Fiera Blog

Don’t Neglect Your Vulva and Vagina This Summer

Vaginal health concerns always seem to peak during the summer months. There are many reasons for this, including longer periods of time spent in a wet bathing suit, exercising in warm weather, and increased sexual activity. Along with these behaviors, we see an increase in various gynecologic conditions, including vulvar eczema/psoriasis, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis. There are several preventative measures that a woman can take to try and avoid these pesky annoyances of summer:

  •  Change out of your wet bathing suit into a dry one as soon as you get out of the water and don't spend long in your favorite yoga pants after a grueling workout. There is nothing yeast loves more than a moist, warm environment to grow in.
  • Wear cotton underwear: cotton is a very "breath-able" material and will help keep moisture and heat away from the vulva. This is a great option for women prone to yeast infections or other vulvar skin disorders.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing: those tight jean shorts may look great on you but they are doing no favors for your vulva. Walking around all day in tight fitting clothes can irritate that area which may trigger skin disorders like eczema, if prone to it in the genital region. Also, tight clothing may worsen conditions like vulvodynia (chronic vulvar pain).
  • Avoid lubricants during sex that contain glycerin if you are prone to yeast infections. Although there is admittedly little research on this, as a gynecologist I have seen plenty of patients who have ended their yeast infection misery when they switched to a glycerin-free option. Glycerin is a sugar alcohol and yeast thrives in sugary environments. While we are on the lubricant topic, never use petroleum jelly as a lubricant either, as it potentially creates a breeding ground for bacteria associated with bacterial vaginosis.
  • Don't douche...ever! The vagina is a "self-cleaning oven" and doesn't need the help. If you have noticed a new, unpleasant vaginal odor, see your health care provider to make sure that you don't have an infection such as bacterial vaginosis.
  • Avoid talcum powder around the genitals when trying to stay dry. For that matter, when visiting your bikini waxer, ask them not to sprinkle powder on you before the wax is applied, if that is something they routinely do. Although the jury is still out on this one, there has been some research showing a relationship between talcum powder applied to the genital region and ovarian cancer.
  • Sunbathing au naturel? Don't forget to put sunscreen on the vulva. Women do get skin cancer in that area, too.
  • Probiotics aren't just for your gastrointestinal health. There is some data that probiotics may be beneficial to the urogenital system. If you are prone to yeast infections, taking a daily probiotic developed for vaginal health may not be a bad idea. It won't treat an infection, but there is a chance that it could help prevent one.

Summer is for fun in the sun, but don't forsake your genital region. Your vulva and vagina need just as much TLC as other parts of your body. By following some of these tips, you may find yourself having your best summer ever!

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Topics: lubricant health vulvodynia beauty education

Written by Leah Millheiser, MD

Dr. Leah Millheiser is the Chief Scientific Officer of Aytu Women's Health, LLC. At Stanford University Medical Center, Dr. Millheiser is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program. In addition, she is a Fellow in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health. As a sexual medicine expert, Leah devotes her career to treating all aspects of female sexual health. She has a particular interest in the sexual wellness of cancer survivors. In her gynecology practice, she takes care of women across the lifespan, from adolescence to menopause and beyond.

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