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As I sat with a few girlfriends discussing our cycles, sexual habits and vaginal healthcare (after one to many cocktails) on a

Saturday evening, one looked at the other in disgust as the other mentioned that 'Vagina's are self cleaning', no douching was necessary. The other looked on in shock horror as if she had just said she'd committed a crime, the discussion then went onto 'are vagina's self cleaning?' and the answer at this point, had to be investigated. So, here are some facts and advice.

The difference between the vagina and the vulva

- If someone tries to clean their vagina, it could lead to inflammation.

- The internal part of the female genitalia is called the vagina.

- The term "vulva" refers to the outer layer, which contains the clitoris, labia major and minor, and the vaginal opening.

- The vagina is an internal organ and doesn't need to be cleaned like other internal organs do.

- The vagina is kept healthy by a complex colony of beneficial bacteria and other germs. Washing can upset the pH balance in the vagina, increasing the risk of infections and offensive odours, especially if you use harsh soaps or douches.

Does the vagina need cleaning? - A range of fluids produced by the vagina and vulva are crucial for general health.

- By washing the vagina, people shouldn't aim to completely get rid of vaginal odour. A healthy vagina has a faint odour by nature. - Vaginal infections cannot be treated by washing. It might even make things worse in some circumstances.

- Drying out the sensitive vaginal tissue by using abrasive soaps might result in microscopic tears that make it simpler for harmful germs to infiltrate the vagina.


Washing the vagina consistently raises the risk of a variety of health issues, according to research.

Performing repeated douches increases the risk of preterm labour and pelvic inflammatory disease, according to a 2013 study of Egyptian women.

Douching is associated with an increased risk of a number of negative pregnancy outcomes, including:

  • ectopic pregnancy

  • low birth weight

  • chorioamnionitis, a type of infection in the membranes surrounding the baby

  • preterm birth

Other risks of vaginal cleaning methods such as douching include:

  • cervical cancer

  • endometritis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the uterus

  • increased riskTrusted Source of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV

  • bacterial vaginosis (BV)

  • yeast infections

  • vaginal pain

Although the vulva can be cleaned, because of its close closeness to the vagina, any cleaning agents may also enter the vagina. Additionally, harsh cleaning supplies can irritate the vulva.


How to clean the vulva safely The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, which is actually not necessary to clean it. Regular douching is certainly unnecessary.

You can help keep the area clean and healthy by:

  • using barrier methods, such as a condom, to reduce the risk of pregnancy and STIs with a sexual partner

  • keeping the vaginal area as dry as possible, which may involve changing underwear if it becomes wet with sweat, menstrual blood, or other fluids

  • urinating after having sex, to avoid developing a UTI

  • wiping from front to back after urinating

  • refraining from having vaginal sex straight after having anal sex, as this can spread bacteria from the anus to the vagina

Women can use warm water to wash the vulva's exterior to clean it. A light, unscented is usually okay to use, but the vulva should then be cleansed thoroughly before patting the area dry.

It's crucial to avoid putting soap in the vagina and there's no need to use products with genital-specific labels on the soaps you use.


Cleaning strategies to avoid To avoid infections, pain, and irritation, it is important not to use the following products:

  • douches, even those that the manufacturers claim are safe or natural

  • feminine deodorant sprays

  • perfumes

  • detergent soaps

  • soaps containing perfume

Vaginal steaming Some alternative health sites advocate vaginal steaming, which involves sitting on a steam bath with a variety of herbs. These herbs supposedly clean the vagina and improve the health of the uterus. There is little evidence to suggest that vaginal steaming is effective. The steam cannot penetrate the vaginal tissue or reach anywhere near the uterus. Additionally, the herbs may irritate the tissue of the vagina or vulva, and very hot steam can cause severe burns. According to a 2019 articleTrusted Source, a woman attempted to use vaginal steaming to reduce a vaginal prolapse. As a result, she sustained second degree burns. When to see a doctor A person should see a doctor if they experience a sudden change in vaginal odor, especially if the odor is very strong. A fishy odor often signals BV. Frequent cleaning will not make the odor go away, and it may even make the infection worse. The symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection, or thrush, may include:

  • itching

  • white or yellow discharge

  • burning

  • discharge with a chunky texture

  • white coating on the lining of the vulva

  • pain during intercourse

If a person has BV, they are likely to notice the following symptoms:

  • fishy odor

  • itching

  • pain when urinating

  • pain during sex

Summary There is no medical reason to clean the vagina. Douching and other cleaning methods may cause more harm than good, and there is little evidence to suggest that they clean a person’s vulva or vagina effectively and without risk. If a person wishes to clean their vulva, they should use warm water and perhaps a gentle soap if they desire. If a person is experiencing unusual discharge or an unpleasant vaginal odor, they should see a doctor. These are among the first signs of an infection, which will require treatment.

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