Intimate self-care. some simple to do's
At Intibiome, we’re passionate about helping everybody understand the importance of the intimate microbiome, because it’s so important to both our vulvovaginal health and our overall wellbeing.
We’re all different (what’s normal for some is completely unfamiliar to others) and lots of factors affect our intimate health at certain times: 5 periods, getting older, pregnancy, medication, hormone treatment, going through menopause, being stressed or unwell. We talk more about these factors here.
It’s good to make time to really know your intimate area and what’s normal for you. Then if anything changes, you’ll notice straight away and can consult your gynaecologist for reassurance.
As a rule, when the vulvovaginal microbiome is upset (for whatever reason) our bodies don’t feel at their best. But a few simple self-care tips can make a big difference.
The internet has huge amounts of information and advice to offer, but it’s always best to be cautious. Before you try anything new, check with your gynaecologist first.
Do make time for regular check-ups. Your gynaecologist is there to answer ANY questions: in confidence and without judgement. And it’s always best to address any worries you have as soon as you can.
Do give your vulval area room to breathe, by steering clear of tight clothes when you can.
Do choose cotton underwear or if you want something more sexy or glamorous, look for designs with a cotton gusset. Natural fibres are more breathable and help regulate body temperature.
Do wash towels and underwear regularly, so harmful infection-causing bacteria can’t breed.
Do change tampons and pads regularly when you’re on your period. Blood is more alkaline than the vagina’s optimum pH, and this can make the vagina more vulnerable to an imbalance, compromising the beneficial microbiome 5.
Tip: use pads or towels with the appropriate absorbency to suit your flow and change them often. If they’re too absorbent, you may experience dryness and discomfort.
Do go to the bathroom after sex to help prevent UTIs. Also, semen has a more alkaline pH than the vagina, so it can cause a pH imbalance which can lead to infections [5, 6, 7]
Do your pelvic floor exercises. When the muscles here are strong, bladder control is better and (good to know) sex is more pleasurable.
Do cleanse the outside (vulval) area gently. Over-washing can cause dryness. Better to rinse with lukwarm water, twice a day at most, or use a mild, specially-designed intimate cleanser. (Soaps can disrupt the acid balance and cause problems.) Tip: after exercising, a quick wash will help prevent build-up of unwanted bacteria.
5 Gupta et al: Crosstalk between Vaginal Microbiome and Female Health: A review 2.5.2. Living style and habits Volume 136, November 2019, 103696
6 Jewanraj et al:The Impact of Semen Exposure on the Immune and Microbial Environments of the Female Genital Tract, 2020 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frph.2020.566559/full
7 Jenifer E. Allsworth, PhD; Jeffrey F. Peipert, MD, PhD 2011. GENERAL GYNECOLOGY Severity of bacterial vaginosis and the risk of sexually transmitted infection https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21514555/