10 Essential Rules for a Healthy Vagina

Learn expert-approved tips for optimal health and hygiene.

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Medically reviewed in June 2022

Updated on June 24, 2022

Vaginal yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis are the two most common types of vaginal health issues treated by Catherine Bagley, DO, an OBGYN with Henrico Doctors Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. These infections occur when too much yeast or bad bacteria outgrow the good bacteria, called lactobacillus, in the vagina. Most women will have at least one of these infections during their lifetime. But practicing healthy hygiene habits can help stave off such infections, says Dr. Bagley.

Here are 10 rules to follow to keep your vagina healthy and happy:

Wash this way. Always wash the external genitals (the vulva) with very mild hypoallergenic soap, and only use warm water—and never soap—on the inside portions of the vulva, advises Bagley.

Check the way you wipe. Always wipe from front to back, so you don’t transmit bacteria from the anus by wiping back to front, says Bagley.

Clean your genitals for sex. Clean your vulva before and after sexual contact, says Bagley. Another tip: Make sure your partner has clean genitals before intercourse, too. The same goes for fingers if digital penetration is expected.

Stay dry. To prevent yeast infections, change out of damp clothes like wet bathing suits and sweaty workout attire as quickly as possible. You should also wash sweaty clothes after each use. Also important: Avoid hot tubs and very hot baths, which can up your risk.

Do eat yogurt. Some research suggests that eating yogurt with "live and active cultures”— particularly probiotics like Lactobacillus—may help ward off yeast infections. But more studies are necessary to confirm the effect of probiotics.

Probiotic-rich foods like kefir, unpasteurized sauerkraut, or sour pickles fermented in salt and water are generally healthy additions to a well-rounded diet, so eat up if you like the flavor. Just be sure to consult with a healthcare provider (HCP) if you suspect you have an infection to get appropriate treatment.

Pick your panties wisely. “The best thing for your vagina is to wear all-cotton, unbleached underwear,” says Bagley. Other fabrics like silk and lace can keep air from circulating and lock in moisture that promotes the breeding of bad bacteria. Stick to looser cotton underwear and pants, rather than tight panties and clothes.

Know what’s normal. Everyone’s body is a little different and functions differently at various times of the month, but vaginal discharge that’s clear to yellow is usually a normal physiological discharge, explains Bagley.

Typical yeast infection signs include white cottage-cheese-like discharge, burning, and intense vaginal itching that gets worse at nighttime. You might have a more serious vaginal infection if you notice symptoms like green discharge and pelvic pain coupled with a foul, fishy odor, says Bagley. Other red flags include lesions on the inside of the vagina or on the vulva.

Baby wipes are OK. If you shop for wipes, buy hypoallergenic ones that don’t have any added scent and are safe for babies, advises Bagley.

Don’t overdo it. “I wish women knew that they don’t have to worry so much about cleaning their vaginas,” says Bagley. That means avoiding using douches because these products may remove good bacteria or change the pH balance of the vagina. After altering the bacteria, those healthy microorganisms have to play catch-up to rebalance the vagina’s bacteria flora, which takes time and isn’t pleasant, Bagley adds.

It’s also best to avoid scented feminine products , such as bubble baths, sprays, pads, and tampons. When you use (unscented) tampons and pads, do change them often.

Wash your underwear in hot water. Prone to yeast infections? Do a separate load of wash just for your underwear and use hot water to kill bacteria.

If you’re having recurrent yeast infections, check with an HCP. They can help you come up with a specific plan to get your vagina healthy and prevent future infections.

Article sources open article sources

Office on Women’s Health. Vaginal yeast infections. Page last updated: February 22, 2021.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Vulvovaginal Health. Page last reviewed January 2022.
Cleveland Clinic. Yeast infections. Page last reviewed October 26, 2019.
Office on Women’s Health. Douching. Page last reviewed February 21, 2021.

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