Feminine hygiene is so important to our overall health. In addition
to keeping our skin clean and free of bacteria, it can prevent odor,
itching and discomfort from perspiration.
Feminine hygiene involves more than just bathing or showering. It encompasses a whole spectrum of practices women should follow to be healthy. Most of us learn these skills from our mom, sister or friends. Or we just figure it out for ourselves.
But, not every aspect of this topic is well-known. For example, whoever taught us to always wash our new jeans, panties, shorts, or other clothing bottoms before we wear them? You should, because dyes and other chemicals on new clothing can cause your vaginal area to become irritated or infected. I have noticed some clothing that will put this on label, but not often.
During your menstrual cycle, be sure to wear fabrics that allow your vaginal region to breathe. Wear loose, breathable, clothing like loose panties that allow for air circulation. Natural, breathable fabric such as cotton is preferred. Wear thigh-high pantyhose or pantyhose made with a cotton crotch to reduce the vaginal sweating caused by nylon and other synthetic fabrics.
When not on your cycle, try to sleep without wearing panties or pajama bottoms if possible, as this will provide your vagina with the air circulation needed to help prevent infection.
Tight pants, shorts, or panties made from synthetic fabrics can reduce the air circulation around your vagina and cause it to sweat, which can increase your chances for odors and infection.
Remove wet, sweaty bottom clothing as soon as possible. Wet or sweaty panties and pants can cause bacteria to multiply and increase your likelihood for getting odors and infections. Take a shower and wear fresh, clean clothing after you have gone swimming or exercised.
Of course, bathing or showering daily is the beginning of developing healthy habits. It is so important to wash the skin daily to get as much bacteria off as possible to prevent sickness and infection. Sweat is the body's way of removing waste & bacteria from the body. So it should be washed off every day. In the shower, wash the vagina externally with mild soap, then rinse with fresh water and dry off immediately with a clean towel. For internal cleansing, use WaterWorks, which is described at the bottom of this post. If you have problems with excessive sweating, abundant discharge, rashes, folliculitis, or pimply lesions on your Mons Pubis or inner thighs, be sure that you use a new sharp razor to shave and that you change the razor after 4-5 uses.
You can use a blow dryer to gently dry the external vaginal area around pubic hair, inside the creases & around the vaginal lips (Labia Majora & Minora), between your buttocks and all over the outer groin area. This can reduce irritation and infection.
Use moist baby wipes instead of toilet paper and always wipe from the front toward the back. This will help ensure that fecal matter and bacteria won't be pushed into the vaginal canal.
Never use chemical douches, deodorants, sprays or powders. We never recommend douching, as these products usually cause more infections by disrupting your natural pH, hormones and the delicate chemical balance of your vagina. Women who use these products and douche with chemicals will be battling ongoing irritation and infections on a regular basis.
Be sure to change tampons, sanitary napkins, and panty liners frequently - this means every time you use the restroom or at least every 3-4 hours. When pads and tampons are worn for long periods of time bacteria can build up. Not only can it cause foul odors, but especially with tampons, it can cause mild to very serious infections like toxic shock syndrome.
If you can, try to use menstrual products that do not contain scents or dyes. And try to find the all-cotton pads and tampons because some of the commercial products contain fiberglass. This fiberglass can find its way into your vagina or under your skin, causing non-infectious irritations.
Always wash your vaginal area after sex to rinse out the semen, bodily fluids and residue from condoms and other intimate products. All of these can cause infection, irritation, and odors if not removed. For this purpose, WaterWorks is wonderful, as it is an all-natural, FDA-cleared method for feminine cleansing. (See www.waterworkshealth.com for more details). WaterWorks is so gentle. It uses only the pressure from gravity for a gentle water flow to rinse the vagina. It can be done every day while in the shower.
I think it's important for us all to just get into a routine like we do with our hair and nails. Then it just becomes easy and we feel better.
Hope you all have a great week and stay safe.
Dr. Susan L. Boyd, MD
Feminine hygiene is so important to our overall health. In addition
to keeping our skin clean and free of bacteria, it can prevent odor,
itching and discomfort from perspiration.
