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Women > Reproduction > Feminine Hygiene

As much as we may hate to admit it, women can sweat and have body odour similar to men and a regular shower and clean clothes takes care of that. While body odour usually indicates that one is due for a shower or bath, excess body odour (BO) can also be a sign that ones diet and lifestyle is out of balance, or that one has eaten something disagreeable (like excess garlic) or has an illness.

Many women suffer skin infections and some of these are attributed to poor hygiene, however often the real cause is another health problem, or using to much soap/cleanser and failing to remove the soap/cleanser residues which cause a bacterial buildup in folds of the skin and under the breasts. To avoid this, use minimal soaps and cleansers, rinse off thoroughly and dry off completely as damp skin may encourage infections.

Vaginal Hygiene

Keeping clean seldom requires more than taking a daily bath or shower, but many girls and women are concerned that their vagina may smell. However unless there is a heavy infection present, there is no way any vaginal odour can be detected by anyone else (except perhaps a lover).

The vagina is completely self cleansing and never requires any internal cleansing except in times of infection. All that needs to be done is regular washing of the outer parts when you shower, but note soaps are best avoided as soaps and chemicals can upset the natural balance and harmony of vaginal chemistry.

Douching - The flushing of the vagina with water.

Vaginal douches are usually plain and slightly warmed water, although water mixed with vinegar, or even antiseptic chemicals are commonly used with medical advice to help restore the natural bacterial culture of the vagina following illness.

Douching has been touted as having a number of supposed but unproven benefits such as cleaning the vagina of unwanted odors and douching has also been ineffectively* used after intercourse as a method of birth control.

Many health care professionals agree that douching interferes with both the vagina's normal self-cleaning processes and the natural bacterial culture of the vagina.  Douching may cause irritation or introduce infections such as bacterial vaginosis, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Frequent douching with water, especially if any soap is present may result in an imbalance of the pH of the vagina which may cause vaginal infections, especially yeast (thrush) infections.

Deodorants

Feminine sprays and deodorants are often heavily perfumed and, like douching, can lead to allergic reactions, irritation, and infections. Your vagina has its own natural cleaning system that flushes out bacteria, so you don't need to add any chemicals to help it.

Making your vagina smell like a flower shop does not help you, simply washing at least once every day with plenty of warm water will keep your vagina clean and only use a very mild soap.

How do you manage during menstruation?

While for some, there may be some anxiety around period time, do not be put off by the sight of a little blood, simply clean it away and stay healthy.

Hygiene is not difficult as the vagina is completely self cleansing, but once you begin menstruating, you’ll need to use a pad or tampon to soak up the menstrual blood and if a period comes on, or if you are not prepared, some folded toilet paper or cloth can be used.

While our distant ancestors would have washed in a stream and used some dry grass or moss to wipe with, today pads, tampons and cups are purpose made for comfort and ease of use.

Tampons

A popular choice for feminine protection during the menstrual period, the cotton tampon absorbs blood inside the vagina. Tampons come in different sizes for heavier and lighter periods and they can be inserted into the vagina using an applicator or just with your fingers. Tampons may need to be changed every 3 or 4 hours or more frequently if your period is heavy.

Sanitary pads or Napkins

Are usually made of layers of cotton and come in various thicknesses for heavier or lighter periods, or for day or nighttime use. Pads fit inside panties and depending on how heavy the flow is and they will need to be changed every 3 or 4 hours, or sometimes more often when your period is heavy.

Panty Liners

Also called panty shields; these are similar to pads but are shorter and thinner and are not as absorbent as tampons or pads. They are best worn on very light days, or as added protection in combination with a tampon or cup.

Cups

Another effective but less popular feminine hygiene option is the cup, it is a soft, little disposable cup you wear inside the vagina to hold rather than absorb your monthly flow. It fits over your cervix conforming to your anatomy to create a personal, comfortable fit which helps prevent leakage. You can wear it for up to 12 hours (or until it is full), and then empty it out, rinse it, and use it again.

Which ever sanitary product you choose will let you feel most comfortable while at work and enjoying doing the things you love even when you have your period.

Notes:

  • When it comes to odours caused by infections, the treatment is not a spray, but a prescription medication that treats the infection rather than covering it up. If you think you may have an infection, see a doctor or gynecologist right away.
     
  • Be familiar with your vaginal chemistry, regularly dip your finger and smell and taste so that if there is any change, you are onto it before any infection gets established.
     
  • Wearing cotton underwear, especially in hot weather will help you feel fresher because cotton and other natural fibers are more breathable. Synthetic garments limit transpiration and encourage bacteria and odours.
     
  • Leaving a tampon in for too long increases the risk of infection and Toxic Shock Syndrome** (TSS).
     
  • Do not dispose of tampons, pads, panty liners or cups down the toilet as they can block the toilet and sewerage system.
     
  • Avoid faecal contamination of the vagina as it may cause infection, wipe front to back.
     
  • During your period, change your pads or tampons often and its often a good idea to always have a tampon at hand for you or your girlfriend who is less prepared and to keep a spare pair of knickers in your bag at period time in case of any leakage.

* The suggestion that douching with any substance immediately following intercourse works as a contraceptive is untrue. While it may seem like a sensible idea to try to wash the ejaculate out of the vagina, it is not likely to be effective. Due to the nature of the fluids and the structure of the female reproductive tract – if anything, douching spreads semen further towards the uterus. Some slight spermicidal effect may occur if the douche solution is particularly acidic, but overall it is not scientifically observed to be a reliably effective method.

** TSS is caused by a toxin made by Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria which may occur from certain super absorbent tampons, especially if they are left in longer than is recommended. It can enter the body from inside of your vagina, then invade the bloodstream, releasing toxins that may cause shock and multiple organ dysfunctions.





 

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