Q&A with Junior F Mukundi, Women’s Health and Wellness specialist/Clinical Specialist on how women can clean their vaginas the right way:
How should you clean the vagina?
There are some soaps, because of the ingredients used, that affect the vagina. The dos and don’ts for washing it include washing the area with warm water daily. I would recommend shaving the hair as it sometimes traps dirt and sweat, and this could help with odour. You should also wash before and after sex. After going to the toilet, you should wipe your vagina - and I usually advise one to wipe front to back. Not back to front.
Should you use soap, if so, which kind?
I usually advise people to avoid scented soaps or gels. Soap is optional, but I would advise one to use gentle soaps. Most soaps are allergenic, but I would specifically recommend the hypo-allergenic ones. If you cannot tell if the soap is hypoallergenic or gentle, just wash daily with warm water.
How should you handle a vagina with bad odour?
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Bad odour is caused by different things. If you have a bad odour coming from your vagina, ask yourself, does it have any discharge? What is the nature or state of the discharge - is it chunky or normal? If you feel like your discharge is abnormal and you are itchy, it may mean you have an infection. The first course of action is to treat the infection. If the vagina has an unpleasant odour and it is not coming from an infection, the issue might be that you have upset the delicate pH of your vagina. If you have an infection, treat it. But as long as your vagina is clean, that is what is important. I also advise against using washcloths and scrubbers down there. Use clean fingers to wash instead, and do not wash inside.
How can a woman remain hygienic during her period?
Make sure you shower and change your pads or tampons regularly. Also, avoid using products with chemicals on your vagina.
What does healthy vaginal discharge look like during different stages of a woman’s cycle?
Normal vaginal discharge should be clear or white. And it usually does not have a smell. The difference is that the thickness may change throughout your cycle. The texture ranges from watery, sticky or pasty. As long as you are not feeling irritation.
How should a healthy vagina smell?
Normal bacterial flora smells ‘tangy’. Something like maziwa mala. So if a woman’s vagina smells tangy, that should not be a red flag. A red flag would be if it smells fishy in any way. Like fish.
Best way to shave ‘down there’?
It differs from one person to the other. But if I were to make my suggestion, I would say to use razors and avoid creams, since they can get inside the vagina. Creams have ingredients that may disturb the normal bacterial flora. If you do it carefully though, it is okay. But I would also want to state that the pubic hair has some function. So I would not necessarily recommend a clean shave. I know waxing is good, it makes the area clean, but to some extent, it limits the hair’s role of trapping dirt and preventing it from getting inside the vagina. It depends on what works for you. If you are using the razor, make sure you do not cut yourself, and follow the natural ‘grain’ of your hair to avoid getting ingrown hairs.
What would you say about vaginal steaming?
Some say that there are benefits but for me, if it is not scientifically proven I would not touch too much on it, or recommend it. If you have tried it and it works for you, well and good.
Cleaning your vagina is key. Always shower before and after sex. Ensure you wear good panties - ideally cotton. Avoid wearing tight clothes while sleeping to give the area room to breathe. During your menses, ensure you change your pads and clean your vagina regularly. Above all, if you have an infection, get it treated.