Vaginal discharge is the one thing, other than the menstrual cycle, that women
notice and use to judge wellness in their bodies. If your cycles are
regular and on time, and your vaginal discharge is normal, you feel your
body is healthy, right? But, if a woman starts skipping her cycles or
having too many cycles or bleeding heavily, she knows something is not
right with her body. Okay.
Still, so many of you come in (most of you for other female problems) and I find out that you are constantly dealing with abnormal vaginal discharge or odor. You and your partner feel it is just 'normal' for women to have a fishy or strong odor all the time. Isn't that what all those tuna fish and fisherman's wharf jokes are all about? Men know it, and they talk about it, and think that's just the way it is – so, just grin and bear it.
Women don't know what to do. It's embarrassing, right? Three showers a day, and you still worry if everyone else can smell you. You can't wash it away, and that SUCKS because you know he's going to smell you during sex. But feminine sprays, lotion or soap and water do not help.
It is normal to have vaginal discharge. Some women produce more vaginal discharge than other women, and this is due to hormonal fluctuations. Teenagers and pregnant women both have higher than normal hormone levels which causes an increase in vaginal discharge. Women who are dry and lack discharge may have low hormone levels, like in menopause or during breastfeeding. You may also notice changes in the amount of vaginal discharge, changes in its consistency, (thick, thin, watery, sticky), and sometimes find it necessary to wear a pad or panty liner. Birth control pills will change vaginal discharge because it balances the female hormones and is a good therapy for women who feel too 'wet' all the time.
But, no matter the amount or consistency of discharge, it should never have a foul or fishy odor. At times, discharge may have a slight odor, due to hormonal changes during the month or during the final day of your cycle – due to pH changes from the menstrual blood. Normal discharge should not be accompanied by pain, itching, burning or redness.
Vaginal discharge is very important to the female reproductive system. Fluid made by glands inside the vagina and cervix carries away dead cells and bacteria. This keeps the vagina clean and helps prevent infection. A change in your normal vaginal discharge may be a symptom of a vaginal infection.
Most of the time, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. The amount can vary, as can the odor, and the color can range from clear to a milky whitish, depending on the time of your cycle.
Important things to watch for to determine if there is an infection include the length of time you have had the abnormal discharge, the color/odor of the discharge and the presence of any itching, pain, or burning in or around the vagina. Different infections present with different types of discharge and symptoms:
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea are obvious, as there is a copious amount of cloudy, yellowish discharge, sort of like having a period of discharge, with an awful odor that is so different from the normal everyday discharge that it can alarm most women. In addition, they can cause urinary incontinence, painful sex, severe pelvic pain, bleeding and irregular cycles if not treated quickly. Also, they can be the cause of PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) which can cause severe illness, fevers, blockage of fallopian tubes and eventually lead to infertility.
- Trichamonas is a parasitic infection typically contracted and caused by having unprotected sex, with grayish frothy discharge.
- Yeast Infections can have two kinds of discharge: either thick and clumpy like cottage cheese or thin, whitish discharge that causes intense itching and swelling.
- Keep the outer vagina area clean by washing regularly with a gentle, mild soap and warm water. DO NOT WASH INSIDE THE VAGINA WITH SOAP. Never use scented soaps, feminine products or douche. Also avoid feminine sprays and bubble baths.
- After using the restroom, always wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from getting into the vagina and causing an infection. It is a good idea to have baby wipes or other 'wet' wipes near the toilet as they work much better than toilet paper for feminine cleansing.
- Try to wear 100% cotton underpants; switch off wearing floss panties and regular panties; and avoid overly tight clothing all the time.
Have a safe and happy week,
Susan Boyd, MD
I’ve had a lot of questions from many of you about your irregular menstrual cycles. Shelly and Ciara just recently came in for a recheck because they are frustrated and searching for a solution. “I don’t understand Dr. Boyd, why my period will be normal for 2 or 3 months and then it will come so heavy that I pass clots, have cramps and soak 4 or more tampons in 30 minutes for the first couple days. Then I might skip a period or just spot for a few days, and then back to normal for a few months, then spotting or heavy it drives me crazy. Is something serious wrong with me? Will the pill help? What can I do?”
I am finding that more women than ever seem to be having problems with abnormal uterine bleeding, that presents younger as women (pre-teens) are menstruating at a younger age. Teens and young women are struggling with weight more now than ever and much of it has to do with the hormones that have been introduced into our food supply in greater and greater amounts over the past few years.
