As people with vulvas, the reproductive system is an ever-present, integral part of our lives. Reminders of its presence come by every month or so for most of us, while for others, it may not be as frequent, or it may not be present at all.
How do we take care of such an important set of organs? Any issues with it can be difficult to ignore and challenging to treat, but we can make things easier by giving it some TLC as a preventive measure.
In this article, we’ll tell you how to take care of your yoni, so you can head off any potential problems right from the start.
The Female Reproductive System
Before we begin, let’s start with a quick primer on the important parts.
The part of your body that you come in contact with most is called the vulva. It is the outside part of your genitals, and it includes the pubic mound, the clitoris, the urethra, and the labia. This visible external part of your genitals can be cleaned with water or a mild, gentle soap when in the shower, using hands or a soft washcloth to spread the folds for a thorough wash.
Some people refer to the vulva using the term “vagina” as a catchall term for the outer female genitals, but the vagina is actually located inside the body, unlike the vulva. The vagina is the birth canal that connects your vulva to the cervix, and it can change shape to accommodate things, which your vulva can’t do.
Another thing about the vagina is that it’s self-cleaning - a healthy vagina has good bacteria in it and a low pH level that makes it slightly acidic, which helps it keep bad bacteria out. It’s a delicate balance to keep. A vagina that has too high a pH level becomes alkalic and gets out of whack, leaving it vulnerable to vaginal infections such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
Keeping your yoni happy may sound like a daunting task, but some main principles should get you started on the right track.
Yoni Care Basics
Discharge is normal
The average vagina has about a teaspoon of discharge a day. This usually looks like clear or milky white fluid, and a good amount of it is cervical mucus as well as vaginal lubrication. The amount, color, and consistency can vary throughout your menstrual cycle, so it can become white, cloudy, sticky, yellow, or more liquid at any point - don’t worry about it.
However, if it starts to smell very different from your usual distinctive vaginal scent, and if the color of your discharge turns green, gray, yellow, or white, then it could be bacterial vaginosis, which is characterized by a fishy-smelling vaginal discharge. Meanwhile, if the consistency of your discharge starts looking like cottage cheese and you start itching, that could be a sign of a yeast infection. It’s best to see a doctor if you’re experiencing any abnormalities in your yoni.
The Vagina Is Self-Cleaning
As we’ve said before, the vagina itself is a self-cleaning organ - you really only need to clean the external genital area, never the inside. Douching the vagina or using harsh antiseptic soap washes away the good bacteria that keeps your yoni at its happy acidic pH level, disrupting the healthy microflora environment and leading to infections and illnesses.
When cleaning your vulva, use some warm water or mild, unscented soap to wash the area. Some intimate washes can help to restore the acidic environment of the vagina and vulva - these can be used after sexual intercourse or after you have your period since semen and menstruation blood are both alkaline in nature.
Avoid Scented Menstrual Products
Menstrual products like tampons, pads, and liners spend a lot of time in close contact with your intimate bits. Scented products on your sensitive skin can lead to irritation, and scented tampons are particularly bad since they introduce an irritant to the precarious pH balance of your vagina for hours on end.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable during your period, try washing or wiping the area regularly, and change your tampon, pad, or liner frequently - while these steps won’t completely remove the yuck of feeling out of sorts and bleeding, they can still help you with feeling fresh and reducing discomfort.
Wipe Front to Back After Using the Toilet
Whether you’re peeing, pooping, or doing both in the bathroom, you should always wipe front to back. This is because your rectum has bacteria and faecal matter that you definitely do not want to be introduced to your urethra or your vagina, as that can cause a urinary tract infection or a vaginal infection.
With sex, the front-to-back rule is the same. It’s best to change condoms if you’re switching from vaginal to anal sex and vice versa, but if you’re using the same condom (or no condom), switching from vaginal to anal sex is fine, but moving from anal to vaginal sex is not as it contaminates the vagina with faecal matter and bacteria, disrupting the vagina’s pH levels and most likely leading to a nasty infection.
Make sure you pee right after penetrative sex, too, as the friction and motion can transfer bacteria to your urethra and urinary tract - peeing helps make sure that the bacteria doesn’t reach the bladder and cause an infection.
