All Your Vagina Questions Answered!
Does eating pineapple make you smell good?
If you haven’t noticed, we’ve dedicated this entire week to vaginas. We say it loud and say it proud: We love them! So we’re celebrating them in all forms! We asked you to join our conversation and send us all the vagina-related questions you were curious about (and maybe too shy to ask out loud and in person) so we could get them answered for you by the pros. We compiled them, added a few of our own, and sent them off to Dr. Michael Krychman, the executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine, for his feedback. Here’s what he shared.
Q: Why does my vagina feel itchy a few days after having sexual intercourse?
A: “Sometimes after sex, with ejaculation, you can have a rise in the vaginal pH that can impact the vaginal ecosystem and biome. Some women are predisposed to vaginal infections and are sensitive to sperm, which may also cause irritation. [In a] worst-case scenario, some women could be allergic to a man’s sperm.”
Q: I tried coconut oil as a natural lubricant and loved it. But can it be bad for your vagina because of its antibacterial properties? What would you recommend in lieu of regular lubricant?
A: “I would caution against the cupboard solutions for vaginal dryness, as these oils have had issues with increased resistant and virulent vaginal infection. I would suggest some natural products, which don’t have additives, parabens, glycerin, warming, flavors and/or bactericides. Some favorites include SYLK, good clean love, and Uberlube.”
Q: I was told that I have a retroverted uterus at my last gyno appointment. Should I be concerned about fertility?
A: “No, a retroverted uterus is one of the normal positions that the uterus can be in the body, and it shouldn’t impact your ability to get pregnant.”
Q: I’ve heard the vagina changes after childbirth. What can I expect? Will it ever bounce back?
A: “Vaginal laxity is a recognized medical condition. Some women may experience changes in the pelvic floor that may not return to normal after childbirth, and some women complain of decreased sexual sensation and changes in arousal and orgasm after childbirth, even after they have had their hormones return to normal pre-pregnancy levels. It’s best to get assessed since there are safe and effective outpatient radio frequency procedures, like the Geneveve treatment, which is clinically proven and has demonstrated efficacy and safety in large randomized trials to help restore and revive sexual function in women who have experienced changes in sexual function due to childbirth.”
Q: Why does it smell down there? When do I know if there is a problem?
A: “Vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis can lead to a strong fishy smell. If you think your vagina is just not right, then contact your doctor for cultures and a possible treatment if [it’s determined you] have an infection.”
Q: Can different foods change my smell? I’ve heard that pineapples make your vagina smell good…
A: “There are no randomized clinical trials that demonstrate that foods can influence and/or change the odor of the vagina.”
Q: There are a ton of products and treatments available for cleaning my vagina. Do I really need to clean down there?
A: “Soap can strip away the natural protective oils of the sensitive vulvar area. Most recommend only water and gently patting dry, however, there is an increasing trend toward some soothing products, which do not strip away the natural protective barriers of the delicate vulvar skin. I prefer recommending Lubrigyn lotion that has hyaluronic acid and elastin to help soothe and cleanse the delicate vulvar skin.”
Q: I’m hearing a lot about the importance of a vagina’s pH balance. How do I know if mine is OK?
A: “The vagina is a fascinating self-cleaning organ and is able to maintain its acid base/pH balance. Sometimes medications, vaginal dryness, and infections can impact the vaginal pH, or hormonal balances can also shift the vaginal pH. If you have some concerns, check with your doctor.”
Q: I’m self-conscious about my vagina since the lips are uneven. Is that normal? What are some options to fix it?
A: “Right and left labia lips are never symmetrical. The vulvar region is like the rest of the body—there is not exact symmetry. If you are self-conscious about the uneven aspects (concerned about wearing clothes), or are having functional problems like chafing and/or pain during intercourse, then seek a consult from a trained health care professional. You may be able to have an outpatient procedure and/or surgical intervention that can help correct it. It is always important for you to know that the woman with the labia asymmetry should be the one who is distressed and/or upset about this and not be coerced by [a] partner to get intervention.”
Q: How concerned should I really be about toxic shock syndrome?
A: “If you use tampons, you should always have some concern about TSS. Tampons should never be left in the vagina indefinitely, and if you think you have a lodged tampon in your vagina, seek help immediately to ensure it is removed.”
Q: I get acne on my vagina. What is causing it? And how can I get rid of it?
A: “It’s always important to seek medical evaluation for a proper diagnosis, as sometimes the glands in the vulvar area can get blocked and you can get inclusion cysts that look like acne. It’s best to get an evaluation and assessment by a health care practitioner to get a proper diagnosis and the correct treatment.”
Q: How often should I have a PAP test?
A: PAP guidelines have evolved. Some get PAPs every three to five years, others are demanding it more frequently. Check with your OBGYN to decide what interval is right for you. Age, past history of abnormal PAPs, number of sexual partners, smoking, and other factors may play into the discussion when you are deciding on your PAP frequency. Individualized care is important, as is assessment of cervical cancer risk.”
Q: Why do I always feel the need to pee during intercourse?
A: “Sometimes it depends on the sexual position. There may be pressure on the bladder during sexual play. It’s important for women who are prone to infections to drink a lot of water to dilute the urine, and urinate before and after intercourse to help decrease your risk of post-coital/post-sex urinary tract infections.”
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