Lack Of Intimate Hygiene Can Lead To Infections: Ways To Overcome Challenges 

Lack of intimate hygiene can lead to infections in women. It is crucial that you take appropriate measures to keep vaginal infections at bay.

Even in the 21st century, where we see women rising to new heights in various fields and are marking their footprints be it any field, there still remain certain areas where open communication or discussion remains taboo. One topic is the conversation on female genitalia and intimate hygiene for women. Though individually, women recognize the positive impact of intimate care on their physical and mental health, lack of awareness and timely clinical help has contributed to the vulvovaginal infections.

Women should be aware, that intimate hygiene isn’t just about simply cleaning but comprehensive wellbeing. It is important for women to overcome the cultural, religious, and social barriers which prevent them from open discussions and seeking optimal intimate care.

What Is The Lack Of Intimate Hygiene?

The vaginal mucosa runs from the outer surface of the cervix to the vaginal opening and has the ability to self-clean, using natural secretions. Despite its ability to self-clean, the vagina contains a number of healthy bacteria (lactobacilli) that prevent infections and maintain microbial balance. Dysbiosis or the disruption of the healthy microbial processes occurs due to a number of external or internal imbalances or behavioural practices which can cause vaginal or urinary tract infections.

Habits such as daily vaginal washing, using tissue paper or wet wipes after defecation, showering and sufficient drying, cleanliness of the undergarments, menstruation hygiene and most importantly, hygiene before and after a sexual intercourse help to protect the vaginal ecosystem.

Lack Of Intimate Hygiene Can Lead To Infections: Tips To Overcome These Challenges

Following a few simple tips can help you overcome these challenges:

Routine cleaning & hygiene

Each time after urination, it’s essential to wash the vagina from front to back with plain water. Even while bathing, women should treat the vulvar region like normal skin and wash it with normal soap or body wash in a similar, front to back motion. The reason being the bacteria or organisms located at the back passage (anal), upon coming in contact with the vaginal passage, can cause vaginal infections.

Clothing

Women should ideally wear cotton panties which can absorb moisture and help keep the intimate areas dry. Similarly, one should avoid tight, dark coloured or moist clothing. It is ideal to sun dry your clothes in a clean environment before wearing them. Moisture around intimate areas can be a major cause of infections.

Using public toilets

Active bacterial presence of E.Coli, Staphylococci, and Streptococci in the public toilets are the most common cause of Urinary Tract Infections among women. Even if visibly clean, certain areas such as the toilet seat, flush, water knobs or door handles could be infested with germs and bacteria. One should take necessary precautions such as using tissue papers on toilet seats and sanitisers and personal soap to clean hands before touching the clothes or body. Another important care will be to use the lactic acid-based vaginal wash after using the outside washrooms and toilets.

Sexual intercourse

Inadequate hygiene practices of a partner can also cause urinary tract infections or vaginal infections in women. One should always try to pass the urine and clean the vagina from front to back after sexual intercourse. Using condoms and other means of barrier can play a major role in reducing most sexually transmitted infections. Avoid multiple sexual partners and request the partners to follow intimate hygiene as well.

Discoloured or smelly discharge

Minor discoloured discharge is common during the menstrual cycle. It consists of vaginal skin cells and cervix due to hormonal changes. The consistency, odour and schedule of the discharge are important to note as it reflects the physiological changes during the menstrual cycle. Pre ovulatory discharge is relatively thick, scanty and globular while post-ovulatory (a week before the menstrual cycle) vaginal discharge is profuse, thin and has a sticky consistency. Women must understand that these discharges are normal and indicate the process of healthy ovulation.

However, if the discharge is curdy, associated with redness, itching or burning sensation and doesn’t fit into your menstrual schedule, it’s important to address it immediately and see a gynaecologist. Such discharge can indicate candidal, monilial or trichomonal infection. Discharge caused by bacterial vaginosis has a strong fishy odour. Also, women with diabetes mellitus have a higher chance of recurrent vaginal and urinary infections.

Waxing or trimming of pubic hair

Like any other orifice of the body, the vaginal opening is protected by pubic hair, which acts as a barrier for a number of organisms. Hence waxing doesn’t only expose the vagina to these organisms but improper means used for waxing can also cause inflammation or infections around the vagina. At the same time, it is important to keep the public area clean, to avoid rashes and infection.

Prevention is better than cure

Lastly, it’s of utmost importance that women remain in preventive mode rather than damage control mode. Yearly visits to a gynaecologist, routine PAP Smear tests to rule out cervical cancer and using clinical products to maintain intimate hygiene only after discussing them with your gynaecologist are essential. If detected and treated in time, most infections or diseases can be managed effectively. At the same time, lifestyle management can play a major role in preventing these infections and avoiding the entire trouble altogether. Read more

(The article is contributed by Dr Gayatri Deshpande, Senior Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital)

 

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