We spoke to Dr Tom Mokaya, a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Joanne Pottow, gynaecologist and fertility specialist at MedFem Clinic, and Monique Piderit, a registered dietician and nutritionist at Nutritional Solutions, about how to take care of your vagina.

 

Is douching and steaming good for you?

The vagina is very effective at cleaning itself. Any aggressive cleansing regime can do more harm than good, says Dr Mokaya. “Steam carries the risk of burning the vagina as it’s usually hot. Excessive douching (also done with steaming) can alter the normal vaginal flora (healthy bacteria), which can result in a discharge, itchiness, swelling or bacterial vaginosis. There are instances where gentle douching can be beneficial such as cleansing during periods.” Consult with a health professional before doing it yourself.

 

Are feminine hygiene products really worth it?

For occasional use and specific times, gentle cleansers may have a place in keeping the vagina clean, Dr Mokaya explains. “This shouldn’t be used excessively as the risk of altering the vaginal flora remains. In the case of persistent or foul-smelling discharge, a visit to a medical doctor for testing would be recommended.”

He continues: “Many doctors concur that while using vaginal wipes, gels, pills and washes may not be toxic, they do create an unnecessary risk for yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory disease and bacterial vaginosis.”

What should women remember about hygiene products?

“These products can alter the normal vaginal pH. They contain caustic substances or products that one may be allergic to. Cleaning substances should not be inserted into the vagina, but one can use a gentle soap for the labia (outside part of the vagina), which should be patted dry with a towel after completion of taking a shower or bath,” adds Dr Mokaya.

When is vaginal discharge problematic?

Having a vaginal discharge is normal depending on the time of the month, says Dr Pottow.  “If the smell is offensive, the colour changes or textures or the amount of discharge is profuse, then it’s best to see a medical practitioner.”

Why should you exercise your vaginal muscles?

“Ensuring the pelvic floor muscles are kept in top condition, will result in a healthy vagina. Regular walking and Kegel exercises are good for the pelvic floor muscles. There are no medicines that can be used to ‘tighten’ the vagina despite what some women may believe,” warns Dr Pottow. 

Read more on this in our February issue out in stores