Rapidly deleting those “is this normal?” search queries, sweaty palms when it’s time to tackle the topic with your GYN… sound familiar? Either way, it seems as though women are [unfortunately] still embarrassed to talk about feminine hygiene, even with their OB/GYNs.
It’s important to remember that whether you’re looking for answers, seeking a second opinion, or getting help, there’s absolutely nothing you should be embarrassed about when it comes to feminine hygiene.
Feeling motivated to take the very best care of yourself is what being a woman is all about – and your gynecologist is a huge part of your support system to do just that.
“When it comes to feminine hygiene, the old adage ‘less is more’ really does apply.
I recommend that women avoid any perfumed, antiperspirant, or antibacterial soaps and products in the genital area. Over-the-counter “feminine hygiene” products can often have preservatives and scents that can be irritating to the genital skin and mucosa.
A simple, unscented soap for sensitive skin, such as Dove or Ivory, with a warm water rinse is really all you need. Make sure the area is dry before putting on any undergarments – remember to change out of wet work clothes and swim suits as soon as possible.
If symptoms do arise, please do not hesitate to call your gynecologist. No need to be embarrassed. We treat these issues all the time!”
The Lowdown on Feminine Hygiene Best Practices
We’ll say it once and for all: Douching has gone out of style. OB/GYNs agree that douching provides very few benefits for feminine health and hygiene.
For reference, douching is the practice of washing out your vagina, usually with prepackaged mixes purchased at the drugstore.
Think of your vagina as self-cleaning, doctors say. If something’s off, don’t turn to the aisles of a drugstore for answers – make an appointment with your doctor.
Tampons, pads, menstrual cups – all essentials when “that time of the month” comes around. If there’s a new product you want to try while on your period, we’d suggest talking to your OB/GYN before incorporating it into your routine.
If you’re allured by scented products, our doctors urge you to think twice. Not only have scented tampons and pads been shown to be just-plain irritating to the vagina, but products like these can sometimes cause infections.
It’s best to change out period products every 4 to 6 hours, or as soon as you wake up in the morning. We’ve all inevitably been caught with one last tampon or pad in our purse… don’t make sacrifices that affect your health! Ask a woman nearby if she has one she can spare.
To scape, or not to scape
Pubic hair is completely natural. It’s also not “more hygienic” one way or another, whether you’re letting the hair do its thing, or removing it.
If you are removing, specifically shaving it, follow best shaving practices on such a sensitive area of the body.
- Shaving cream or gel will help lubricate the area (though you should try to keep it away from your vagina)
- Use disposable razors 2-3 times at most
If you notice an ingrown hair, applying pressure with a warm washcloth is helpful. Avoid waxing or shaving until the ingrown hair is treated.
How to Know If Something’s Off Down There
If you notice any of the following, it’s time to call your OB/GYN:
- Vaginal discharge is normal. However, changes to your “normal” – specifically, color and consistency, should be noted
- Discharge that is grey or green-ish
- An especially strong, oftentimes described as “fishy” odor is usually symptomatic of an infection known as bacterial vaginosis
- Vaginal burning or itching
- Pain when you urinate or have sex
When in doubt – call your GYN
Most doctor’s offices give patients the option to speak with a clinician via phone or patient portal, before actually coming in. Describing your symptoms may help determine whether you need to be evaluated in-person or not.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking about feminine hygiene with your gynecologist, there’s a chance you’re not seeing a provider that’s the best fit for you. The OB/GYNs affiliated with Catholic Health encourage their female patients to establish a relationship with a woman’s health provider that’s a good fit for them.