Keep the Pubes
There are no hard and fast rules for pubic hair - it’s your body, do with it what you will. However, if you’re in doubt, pubic hair actually serves many purposes, including protecting your yoni from bacteria, friction, and sweat. Keeping your pubic hair also means less itching when the hair inevitably grows back, fewer ingrown hairs, and fewer cuts and scrapes from shaving or waxing.
If you do decide to remove your pubic hair, use a clean razor every time, so you don’t run the chance of nicking yourself and introducing bacteria from an old razor into your bloodstream. You should also use shaving cream that is unscented and natural to lubricate the process, reducing friction and risk of injury and infection.
Wear Breathable Clothing
A clean and dry vagina is a happy vagina, and the best way to go about that is by wearing clothes and underwear that help maintain that environment. The best underwear you can wear to keep your yoni comfortable is cotton underwear, as it is natural and breathable, and it wicks away sweat and fluids that would otherwise stay trapped, keeping your crotch moist and uncomfortable.
You should also change out of wet swimsuits and sports clothing once you’ve sweated in them, as some kinds of fabric and tight-fitting clothing make for warm and moist conditions where bacteria thrive. Thongs are especially likely to cause infections, as the line of fabric between your butt cheeks tends to promote the transfer of faecal matter to your vulva and thus your vagina.
Use The Right Kind of Lube During Sex
Without lubricant, sexual intercourse can be a dry, painful affair - while the vagina produces its own lubricant when aroused, some people have a hard time producing enough of this natural lubricant. Fortunately, there are specialised store-bought options for those who face vaginal dryness, so you don’t have to use lubricants that might hurt your vagina’s pH balance.
Water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based lubricants are all great for a smooth glide, but if you’re using a condom, oil-based lubricants tend to break down latex condoms. Petroleum jelly and baby oil should never be used inside the vaginal canal, as they can cause inflammation and infection.
Wrap It Up
Condoms don’t just prevent the transmission of STIs - they also help keep your vagina’s pH balanced. We’ve mentioned before that you should change condoms when switching from anal to vaginal sex, but you should also change them when switching from oral to vaginal sex. Using them during any kind of digital or toy insertion doesn’t hurt either, as they help prevent the introduction of bacteria into your yoni’s delicate ecosystem.
If you’re allergic to latex or you just don’t like the smell, condoms made of polyisoprene or polyurethane are a great non-latex alternative. Whether you’re with an established partner or a new flame, trying out the different kinds of condoms available on the market can be a fun, sexy activity.
Eat Right and Stay Hydrated
Like most other organs in our body, your reproductive system’s health is dependent on how you take care of yourself. Vagina-friendly foods are usually rich in antioxidants and probiotics - these help to regulate the good bacteria present in your yoni, balance your vaginal pH levels, reduce the risk of infection and ease premenstrual syndrome symptoms.
Antioxidants can be found in many kinds of fruits and vegetables, while fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, and yoghurt have the important probiotics you’ll need to keep your yoni healthy and happy. You can also consider taking vaginal health probiotic supplements or a multivitamin if committing to meal planning is difficult.
You can’t pour from an empty cup, and your vagina is no different: drinking enough water is an important part of taking care of your yoni. Not only does good hydration help with vaginal lubrication, but regular water intake also means you’ll have a regular pee schedule, which can help prevent urinary tract infections.
When Should I See a Doctor About My Yoni?
If you’re experiencing any abnormalities down there, it’s best to get medical advice early on, so that any issues can be treated before they get out of hand. We recommend getting familiar with your yoni - you can do this by conducting a visual check using a mirror from time to time.
Some common vaginal issues include:
- Abnormal discharge, like a change in smell or consistency
- Prolonged spotting, where you bleed in small amounts for a long time
- Abnormal menstrual symptoms, like severe menstrual cramps or blood clots larger than a quarter during your period
- Any swelling or lumps on your vulva or in your vagina
- Any significant change in colour
Regularly scheduled appointments with your gynaecologist can also help you keep an eye on your yoni health. The recommended frequency for pap smears for vagina owners aged 21 to 65 is every three years.
Don’t be afraid to be intimate with your intimate regions, as it helps you get to know yourself better. That way, you’re fully informed when you consult a doctor about any feminine health issues.
Now that you’re fully equipped with tips and tricks on how to best care for your yoni, you’re ready to set forth and enjoy life to the fullest. Be kind and be well, and most important of all, take care.