We should note, first and foremost, that when we say vagina, we aren’t referring to the vulva. The vagina is an internal sexual organ, the canal through which babies may be birthed, menstrual blood and vaginal discharge may be shedded, and some types of intercourse and sexual play are had; the vulva is the umbrella term for most of the outer female genitals. While we usually refer to them in the same breath, they are very much separate! That being said, the health of one absolutely impacts that of the other; more on that in a few.
Keep reading to learn all about what it means to have a healthy vagina, what can potentially disrupt vaginal health, and how to keep your vagina healthy.
There are a few different ways to measure vaginal health, and appearance is certainly one of them. If you’d like to do a self-exam, either to screen for anything concerning or to just get to know her (highly recommend!), we recommend a mirror and a flashlight to help out.
Shape and size varies, as does the color and consistency of vaginal discharge throughout a menstrual cycle, but generally, your vagina should have a pink-ish, ridged interior. The ridged walls, which expand and contract as needed for things like sexual activity and childbirth, should be pillowy, elastic, and moist.
Remember: most discharge is healthy, as is most vaginal shape. The only things that should concern you are noticeably strange colors, smells, or internal bumps.
It may seem counterintuitive, especially if you grew up in a generation or household or otherwise environment that encourages douching (please don’t), but the trick to the “how to have a healthy vagina?” of it all, is actually to not do very much.
Most vaginas are self-cleansing, maintained by a bustling ecosystem of good bacteria that thrives in its warm, cave-like environment. We know it might sound gross- bacteria?! Yuck! It may even challenge your very definition of hygiene. But there’s good bacteria and bad bacteria, and our body is covered with different communities of micro-organisms that aim to keep us at a hygienic homeostasis. The vagina is no exception, its bacteria in particular working to ensure that their home continues to have a normal and comfortable pH level.
So, in sum: the key is to sustain this functioning ecosystem, rather than seeking to sanitize it. This in mind, we’ve rounded up our top three tips for supporting vaginal health.
Gut health is having its moment, but probiotics support your whole microbiome. This includes the bacteria that live in your vagina.
Sexual safety is essential to mind, body, and spirit. Partners and toys both can potentially carry STDs, or otherwise might disrupt vaginal health and cause discomfort (hello, UTIs!). Take precautions however you see fit- safety is sexy, we promise.
As we said above, though the vulva and vagina are certainly not one and the same, they impact one another greatly. While we don’t recommend doing any internal cleansing, we do love a supportive, natural, and minimal product-based routine for the outer genitals.
Like your vagina, the vulva does not need much! But, as it faces the elements it can benefit from added support that is still mindful of the probiotics living and working throughout the genital system.
This article is by Maggie Harrison-- a rural Pennsylvania-raised, currently New Orleans-based writer and creative whose work covers everything from wellness to social media to grief and loss. Head to her website to learn more about her work, or follow along on Instagram or Twitter.
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