At face value, poor feminine hygiene would mean a lady who cleans less or never cleans at all. However, what comes to mind when you hear ‘unhygienic woman’? What part of ‘her’ body would you castigate first?
Her face? Of course not. Her breasts? Maybe. Her armpits? Highly likely. Her vagina? Most likely. Not because the vagina is inherently dirty but because it is the part of a woman’s anatomy that is most sensitive to unhygienic conditions, says Lucy Muchiri, a nurse and a doula at Evesmama birth centre.
A clique of our readers have conveyed their thirst for information on feminine hygiene: how to keep the vagina clean and what to do, with regards to hygiene before and after intimacy.
Here is what the professionals say:
Before and after intimacy
If you have never cleaned your v-area before intimacy, then you have been perpetuating infections against you and potentially against other people.
According to Valentine Nyakiere, a personal hygiene specialist, spouses are supposed to clean their private parts before getting intimate. This will prevent transmission of infections – bacterial, fungal and viral.
Both man and woman should have a towel to be used exclusively for this and “not with any other part of the body to avoid transmission of germs from other parts to the intimate parts where they can cause infections,” Nyakiere says.
Cleaning should be done with water. For the v-area, no soap – or chemical – should be applied while cleaning. Clean water alone is enough.
After intimacy, secretions create optimum conditions for germs to thrive. “Such secretions are usually sterile but mix up with bacteria when in contact with mucous membranes and the skin,” Valentine says.
It therefore becomes necessary that after intimacy, a woman ejects the fluid out through kegel exercises and then clean the v-area with clean water, Valentine says.
She also adds: “Douching (washing out the inside of the v-area with a mixture of water and vinegar or other commercial preparation) is not healthy at all.” After intercourse the v-area is prone to micro cuts that make easy routes for infections to go through.
On regular days (without intimacy)
The outside of the v-area still ought to be cleaned whether intercourse is part of a daily routine or not. Sweating for anyone above puberty is a reality.
Terry Mungai is a beauty professional and the managing director of Ashleys Beauty. Rarely do you meet someone as enthusiastic about grooming and hygiene as Terry. She will start you off at ‘God created everyone beautiful’. And by the time she is done you will understand why hygiene is the only way to go – especially for women.
“We should always pay attention to our intimate parts as women,” she advised women at a past Eve event.
According to Terry, the exterior of the v-area can be cleaned using organic ‘non-chemical’ cleansing agents. She cites herbal solutions available at local supermarket outlets.
“However,” she says, “it does not mean that if you can’t buy these products you won’t be clean. The inside of the v-area can be kept hygienic with nothing more than clean water. Soaps too should be avoided in washing this area.”
Terry also points out, as Valentine did, that douching of any kind is more harmful than it is helpful.
Every month, a woman releases an egg from the ovaries. If the egg is fertilised then pregnancy occurs. If not, the shedding of blood – menstruation – occurs.
“This is a natural mechanism of the reproductive system cleaning itself in preparation for the next cycle which could possibly end with a pregnancy,” observes Lucy Muchiri.
That is how she sees it. In other words, there is nothing so unusual with menstruation that warrants 10 baths in a day or overt consciousness about hygiene.
“A woman can simply clean as usual – with clean water. Soap can be applied on the groin area but not inside,” Lucy says. “There is nothing special to be done afterwards except that she has to wear a pad or a tampon. At least one shower in 24 hours is hygienic. One bath is enough but there is no harm with showering twice or thrice.”
It is however important that sanitary wear is changed as soon as they are fully soaked. This is because a full sanitary towel promotes thriving of germs, “and this will lead to bad odour and infection,” Lucy adds.
The good news is that there is nothing unhygienic about intimacy during menstruation. “It is perfectly normal and even better for lubrication. There are no health implications whatsoever,” Lucy concludes.
The right underwear
The right underwear, Dr Esther Wanjohi says, is the kind that allows the v-area to ‘breathe’.
“Natural fabrics like cotton and silk are the best,” she says. “Underwear made from synthetic materials tend to trap heat and moisture; a scenario that increases flourishing of germs and hence precipitating infections.”
Dr Wanjohi, who practices at Nairobi Hospital, adds: “Underwear should ideally be fitting. Anything too tight may cause impingement of nerves by cutting off circulation – which is also unhealthy.”
For those with a penchant for G-strings, or thongs, you may need to consider how often you adorn such. According to Wanjohi, the string on such kind of underwear is effective conduit for germs to move from the back area to the front, causing infections like urinary tract infections.
“G-strings once in a while are relatively safe but not under daily use,” she says.
When nursing an already existing infection
What do you do when you notice a possible infection? Report for gynaecological check-up, right?
This, according to Dr John Ong’ech of KNH, a gynaecologist, would be the only right course of action. “It is important that the infection is rightfully diagnosed before any treatment can commence,” he says.
Even the kind and mode of cleaning will depend on the extent of the infection and if there are any open wounds visible. It would however be safe to say that washing with clean water would suffice. An active infection should however be handled by a doctor who can give proper directions afterwards.
Would be safe to have sex while an infection is active? “No.” Ongech says. “We need to avoid the spread of such an infection and monitor the patient’s health first before any intercourse can happen.”