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> Are 11 Everyday Habits That Harm Your Vagina

Washing it: No, you shouldn’t start wearing your underwear in the shower to avoid cleaning your v**ina, but you don’t need to scrub it like you would your armpits or your feet—a simple splash of water will do. “I always see folks who think they need to get a strong soap and scrub it, but plain water to rinse is more than enough. Scrubbing that area can make the vulva very raw and a scented soap can irritate it if you’re sensitive,” says Tosin Goje, obstetrician gynecologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. If you do want to use some sort of cleansing agent, look for a mild unscented hypoallergenic soap and just use your hand, never a loofah or washcloth.

Wearing pantyliners: “For patients with a sensitive v**ina, I always tell them to stop using pantyliners when they’re menstruating,” says Dr. Goje. “Sitting in a liner all day can irritate the vulva.” If you like to wear a liner instead of tampon when you’re just spotting, look for an all cotton liner and be sure to change it regularly.

Running errands in dirty gym clothes: It might seem like you’re saving time by running to the grocery store after you’re done running on the treadmill, but you could end up wasting more time in the long run when you’re sitting in your gyno’s waiting room with a yeast infection. “For the sake of your vaginal health, you need to take off your gym clothes down to the skin as soon as you’re done working out. Sweat is a breeding ground for infections, especially yeast because it thrives in a moist area,” says Dr. Goje. If you do need to grab groceries or toiletries on the way home, try to rinse off in the gym’s shower and keep an extra pair of underwear and sweats in your gym bag so you can change into something dry.

Your thong obsession: We all have our panty preference and if a thong is yours, you may be putting your v**ina at risk. “Not everyone who wears a thong regularly will develop infections or irritation, but in people prone to that I tell them to stay away,” says Dr. Goje. The shape of a thong means it tends to cover the front of your groin area and then tapers toward the back; since the vaginal opening is actually closer to your anus, this means it doesn’t get full coverage, she says, leaving an open door for bacteria to settle right in.

Smoking: If you have chronic v**ina infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV), your cigarette habit could be to blame. Doctors have been unsure of the exact link between smoking and increased BV risk, but a small study in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases found that female smokers had a greater imbalance of their v**ina’s natural flora than non-smokers, which can lead to recurrent BV.

You never go commando: “Go commando when you’re at home! Wearing your sweats or PJs without underwear allows that area to be dry and breathe without moisture accumulating in the vaginal or an*l area,” says Dr. Goje. She even suggests going panty-less all the time if you’re comfortable with it, except when you’re wearing tight pants like skinny jeans or leggings, which can cause germs to be pushed into the vulva and up into the v**ina because of the direct contact.

Shaving: It may be time to embrace the natural look whether your partner’s on board or not. You both might like how you look when shaving downstairs, but pubic hair is beneficial for your vaginal health. The follicles form a natural barrier between your skin and clothing and allows for air to flow, cutting down on the growth of moisture-loving infectious bacteria, writes Jessica Black, MD, on her website. Try grooming only your bikini line, which she said puts you at no greater risk for infection. If you do feel the need to get rid of everything, be extra careful not to nick yourself and wear loose-fitting bottoms sans underwear to get proper airflow.

Poor diet: “Eating right is important for good vaginal health,” says Dr. Goje. A high sugar diet can cause an overgrowth of candida, the bacteria responsible for yeast infections, and certain foods or spices can change your v**ina’s natural pH, which in turn may alter how it smells or tastes. One thing to get enough of: probiotics, which help keep your gut bacteria balanced and may also do the same for your vaginal flora, too.

Using liners or tampons for discharge: Pantyliners and tampons are meant for absorbing menstrual blood, not heavy discharge, so you should never…ever…wear one if you’re having a discharge problem. “Some of my patients with heavy discharge are self conscious and think it helps absorb it and keep them cleaner, but it can be highly irritable to sit in a liner all day (it’s basically like a baby sitting in a wet diaper!) and a tampon absorbing discharge can cause bacteria to incubate inside you,” says Dr. Goje. Discharge is usually normal but can also signal an infection or hormonal issue, so always talk to your doctor if you experience it out of the blue.

Having multiple partners 

Not only do more partners increase your risk of contracting an STD, but also hopping from one monogamous relationship to the next can impact your health. A new partner means new microorganisms from their body are introduced into yours, which can make you prone to bacterial vaginosis, says Dr. Goje.

Not cleaning your s*x toys

Whether you’re engaging in a solo session or having fun with your partner, always be sure to properly sanitize any s*x toy after using it, otherwise you run the risk of introducing potentially harmful bacteria into the body.

.: Reader’s Digest

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