Ingesting excess hormones every day via dairy and meat products has been shown in several studies to affect growth (size, weight, and height) in children and possibly sexual development, fertility and menstrual irregularities. This becomes more of a concern as we continue to see childhood obesity increase and weight changes in women (up or down), can cause abnormal uterine bleeding and infertility. The thyroid gland is also important in menstrual regulation and can be affected by the hormone overload caused from animal sourced food products, pesticides, chemicals and plastics in our environment.
One way to gain understanding is to review the ‘normal’ menstrual cycle, then we can compare it to Shelly’s and Ciara’s problems next week and maybe see what is going on. Menstruation usually starts at about age 12 or 13. One study, however, has indicated that girls may be starting puberty earlier than in the past. By the age of eight, 48% of African-American girls and 15% of white girls were showing pubic hair and developing breasts. It had previously been thought that only 1% of girls exhibited such changes at that age. Alternatively, a study done in England found that the average age for the onset of menstruation has changed very little since the 1950s, with the median age being 13 years.
The uterus is a pear-shaped organ located between the bladder and lower intestine. It consists of two parts, the body and the cervix. When we are not pregnant the body of the uterus is about the size of a fist, with its walls collapsed and flattened against each other. During pregnancy the walls of the uterus are pushed apart as the fetus grows. The cervix is the lower third of the uterus. It has a canal opening into the vagina this opening is called the os which allows menstrual blood to flow out of the uterus into the vagina.
Leading off each side of the body of the uterus are two tubes known as the fallopian tubes. Near the end of each tube is an ovary. Ovaries are egg-producing organs that hold between 200,000 and 400,000 follicles that contain the genetic material for producing babies. The inner lining of the uterus is called the endometrium and during pregnancy it thickens and becomes enriched with blood vessels to house and support the growing fetus. If pregnancy does not occur, the endometrium is released as your period. The hypothalamus (an area in the brain) and the pituitary gland regulate the reproductive hormones. The pituitary gland is often referred to as the master gland because of its important role in many vital functions, many of which require hormones. In women, six key hormones serve as chemical messengers that regulate the reproductive system.
The hypothalamus first releases the gonadatropin-releasing hormone (GNRH)>
This chemical, in turn, stimulates the pituitary gland to produce follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) and Lutinizing Hormone (LH).
Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are secreted by the ovaries at the command of FSH and LH and complete the hormonal group necessary for reproductive health.
The menstrual cycle reflects the changes that occur in the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus. Layers of the endometrium are shed at the end of the cycle as part of menstrual flow. The menstrual cycle is generally divided into phases; the follicular phase, ovulation phase and the luteal (or secretory) phase.
For a clear picture of the process it is important to understand how to count days in a menstrual cycle. Day one is generally considered to be the first day of bleeding. The follicular phase includes menstrual bleeding followed by proliferation (growth and thickening) of the endometrium, uusually lasting from day 1 to day 14. The following processes occur during this time.
At the end of the menstrual flow, the proliferative phase begins, and the endometrium starts to grow and thicken. FSH levels rise and stimulate several ovarian follicles to mature over a two-week period until their eggs nearly triple in size. During this period, FSH also signals the ovaries to produce estrogen, which, in turn, stimulates a great surge of LH around day 14.
The surge of LH at the end of the follicular phase triggers ovulation by causing the largest follicle to burst and release its egg into one of the two fallopian tubes. At ovulation (usually day 14 in a 28-day cycle), the proliferative stage ends and the luteal (secretory) phase begins. The luteal (secretory) phase lasts about 14 days.
Finally, the endometrial lining sloughs off and is shed during menstruation. It’s amazing how complicated our cycles can be it really makes you wonder how things go right most of the time. Next week we can take a look at what goes wrong now that we know how things should function.
Hello everyone I hope this finds you all well and healthy today.
It seems that I've been hearing from many due to your concerns over vaginal discharge. Some of you have noticed changes, and are asking whether it is normal. Some of you have been on birth control or recently delivered babies, had tubal sterilization and are now off oral contraceptives after many years. Some of you just feel that there have been changes since you have matured.
