How Every Woman Can Keep Her Private Part Clean

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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The private part is both an important and sensitive area of the body in both men and women. Any little problem with this area makes the man or woman worry so much especially when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex.

For the woman, keeping the private part clean is something that can be very challenging and predispose her to all sorts of advice, some of which can be misleading. The woman's private part, also known as the vagina, is a hollow organ that extends from the outside where the two folds of skin (known as labia) are located between the thighs to the cervix (the opening into the womb) with an average length of 10cm. Urine does not come out of the vagina; it comes out from an opening called the urethra (also found in the man's penis) which is located just above the opening of the vagina.

The environment within the vagina is a delicate one: it is made up of fluids that are acidic in nature and bacteria which are harmless and keep disease-causing microorganisms out under normal conditions. Any upset of these acidic fluids and harmless bacteria can lead to a foul-smelling discharge and infection. So how can this delicate environment of the woman's private part be maintained?

1. Avoid over-cleaning the vagina.

A lot of women think that the vagina must be washed thoroughly from the inside to the outside with soap and water or other cleansing agents. This is very wrong because doing so will disrupt the harmless bacteria of the vagina, predisposing the woman to infection by disease-causing microorganisms. The inside of the vagina, under normal circumstances, cleans itself due to its very acidic nature. So, don't put any herbs, so-called vaginal cleansers (sold by quacks and herbal medicine practitioners in buses and at the motor parks) or essential oils into the vagina and avoid steaming, douching or putting a tampon, which has been sprayed with a scent, into the vagina.

Just wash the outer folds of skin (vaginal lips) with ordinary bathing soap during a bath, and always your tampon is dry and odourless before putting it in.

2. When you do any activity that leads to sweating such as an exercise, change into dry clothes, including your underwear, even if you're not bathing immediately. This will prevent your sweaty underwear from being a breeding place for yeast and bacteria that can cause vaginal infections.

3. Women who smoke cigarettes should make efforts to stop it entirely. Smoking is associated with so many diseases, one of which is cancer of the cervix (the opening of the vagina into the womb). One of the ways to cut down the risk of having this disease, which is deadly and is characterised by a very unpleasant vaginal odour, is stopping cigarette smoking.

4. Abusing antibiotics (taking antibiotics without a prescription and when there is no indication for it) regularly can affect the harmless bacteria found in different parts of the body, such as the mouth and vagina, where they keep out disease-causing microorganisms. In the case of the vagina, long-term abuse of antibiotics will suppress these harmless bacteria, giving room for infection. So, ensure you take antibiotics only when a doctor recommends and prescribes them.

And if you notice any whitish or greenish, foul-smelling (fishy for instance) discharge from your private part as a woman or feel pain after sexual intercourse, it is likely a sign of an infection and you should quickly visit a doctor, preferably a gynaecologist, in a good clinic or hospital (please be careful not to fall into the hands of quacks who parade as doctors): hence, the safest place may be a good government hospital or a well-known private clinic or hospital.

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For more advice and help, consult a doctor.
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Published Friday, May 12th 2017

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