But the one thing we don't need to stress about is cleaning our vaginas because, like a self-cleaning oven, your vagina cleans itself. I know it seems wrong to do nothing to clean your vagina, but that's the best thing for it.
"The vagina is pretty good at cleaning itself," Dr. Nancy Herta, OB/GYN, told Glamour. "It's a delicate balance that makes the vagina hostile to bacteria. If you put stuff in there that changes the pH, you can allow bacteria to overgrow."
A healthy vagina usually maintains a slightly acidic environment with a pH of about 3.8 to 4.5. The level of acidity is the result of the presence of good bacteria such as Lactobacilli in the vagina, which produce hydrogen peroxide and prevent other harmful microorganisms from multiplying there.
When there's a loss of acidity or disturbance in the vaginal pH, it allows the increase of bacteria and yeast in the vagina, leading to symptoms like itching, vaginal discharge, and pain when peeing.
Sometimes just letting something be is the most difficult thing to do. It seems strange to not give the vagina a good scrubbing, especially when it's releasing a fair amount of discharge. But we need to resist the urge.
"A lot of women think they need to do something about it [the discharge] but it's part of how your vagina cleans itself," Dr. Herta explains.
Discharge changes depending on what stage you're in during your menstrual cycle. Sex can also affect your discharge so that it gives off a faint scent.
"The sperm can change the pH," Dr. Herta continues. "But the vagina will take care of that."
There's also no good reason to douche, as it doesn't do any good and can create dryness and make health problems for women.
"The vagina is a self-cleansing organ," says David Eschenbach, M.D, a professor of gynecology at the Univeristy of Washington. "With regular bathing, douching is completely unnecessary."
All you need is plain old water if you need to clean your lady parts. But if you really want to use soap, use the gentlest you can find and just use it on your labia. Never put anything up inside your vagina.
When you're done with your shower, pat your groin dry with a towel before getting dressed so the excess moisture doesn't sit there stagnating and cause a yeast infection. Keep body washes and perfumed soaps away from your vagina, and trust that it will do its thing and keep the pH where it should be.
Your vagina's got this.