Healthy feminine hygiene is about more than your vagina. Our bodies are complex, but our hygiene actually doesn’t have to be. The first step to good hygiene is learning all about your lady parts.
The vagina is an elastic, muscular canal with a soft, flexible lining that provides lubrication and sensation during sexual intercourse. The vagina also serves as a natural channel for menstrual flow, and it also serves as a canal for child-birth. The term “vagina” is often misused and misunderstood. In common conversation, people will refer to the vagina when what they really mean is their vulva. The term vulva is a zoology term that refers to outer feminine genitalia. The vulva includes the mons pubis, external clitoris, inner and outer labia, fourchette, and perineum. It is important to recognize there are a lot of internal and external parts to your sacred space.
I personally like to refer to my vulva and vagina as part of my yoni. The word “yoni” is a Sanskrit word that means “sacred space”. It is represented by the Goddess Skakti. She is responsible for creation, and she is the agent of all change. In other words, by referring to my lady parts as my yoni, I am constantly reminded of the divine procreative energy I possess and the value of it. More than that, it speaks to my whole sacred space and how bad ass it really is.
You can call your sacred space whatever you like, but here are some things you should not do…
1. Don’t steam, wax, or shave
Pubic hair is the sign of a mature or adult yoni, and it perplexes and disturbs me as to why men or women would be cool with simulating an immature or per-pubescent one. The mons pubis (or your pubic mound) is the top of your vulva or yoni where the pubic hair grows. It seems like every magazine, commercial etc… pushes us to steam, wax, or shave this area. Don’t do it! Removing pubic hair removes a part of your yoni’s natural defense mechanisms. Your pubic hair helps control your body temperature and adds an extra layer of protection from STD’s like genital warts. Waxing, steaming or shaving can change the bacterial colonization and strips away your natural oils. This can cause increased friction, and eventually your mons skin gets all wrinkly, dry and itchy. It can also cause this area of the skin to get darker.
2. Don’t wear panty liners everyday.
I know a few sister friends who swear by panty liners, but you shouldn’t wear them everyday. I don’t use them at all. Panty liners have plastic backs which constrict air flow and retain heat. The constant retention of heat and sweat could possibly lead to bacterial or fungal infections. Wearing panty liners can also irritate the labium, or lips. The better alternative is to carry around an extra pair of cotton panties and your period essentials. Try panties that are made up of at least 95% cotton. Cotton is affordable, absorbent, and it discourages yeast growth. At bedtime, let your yoni breathe; go commando.
3. Don’t douche
While all the TV commercials tell you that women feel cleaner and smell fresher, any competent doctor will disagree. Douching actually increases the risk of infections, pregnancy complications, and can lead to other health problems. Your vagina is self-cleaning, and all you need for the vulva is warm water. Don’t use soap, or baby wipes, or douche because you don’t need them and you’re only adding chemicals.
4. Don’t panic at the sight of discharge.
Discharge can be a symptom of cancers, diabetes, and infections. However, it is normal to have some discharge, especially when it is not accompanied by itching or burning sensations. Some healthy common discharging occurs when you’re ovulating (thick white) or when your vagina is cleansing itself after your menstrual cycle (brownish).
5. Don’t be a stranger.
Get to know your vulva and vagina. It is so important to take a hand mirror and do vaginal self examinations. You want to check the scent of your vaginal discharge, look for warts and other problems. While self-examinations can’t replace your gynecologist, it is good preventative care.