HYGIENE HABITS DEVELOPED IN CHILDHOOD. True, as a recent study has shown , Russian parents do not talk enough about hygiene with their children; and if the rule “wash your hands after the street” sounds in most families, then they are embarrassed to talk about more intimate things. Both lack and excess of hygiene can lead to problems that have to go to the doctor – and, for example, gynecologists have to re-teach their patients basic self-care. We talked with the candidate of medical sciences, obstetrician-gynecologist Tatyana Rumyantseva and the head of the gynecological department of the ATE clinic, Oksana Bogdashevskaya, and made a list of important hygiene rules that should be followed.
Of course, ancient people rarely washed and survived, and the vagina is a self-cleaning system that does not need excessive hygienic efforts, but nevertheless, it is necessary to regularly remove surface pollution and gland products from the external genital organs. It is recommended to wash at least once a day, or better – after each visit to the toilet or (during menstruation) with each change of a tampon or pad. Do not forget that for intimate hygiene you need to allocate a separate towel for yourself and change it more often.
Plain water is enough
Water perfectly rinses off liquid secretions, mucus particles and dust, therefore, in most cases, soap or gel can be dispensed with to cleanse the external genital organs. Surfactants in their composition are intended primarily for the breakdown of fat molecules – and, if used excessively, destroy the protective hydrolipidic film of the skin. It is recommended to clean the perianal area with soap, especially immediately after using the toilet, but the genitals can be rinsed with plain water.
Front to back
This rule will probably seem obvious to many, but let’s say it: the movement of the hand when washing away should always be directed from front to back. The vaginal flora is safe for the intestines, but the intestinal flora is not for the vagina, so you need to try not to “bring” bacteria from the anus into the genitals. This also applies to the use of toilet paper and hygiene in relation to sex toys: nothing should get into the vulva or vagina after anal contact.
You don’t need to use antiseptics or antibacterial soaps on a regular basis. An alcohol-free antiseptic can be used to treat the skin after epilation or other damage, but this is the case when there are indications for its use. In the usual, everyday routine, intimate hygiene should not be excessive; the human body produces many secrets, including those with a certain smell, and this does not mean that it is not clean enough.
Forget about such a procedure as douching: it does not bring any benefit, but it can easily destroy the finely balanced microenvironment of the vagina; in the presence of infection, this is also a sure way to “drive” it into the organs located above. There is evidence that douching (also called douching) is associated with pregnancy complications and even the risk of cervical cancer, not to mention infections and inflammation. The mucous membranes inside the body do not need to be cleaned at all, so we repeat once again: you only need to wash what is outside, and then without a washcloth.
If soap, then neutral
Intimate hygiene is just the case when it is better to use baby soap or gel if it seems to you that plain water is not enough. The more aggressive the soap, the higher the risk of overdrying the skin and mucous membranes and disrupting the microbial balance – all these factors can lead, for example, to the activation and excessive proliferation of bacteria, which we normally have a little. As a result of the discharge, there may be more discharge or an unpleasant odor may appear – and in attempts to “better” everything, you can aggravate the situation even more.
We have already said that the microflora can change, for example, when changing the brand of condoms or excessive sweating in the heat. If you have been diagnosed with thrush or gardnerellosis, do not panic and think that you have become infected – these are opportunistic infections, that is, their pathogens are always present in the body. It is worth thinking about what factors could provoke such a failure; one of the possible is too aggressive hygiene.
Pharmacy products are not a marketing ploy
There are also special products for intimate hygiene. Firstly, they are soft, often with moisturizing ingredients and without unnecessary fragrances, which can cause irritation or an allergic reaction from the delicate mucous membranes. Secondly, the acidity (pH value) of such products is at a level that is best suited to the intimate area.
True, it is worth talking about the choice of such a remedy with a gynecologist. The most common are acidic (low pH) or neutral. Neutrals are designed to simply replace soap, that is, serve as a complementary hygiene product to water. Higher acidity gels help in the treatment and prevention of certain types of vaginosis or vaginitis; Tatyana Rumyantseva notes that they can cause discomfort in some women, so they should be used on the recommendation of a doctor.
The variety does not end there: there are also alkaline (high pH) intimate soaps. According to Oksana Bogdashevskaya, it is prescribed, for example, for recurrent vaginal candidiasis (thrush) or other conditions characterized by a sharp increase in the population of lactobacilli, that is, normal vaginal microbes. This makes the environment too acidic and alkaline soap helps to correct it.
Everyday pads are not a hygiene product
Panty liners protect linen from discharge, but they do not improve the level of hygiene of the genitals in any way – and they can do harm. Bogdashevskaya says that the pads absorb too much the secretion of small glands located on the eve of the vagina. The glands begin to work with all their might, but the vulva can still be left without the protective layer it needs – and this again leads to an exacerbation of bacterial and fungal infections. In addition, pads, especially perfumed pads, can themselves cause irritation and itching.
Attention to linen
The recommendation to choose cotton instead of synthetic underwear may seem boring, but tight-fitting polyester briefs can really be harmful: the heat under them is not dissipated properly, the skin sweats, bacteria and fungi multiply rapidly. If you also live in a hot climate, then you run the risk of often treating exacerbations of thrush – although for prevention it may be enough to reconsider your choice of underwear and pay extra attention to hygiene.
All this does not mean that synthetic panties are completely unsuitable for anyone. Our body is able to compensate for the changes we push it for a long time; if you’ve been wearing polyester your entire life without any discomfort, you’re in luck. But if from time to time there is irritation, itching, candidiasis worsens, it makes sense to try changing the panties to cotton or silk.