What you should always do after sex to keep your vagina healthy

Arielle Tschinkel
·6 min read
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Peeing before and after sex can help prevent infection. Crystal Cox/Business Insider
  • It's always important to take good care of your vagina, but especially so if you're sexually active.

  • Insider spoke with health professionals about what to do after sex to maintain a healthy vagina.

  • Scented douches, oils, and harsh chemicals can all disrupt your vagina's natural pH balance.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

In the moments immediately after sex, the last thing you're probably thinking about is how to keep your vagina healthy.

But with harmful myths circulating about sexual and reproductive health - like that steaming your vagina is a good idea or that you need to clean it with special products - it's not always clear how to give your body the treatment it deserves.

Insider spoke with health professionals about why it's important to take care of your vagina after sexual activities and how to keep it hygienic to prevent infection.

Use the bathroom before and after sex

There are easy things you can do to keep your pH balance in check and minimize your risk for urinary tract infections, or UTIs, Dr. Allison Hill and Dr. Yvonne Bohn, OB-GYNs at Los Angeles Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told Insider.

They said you'll want to "empty your bladder after intercourse to flush out bacteria, which may have been pushed into the urethra during sex."

If left alone, that bacteria can lead to a bladder infection or UTI.

Make sure you wipe from front to back

Wiping the wrong way can lead to a buildup of bacteria that can cause a UTI, according to Hill and Bohn.

They told Insider that people should "wipe from front to back so that you don't contaminate the vagina with bacteria from the rectum."

You can clean the area, but be gentle

rinsing back showering
All you need to use is mild soap and water. Bhakpong/Shutterstock

Although urinating after sex is one of the most surefire tips to minimize the risk of infection, there are other ways to keep things clean.

Hill and Bohn recommend that you "allow excessive semen to drain" after having penis-in-vagina intercourse without a condom "so that your vaginal pH stays in balance" to prevent yeast and bacterial infections and UTIs.

They added that you should gently clean your vulva (the external part of the sex organ) with warm water and mild soap to wash off things like sweat, semen, and bacteria, wiping from front to back again.

And even though you can find plenty of fragrant hygiene washes, creams, oils, and cleansers on drugstore shelves, Dr. Hill and Bohn suggested using plain soap and water with no fragrance or harsh chemicals for the delicate vulva area.

Scented products can mess with your natural pH

There's nothing wrong with your vagina's natural odors, despite the myriad of products that suggest otherwise, and scented options can be more problematic and than helpful for your sexual health.

"The vulvar and vaginal tissue is just about the most sensitive in the body, so try to avoid scented products, such as bubble baths and most strong soaps, which in general have a very high [basic] pH," Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of gynecology, told Insider.

"I know this sounds crazy, but 'acidic' is what a healthy vagina is - not basic," she added. "Seminal fluid is basic, and that can disturb a healthy 'ecosystem' for some women's vaginas. Trying to keep the vagina acidic is good."

Don't try douching

Hill and Bohn advised against douching, which "removes the 'good' bacteria from the vagina and can actually cause pH issues."

Douching does not prevent conception or sexually transmitted diseases and can increase your risk for infection or even pregnancy complications.

The vagina is self-cleaning and does not need strong soaps or perfumes to stay hygienic. However, prominent odors may be a sign of infection and should be checked with a doctor.

After cleaning, properly dry the area and wear breathable underwear

underwear
The experts also suggested sleeping without underwear. vasanty/Shuttershock

After you've used the bathroom and washed yourself with warm water and mild soap, Hill and Bohn suggested drying with a clean towel and wearing fresh underwear since excess "moisture on the vulva can lead to yeast infections or UTIs."

You'll want to wear underwear that is loose-fitting and made of breathable materials like cotton - options that are too tight or made with fabrics like nylon can be irritating.

Keep your pH levels healthy

To keep from bacteria buildup, it's important to check your vagina's pH, either with a home kit or during a visit to your doctor.

"The normal vaginal pH is around 4 - which is quite acidic compared to the rest of our body," Hill and Bohn said. "When the vaginal pH is too high, bacteria can overpopulate, leading to vaginal or urinary infections."

"Also, recurrent vaginal infections are signs of possible pH issues," they added.

Hill and Bohn told Insider that some probiotics, replenish the good and necessary bacteria that help your body maintain a healthy pH. Minkin also said there are probiotic supplements that can help boost your body's "good" bacteria.

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If you experience pain or bleeding after sex, you may want to talk to a doctor. Crystal Cox/Business Insider

There's no special diet to follow for optimal vaginal health, before or after sex

Although there are several supplements and foods marketed towards vaginal health, the experts told Insider that eating a balanced diet is best.

Foods with probiotics, like some yogurts, sauerkraut, and kefir (a fermented milk drink), can help maintain a healthy vaginal pH balance.

Minkin added that "if a woman is prone to getting bladder infections, taking supplements that include cranberry extract" may be helpful since they have less sugar than most bottled juices.

Consult with your doctor if you experience unusual pain, discharge, or bleeding

"The major concern of having unusual pain or discharge is if you could be harboring a sexually transmitted infection," Minkin said. "Bleeding also can be associated with an STI as well."

Hill and Bohn told Insider that talking to your partner about their sexual history and past STDs is crucial before intercourse. But unusual bodily reactions like pain, discharge, and bleeding could stem from other causes such as vaginal trauma or infections.

If you experience any symptoms that worry you or are unusual, you should check with your doctor, who can help determine what is going on and get you back on the road to optimal vaginal health.

Read the original article on Insider