Vaginal health is an important part of a healthy sex life. Condoms can help to ensure you keep free of STDs but you need to be vigilant. The more partners you have, the more at risk you become, and the more partners your partner has had increases the risks dramatically. Except in truly monogamous relationships, you can't afford not to use condoms.
Some infections of the vagina may not be sexually transmitted. For example, candidiasis or candida, often called thrush, is caused by an infection of a fungus found in the vagina.
Pregnancy, antibiotics and diabetes can also produce candida. If you find you have red, sore genitals and a discharge that's thick and looks something like cottage cheese, chances are you have candida. It's usually easily treatable, so seek medical help. If you are experiencing any pain, see your medical practitioner without delay.
The vagina does have a normal discharge - so, don't be alarmed about it if you don't have other symptoms as well. A whitish discharge that dries yellowish on panties is healthy and quite normal. So is a slight smell.
To ensure good vaginal hygiene follow these simple rules:
- When you bath or shower, use a mild soap to wash your vulva (the entrance to your vagina) and clear any secretions in which bacteria might breed.
- Don't leave pads or tampons in for more than a few hours. Wear cotton, or cotton gussetted panties, rather than those with nylon. Nylon tends to promote warmth and damp - an environment in which bacteria thrive.
- Be careful not to wipe any bacteria from your anus to your vagina - wipe from front to back.
- Frequent douching is not advisable as it removes the vagina's own natural protective substances. Also, avoid the use of strong, perfumed soaps and vaginal deodorants.