A Quick Guide to Maintaining Your Vaginal Health
Everyone should know this (including men).
This story is part of Coveteur’s Women’s Health series. For more on this topic, head here.
Sex, periods, and everything in between are topics that, depending on how comfortable you are with them, can be extremely liberating to discuss, or very, very embarrassing. As a girl who grew up in the Baptist church, the only sex advice I got from my family was “wait until marriage.” I was raised to always be aware of what was going on with my body though, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions about sexual health. Vaginal infections, long-term tampon use, lubricants...and the list goes on.
One woman who is leading the conversation about sexual health is Beatrice Feliu Espada, founder and CEO of The Honey Pot Company, a plant-based feminine care brand. Espada has been open about her struggle with a year-long yeast infection, which led to the creation of a personal remedy that later became Honey Pot Co. Last year the feminine-care brand hit shelves at Whole Foods, and Espada has since traveled the world to share her approach to vaginal health globally.
We got a chance to chat with Espada about how to best care for your vagina, and also tapped Dr. Nefertiti Dupont, MD, at North Houston Gynecologic Oncology to share her expertise, as well.
You can catch a yeast infection outside of sexual intercourse
Beatrice Feliu Espada: “You can get yeast infections from almost anything. Not cleaning yourself properly from going to the restroom, thong underwear, working out and not changing your panties, the wrong partner and them not cleaning their mouth or their body, and masturbation. It’s just really about understanding your body and your health and making sure that if you are going to get involved in sexual intercourse, if you are going to be in the gym, you have to be cognizant of the fact that you need clean panties, and making sure your pants and jeans fit properly. It’s really understanding how to take care of yourself if you’re susceptible; if you’re not susceptible, then you’re not as much at risk as women who get those on a consistent basis.”
Dr. Nefertiti Dupont: Correct. “Women should also understand that it’s OK to come to the doctor for a yeast infection. I get patients in my office all the time that have been exposed to a yeast infection for months but thought it would go away, and it doesn’t. Because yeast infections can happen so frequently, there is no harm to check with your doctor and go over ways to prevent the next one from happening.”
The vagina cleans itself, but what about our vulva?
BFE: “The vagina is inside the body, and yes, the vagina cleans itself, but your vulva does not. So we make products for external use, we don’t make products for internal use. I think that it is a necessary thing for women and humans with vaginas to understand that you need something that is going to take care of your external health. Not necessarily your internal health, because as long as your internal health is OK, you shouldn’t have a lot of issues; if you do, then that’s when you’re going to the doctor.”
Dr. Dupont: Correct. “Not every woman needs a specific vaginal wash. It depends on what your body is susceptible to, however it is important to clean your vulva from around your clitoral hood and between your labia. You should use the soap you use for your body on your vulva. I would avoid scented or perfumed soaps on the vulva, since they can cause irritation in some women.”
Your reproductive organs can be affected by the tampons and pads you are using
BFE: “In menstrual pads and tampons they are using a blend of chlorine, ferons, and dioxins. Sometimes they use acid-tone and artificial fragrances. They are really using papiteral blends so it could almost be anything. Women use these 2-3 per day and doing that once a month for 4-7 days. Little deposits of those toxic chemicals are going into your body. You have to realize that the vagina is 100 more time absorbent than the mouth. Anything you put there, it absorbs.”
Dr. Dupont: Correct. “At my office, we are always pushing patients to use a more natural tampon or pad because we have found that over the years this can transform a woman to have reproductive complications. I am happy to see more companies providing healthier options for period and sexual health. It really makes a difference when these companies start to provide safer options for women, now we just have to work on lowering the cost [laughs].”
Water-based lubricants are recommended
Dr. Dupont: “I always recommend water-based lubricants. One brand that I tell my patients to use is Replens. It is water-based and good for patients who have had breast cancer or suffer from vaginal dryness.”
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