Swim in salt water Avoid swimming in chlorinated water if you can. After swimming change straight away Change out of bathers and shower to remove any chlorine or salt from your vulva Avoid wet clothing next to your vulva Wear loose fitting pants Avoid tight fitting jeans, pants, G-strings, and if you have to wear pantyhose try those with a cotton gusset.
Lean forward when passing urine This helps to avoid burning and always wipe or pat from front to back. Normal secretions vary throughout the menstrual cycle, from thin and slippery during ovulation to thick and white just before your period.
It's common for discharge to be discoloured red or brown a day or two before or after your period. Some vulval and vaginal secretions change in colour and consistency with an infection. Dryness Sometimes women find their vulva and vagina feels dry and lubrication is poor.
The hormonal changes at menopause can make the vagina dry and thin. This can make sex painful and it can make insertion of a tampon painful as well. Try using a natural lubricant like olive or almond oil.
Odour It is normal for your vulva to have a smell that may vary at different times in your menstrual cycle. There are a number of different fluids and secretions associated with the vulva, including urine, sweat, menstrual blood, skin oils and vaginal and gland secretions all of which can affect the smell.
If the odour is unpleasant, yeasty or fishy smelling this may be a sign of an infection. Other causes of odour may be a sexually transmissible infection STI , a tampon left in the vaginal canal too long or the presence of urine or faeces. After menopause, odour may change as the normal bacteria also changes. The odour will be different compared to when still having periods. They include bacteria and fungi, however the main types can be generally called 'good bacteria' and 'bad bacteria'.
Healthy vaginas are rich in good bacteria and these friendly micro-organisms help to protect the vagina from infections and keep the populations of bad bacteria in check.
An imbalance or overgrowth of bad bacteria and other unfriendly micro-organisms in the vagina can cause symptoms such as vaginal discharge, redness and itch. They can make you more prone to the common conditions of fungal infections such as vaginal candidiasis thrush or bacterial infections such as bacterial vaginosis BV.
It's important to note that not all vulval irritation is due to an imbalance of vaginal bacteria. Your vaginal bacteria is closely connected to the bacteria in your digestive system, and what you eat and digest can affect the health and populations of bacteria in both your gut and your vagina.
Live cultured yoghurt and other fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir, contain good bacteria as an ingredient. Eating these foods regularly can help to maintain healthy populations of good bacteria, introducing the right types to your digestive system and your vagina. High sugar foods, soft drinks, too much alcohol and too many refined carbohydrates in your diet such as white breads, biscuits and white pasta can help the bad bacteria to grow and flourish in place of the good.
Probiotics Some women who have thrush, bacterial vaginosis or vulval irritation may benefit from taking a probiotic supplement. Probiotics can be taken orally as a capsule and contain good bacteria in much higher quantities than what you would get from fermented foods alone.
There are many different kinds of probiotic supplements available and research has found that only specific strains of bacteria are effective in treating infections such as BV. As always, inform your health practitioner of any medicines you are taking.
Other natural therapies Other commonly used natural therapies for vulval and vaginal irritation including special diets, vinegar treatments, tea tree oil and garlic.
There are no high quality clinical research trials on these treatments so it is difficult to say whether these treatments are effective, safe or otherwise. However, it is important to remember that if you are experiencing vulval or vaginal irritation and it isn't getting better, make an appointment with your doctor or qualified health professional. What is the vulva?
Vulva is the general name given to the external parts of the female genitals. The parts of the vulva include: Mons pubis The pad of fatty tissue covered with pubic hair. Labia majora The outer lips, which are covered with pubic hair. Labia minora The inner lips, which are hairless. Clitoris and its hood or covering Positioned at the front of the genital area. Vestibule Immediately surrounds the vaginal opening and the urinary opening.