wish. Then they should thoroughly rinse the vulva, and then pat the area dry.
It is vital not to bring soap into the vagina, and it is not appropriate to use soaps clearly labeled by manufacturers as being for the genitals.
Cleaning strategies to avoid
It is necessary not to use the following products to prevent infections, pain and irritation:
- douches, even those that the manufacturers claim are safe or natural
- feminine deodorant sprays
- detergent soaps
- soaps containing perfume
Some alternative health outlets promote vaginal steaming, which involves sitting with a variety of herbs in a steam bath.
These herbs reportedly clean the vagina and enhance uterine health.
Little evidence suggests vaginal steaming is successful. The steam can not penetrate the tissue of the vagina or enter anywhere close to the uterus.
In addition, the herbs can irritate the vagina or vulva tissue and very hot steam can cause severe burns..
A woman has tried using vaginal steaming to minimize a vaginal prolapse according to an report in 2019. She suffered second-degree burns as a result.
When to see a doctor
A person should see a doctor, especially when the odor is very strong, if they experience a sudden change in vaginal odour.
BV is often accompanied by a fishy odour. Frequent washing won’t cause the smell to go down, and may even make the infection worse.
Signs of infection with vaginal yeast, or thrush, might include:
- white or yellow discharge
- discharge with a chunky texture
- white coating on the lining of the vulva
- pain during intercourse
If a person has BV, they are likely to notice the following symptoms:
- fishy odor
- pain when urinating
- pain during sex
There is no medical reason to have the vagina washed.
Douching and other types of cleaning can do more damage than good and there is no evidence to indicate that they effectively and risk-free clean a person’s vulva or vagina.
If a person wants to clean his vulva, he or she can use warm water and maybe a gentle soap when they wish.
If a person has an irregular discharge or an unpleasant vaginal odor, then they should see a doctor. These are also the first signs of an infection that may need treatment.