Keeping up with your vaginal health

Most of the time, vaginal discharge is normal and healthy. A change in vaginal discharge is often one of the first ways to know if there’s an infection, irritation, or imbalance in the vagina. You don’t have to go too far out of your way to track your discharge, of course. But if you pay it even the slightest bit of attention, you’ll be better able to notice if something’s amiss.

Staying healthy, inside and out

To help your vagina do its many jobs, there are a few things you should be aware of in regards to what you put in or near your vaginal area.

  • Avoid things like feminine hygiene spray, scented or colored toilet paper, and pads or tampons with deodorant. Many women are conscious of their vagina’s natural scent, but the chemicals in these products can kill good bacteria and cause infection (which actually does smell bad).
  • It’s not a good idea to douche. It removes the healthy bacteria from your vagina, which raises the risk of infection, and it throws off your body’s pH balance, which in turn causes more unpleasant smells.
  • If you take baths, don’t use scented bubble bath because it can be irritating to the vagina.
  • Try to buy laundry detergent and fabric softener that is unscented; this way your clothes won’t contain perfume that could bother your body.

Talk to your provider if . . .

With all of the different types of healthy vaginal discharge, there are some signs and symptoms that warrant a call to your provider. If you notice any of these things, try not to worry. Call your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment with them, so that they can take some tests. If necessary, they can help you get treatment for any problems. You should call your provider if you notice any of the following: 

  • If you suddenly have redness, itching, or swelling in your vaginal area
  • If you notice sores in or around your vaginal area
  • If you’ve been feeling a burning sensation when you pee
  • If you might have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • If you’ve had symptoms for over a week
  • If you have a fever and abnormal discharge
  • If you’re feeling pain in your abdomen

Finding provider you can trust

It’s really important that you feel like you can talk to your provider about any questions that you have, without feeling concerned about how they’ll react. Being a little awkward or embarrassed is normal, but feeling judged or dismissed by your provider is not okay. If this is ever the case for you, don’t hesitate – find a new provider with whom you feel comfortable.

The best way to keep up with your vaginal health is by avoiding irritating products, and by keeping an eye out for certain symptoms that indicate a call to your provider. Most of the time your vagina doesn’t need extra scent or cleaning products; it works best when it’s left to it’s own devices.

  • “What’s Vaginal Discharge?” KidsHealth. Nemours Foundation, Jan 2015. Web.
  • “Vaginal Discharge Fact Sheet.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 1 2004. Web.
  • “Vaginal itching and discharge – adult and adolescent.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov 5 2015. Web.
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