The vagina has always been a taboo word.
We do not like to talk about it.
But that, unfortunately, does not make it a less important part of female health.
More than 30% of females in India suffer from vaginal infections. And unfortunately, this is not a one-time occurrence. More than 50% of these women keep facing vaginal infections, again and again, termed "recurrent vulvovaginitis".
Absence of awareness around vaginal health.
So, let's talk about it!
Considering the high incidence of recurrent vaginal infections, maintaining your vaginal health is an ongoing process. But before heading to the market to buy those vaginal creams and washes, read this.
Here are three interesting facts about the vagina:
- The vagina is self-cleansing. So, you do not need to clean and cleanse the vagina with any soaps, chemicals or washes. There are tiny glands in the cervix (mouth of the uterus) and the vagina, which secrete a normal, lubricant fluid. This fluid helps to remove the old cells and debris, thus keeping the vagina clean and healthy.
- Vaginal smells? It is normal! The odour is due to vaginal bacteria. The normal bacterial flora is the Lactobacilli, which maintains the vagina's pH balance and helps keep the pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms / bacteria away. Stay aware of the smell, though, in case it intensifies or changes.
- Minimal, sticky, colourless vaginal discharge is normal. These are the vaginal and cervical secretions that maintain the lubrication of the vagina. This discharge may intensify towards the middle of your cycle. You only need to be concerned if the discharge's colour or smell changes following intense pain, redness, or itching.
Minimal cleaning of the vulva and vaginal area with plain water is safest. But, no douching, please!
Till the time you help your vagina take care of itself, things should be fine. But in case of any discomfort, excessive discharge, itching, always seek advice or guidance: DIY experiments can cause more harm than relief.
How to care for your vagina in your 40s?
Being in your 40s is the perimenopausal period where your estrogen levels drop. A few symptoms you can expect around this time could be irregular periods, mood swings, hot flushes, etc.
You can also experience vaginal dryness, low libido, painful intercourse, and recurrent urinary tract infections. The low estrogen levels result in drying and thinning the vaginal lining and the urinary tract. This makes the vagina lose its ability to hold or retain water, making the lining thinner, brittle, dry, and more prone to infections.
In milder cases, adequate hydration over the counter vaginal lubricants might help. But if the problem gets worse or starts happening again and again, you might need to use some particular types of lubricants or hormone-based ointments. Do not experiment with this part on your own! Talk to your doctor and get the correct treatment.
Just remember one thing, as the common saying goes: Better be safe than sorry!
Your vagina can take care of itself - but not without your constant support. Cherish it, and it will thank you!