When it comes to vaginal cleaning, there’s plenty of tips and tricks on the internet that promise to keep your privates in tip-top condition.
Figuring out which ones actually help and which ones can be harmful can be particularly tricky.
Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow speak highly of trends such as vaginal steaming, while others have put their name behind feminine hygiene products that get rid of smelly odours and keep you feeling fresh. Others suggest that douching with natural ingredients such as water and cucumber help.
It’s something that gynaecologists deal with every day and one of them has spoken out about why constantly cleaning your vagina could be bad for your health.
Writing on The Conversation, Dr Deborah Bateson, from the University of Sydney’s obstetrics, gynaecology and neonatology department suggested that vaginas aren’t meant to smell like rose petals or vanilla pods.
Instead, she suggests that vaginal discharge is actually physiological and normal and that the female genitalia actually cleans itself.
“The vagina is self-cleaning, and vagina discharge plays an important role in keeping the vagina healthy,” she wrote.
“From puberty, when oestrogen kicks in, the vagina becomes colonised with healthy bacteria from the Lactobacillus group which produce lactic acid.”
This means that rather than being worried when you see discharge, it actually means your vagina and body is working as it should. In addition, most women experience some discharge throughout the month.
Having said that, women should seek medical advice if the discharge changes volume, colour or even starts to smell differently. These changes can indicate an infection is present.
It is recommended that women should keep the outside of their vagina clean by washing regularly, but washing the insides is not ideal. When you do place things inside your vagina, you risk disrupting the vaginal environment.
In addition to soaps, washes and douches that are readily available at most chemists and supermarkets, steaming is also said to be harmful.
“Apart from the risk of burning and scalding, there are many other reasons not to v-steam,” Dr Bateson said.
“Not only will steam have a drying effect on the vagina, it’s likely to disrupt the vaginal microbiome and reduce the body’s natural barrier against infections.”
If you’re ever unsure about the health of your vagina, always speak to a doctor or a gynaecologist before you start treating pain and odours by yourself.