We don’t talk about vulvas* and vaginas* often enough. This is something that I want to break apart! As a women’s health Naturopath, it’s really important to me that talking about our body parts & what’s happening with them is both comfortable & normalized, which is why I ask all of my clients about their vaginal health.
Some of the questions that I ask include:
- Do you experience pain during sex?
- Do you notice changes in your vaginal discharge throughout your menstrual cycle?
- Does your vaginal discharge have a smell?
- Do you have to wear a pad or liner because of the amount of discharge?
From here, we will often dive into further conversation talking about the different lifestyle factors that could be contributing to vaginal health. For example:
- When you have sex, do you use condoms? If yes, what brand?
- Do you use any vaginal lubricants? If yes, what brand?
- What menstrual products do you use?
It’s really common for this discussion to bring up a few topics that most women don’t know too much about –
The vulva & vagina absorb a whole lot!
It is possible for both the vagina and vulva to absorb chemicals and toxins – and when absorbed they don’t pass through the liver like toxins that we have come into contact with through food and water. This means that they go directly into our circulation, without being filtered. Hence, it is SO important that you are really aware of what you are putting inside of your (or your partner’s) vagina, and that you’re aware of what your vulva is being exposed to.
It’s normal to have vaginal discharge.
The only time that something may be out of balance is if you’re noticing a foul smell, excessive amounts of discharge (to the point where you have to wear a pad or liner outside of your period), or if you notice that there’s an unusual colouring to your discharge. It should be either clear or a creamy white, depending on where you’re at in your menstrual cycle. If the discharge looks like cottage cheese, or is accompanied by an itchy vulva or vagina then something may also be out of balance.
The vagina has its very own microbiome.
A microbiome is a term used to explain the flora living within a particular environment. You may have heard of the gut microbiome before – we also have a vaginal microbiome, skin microbiome, breastmilk microbiome & more!
The vaginal microbiome is made up of an array of bacteria, however unlike the gut microbiome however less diversity can actually be better in the vagina. Higher levels of lactobacillus bacteria, particularly lactobacillus crispatus, are typically associated with a healthy vagina. Sometimes it is possible for there to be an overgrowth of lactobacillus bacteria within the vagina, this is why it’s important to work alongside a Naturopath when trying to modify the vaginal microbiome.
The vaginal microbiome is such a complicated & interesting topic for which I could type for hours! Keep an eye out for my upcoming blogs on some of my favourite products for vaginal health (don’t worry – there won’t be any vaginal washes in there!!) In the meantime, here are some indications that it’s time to work with a Naturopath for vaginal health:
- Your vagina always feels dry, even when you’re turned on
- You notice strange smells in your vaginal discharge
- You’re experiencing excessive vaginal discharge
- Your vagina is itchy
- You’ve experienced multiple pregnancy losses (yes – the vaginal microbiome can play a role in this for some)
- You experience recurrent thrush (oh lovely – there’s so much we can do to help!!)
- You’re simply wanting to make sure that you’re using the correct lubricants, condoms, etc. and wanting a general health check in.
Hang on, hang on…
What’s the difference between a vulva and a vagina??!!
The vulva is the external genitalia on cis-women. So, in other words it’s the bits that you can see – the mons pubis (where hair grows), the labia majora and labia minora & the clitoris.
The vagina is the internal structure which connects the vulva to the cervix. It’s the parts that you can’t see.
Using the correct terminology for the vulva & vagina is really important. If we used the words ‘penis’ and ‘testicles’ interchangeably when describing a man’s body, people would think that you’re pretty silly! So why do we think it’s okay to not use the correct terminology when it comes to women’s bodies?
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