OPINION: How to take care of your vulva

OPINION: How to take care of your vulva

By Dr. Rahel Odonde

There are a lot of recommendations out there on how to take care of your vulva and vagina.

We asked Dr. Odonde who is specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology for some recommendations on the topic.

As we enter a new year, with self-care on all our minds, caring for our vulvas should be no exception.

Here are some vulva wellbeing tips for anyone with a vulva and vagina!

First of all – what is the difference between a vagina and a vulva?

The vulva is the outside/external portion of the genitalia. It protects the sexual organs, urethra (water pipe from the bladder to the outside world), and entrance to the vagina. The vulva includes the clitoris and labia (outer lips of the vagina).

The vagina is a muscular tube that sits between the cervix (neck of the womb) at the top end to the vulva – the outside of the body. It allows the passage of menstrual blood, sexual intercourse and childbirth. It is a muscular canal lined with nerves and mucus membranes.

Here are nine suggestions on how to take care of the vulva and vagina:

  1. When washing your vulva – use unscented soap and water. There is no need to clean the vagina it is self-cleaning.
  2. If you’re not in the mood for sex – say, “no”. It’s much better when you want to do it.
  3. If your vagina is feeling dry – try some water-based lubricants. Not only will it make the experience smoother, but it can add a playful element to it all.
  4. Keep it au naturel! Cotton underwear is the way to go. Let it all breathe from time to time.
  5. Get to know yourself – literally. Grab a mirror and have a look. See what’s what. Touch and see what does and does not feel good for you.
  6. If anything is different, doesn’t feel right or worries you about your vulva and vagina – see your doctor.
  7. Intimate oils…? Research is lacking on the use of oils in this area. Since the vagina is a self-cleaning organ, advice is to leave well alone. Oils such as coconut oil could create a film leading to recurrent infections. However, oils on the vulval skin are a different story. Stick with unscented moisturisers and elemental (simple one ingredient) natural oils such as olive oil to moisturise the area gently. Your vulvar skin needs gentle care!
  8. Be gentle: Use your fingers or a soft washcloth instead of scrubbing the area. Stay healthy. Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, it can help with the tone of your pelvic floor. Good health also generally translates to healthy reproductive organs.

Dr. Rahel Odonde is a doctor specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology, in the UK (BSc(Hons) MBBS MRCOG MSc). Her special interests are the safe practice of abortion care, sexual health and global/public health. Rahel is commited to promoting menstrual, sexual and reproductive health and rights. She is a guest blogger and fact checker for the Swedish NGO ‘My Period is Awesome’, and the UK’s Medical Women’s Federation representative at the UN Association’s Women’s Advisory Council.

This article was originally published on December 22 for the Swedish NGO, ‘My Period is Awesome’ (MPIA). MPIA is a collective platform for projects that promote menstrual, sexual and reproductive health and rights. They also challenge the stigma attached to all things menstrual.

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