The basic function of you vagina, besides sexual pleasure, is to provide a clean, functional route from the outside of your body to your uterus and the rest of your internal reproductive system. The natural acid PH of the vagina, acts to prevent infections. The acidic nature of your vagina is caused by natural, bacteria produced by your body called lactobacilli. This is the same bacteria found in yogurt culture and that is why we always hear about women drinking or douching with yogurt to help prevent or cure infection. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well in the vagina, but can help as a 'probiotic' in the intestinal tract. When your vagina is healthy, the vagina keeps itself clean. We always joke that it is like a self-cleaning oven; it stays in a healthy state by producing the secretions of normal vaginal discharge. Many things may disrupt the natural balance of the vagina.
First it’s important to understand that all women have vaginal discharge. Glands in your vaginal and cervix produce small amounts of fluid that flows out of your vagina everyday taking with it old cells that line the vagina. Your normal vaginal discharge helps to clean the vagina, as well as keep it lubricated and free from infection and other germs. A normal vaginal discharge does not have a foul odor and usually has no odor at all. Normal vaginal discharge often appears clear or milky when it dries on your clothing; occasionally you may notice white spots or a normal vaginal discharge that is thin or stringy looking. This is all normal, and the sticky, stringy discharge indicates that you are ovulating. So if you have been on the pill for a long time you may not have seen it for awhile as you would not ovulate on the pill. The appearance may change due to sexual excitement, breastfeeding, ovulation, or diet. The consistency of your vaginal discharge or how thin or thick it is can be affected by your menstrual cycle, emotional stress, pregnancy, any prescription or OTC medications including hormones such as in the pill.
Other things that can upset the natural pH balance of your vagina and lead to vaginal infections include vaginal douches, feminine hygiene products, perfumed or deodorant soaps, antibiotics, pregnancy, diabetes, or infections. So we can all see that it is a highly sensitive area affected by many things, some obvious and some we would not expect. For example, having a head cold can cause and increase in vaginal discharge, strange huh? It is no wonder that douching with perfumed or homemade solutions can cause such recurrent or chronic odors and discharge. Although you can buy the douches at the local drug store, it this does not mean they offer help.
Your menstrual cycle has a significant affect on the type of vaginal discharge you experience throughout the month. Did you know you’re more likely to experience vaginal infections just before or during your period? This is because the pH balance of your vagina rises during your monthly cycle causing the pH of your vagina to be at its’ highest point a few days before and during your period. About halfway between your periods an increase in vaginal discharge that appears mucousy, sticky, and stretchy is normal. As stated above, this type of vaginal discharge is an indication of ovulation.
You may identify abnormal vaginal discharge and infection from the following signs:
- Changes in color, consistency, or amount
- Constant, increased vaginal discharge
- Presence of itching, discomfort, or any rash
- Vaginal burning during urination
- The presence of blood when it’s not your period time
- Cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge
- A foul odor accompanied by yellowish, greenish, or grayish white vaginal discharge
You are probably are aware of these signs or may have had them at some point. I recommend that you would go see you Ob/Gyn or family doctor when this happens and not just self-treat, unless it is something that you have had before and have already been seen for it. Vaginal discharge and infections are common and your doctor is used to seeing all types, so your doctor and the nurse may put you at ease. The anticipation of going and thinking about it is always worse.
The most common vaginal infection is bacterial vaginosis, as well as vaginal yeast infections and trichomoniasis. The most troublesome problem for some women are those who have recurrent or ongoing vaginal odor for no reason. This is a major issue and very embarrassing as they never feel clean, even though it has NOTHING to do with cleanliness. It is not from an infection and can be caused from any of the above we've already addressed.
We are lucky because if you check the WaterWorks Website you will find a wonderful device that 1000's of women are using today for daily feminine hygeine purposes, cleanliness after sex, and because of the unique FDA cleared design has cured many women of their vaginal odor problems. So no more embarrassing odors to worry about during sex, what a relief!
Please have the best, most wonderful week and be safe.
Dr. Susan Boyd, MD
A healthy sexual relationship helps relieve stress and can heighten our sense of well being. This is important to understand as over 50% of office visits to health care professionals are from illness brought on or worsened by stress which can impact many aspects of our day to day life.