Okay, so everyone knows where babies come from, but maybe we're all not so clear on a lot of other things that affect our sexual health. So, we decided to talk to a few ladies who've made it their business to know what's going on down there to clear things up. For the next four days, we'll give you a comprehensive girl's guide to your private parts, from Pap smears to Brazilian waxes.
For our first segment of the four-day series, What's Going On Down There?, we caught up with gynecologist Dr. Andrea N. Price, to chat about a woman's ideal pH, what happens when it gets off-balanced. and how to keep your privates healthy.
A Woman's pH
PH-balance is not just that phrase from the old Secret deodorant commercials. The acronym pH actually refers to the body's Potential for Hydrogen, which measures the hydrogen ions that are in the body. The body's pH is determined by a scale that ranges from 0 to 14; a pH lower than 7 is acidic and a pH higher than 7 is considered basic.
Finding the Balance
"Generally you want the vaginal PH to be acidic, so you want it to be lower than a 5," Dr. Price says. "They have home tests to see if you have a yeast infection or a bacterial infection, those are basically pH testers. If a woman's pH is high, the tests will indicate that she might have a bacterial infection and need to see her doctor, if her pH is low, the test indicates that it's a yeast infection."
The D Word
Dr. Price says it's important for ladies to know their discharge. "During ovulation, discharge is usually thin, clear and stretchy like egg white so it's easy for sperm to swim through it." Things get a little thicker before your period, she says. But if it changes color, call your doctor. "It can get a little yellow, but it should never be bright yellow or green," she adds.
The Other D Word
Don't douche. "Douching can actually upset the vagina's pH," Dr. Price explains. "If a woman feels like she has to douche, I tell her don't do it any more than once a month and just use vinegar and water because vinegar is acidic so it won't change a woman's pH that much."
Scent of a Woman
"I always tell women to keep in mind that no one expects a man to smell like flowers. Every woman has her own scent. You should know your natural scent," Dr. Price says. If you've been working out or you had a stressful day you might have a stronger odor than normal. If you shower and things still don't smell right, maybe you should do some investigation.
Giving girlfriend a proper scrubbing can actually affect her pH negatively. Dr. Price suggests using a light non-fragranced soap or using warm water. She stresses to just wash externally to maintain a healthy pH.
When Thongs Go Wrong
Sisqo may have transformed the thong into everyday attire, but Dr. Price recommends that we trade in the itsy bitsy panties for a few pairs of full coverage cotton undies. "Think about where the thong sits: right on your butt. I like to think of it like a highway for bacteria. Plus they're so close and tight on your skin that it's hard for the area to breathe. It's fine to wear thongs once in a while when you have an outfit that requires them. In general, it's best to have underwear with a white cotton crotch."
When You're Off-Balanced: The Three Main Types of Infections
Lactobacillus should be the main bacteria living in your lady parts. Things can get a little mixed up if you work out and stay in your warm, damp clothes for too long, if you douche frequently or if you're under stress. You may experience a thicker than normal discharge and uncomfortable itching and irritation. Over-the-counter medicines like Monistat should clear things up.
Bacterial infections are characterized by grayish discharge that puts out a stronger than normal odor, due to ammonia byproducts. Doctors generally treat it with oral or vaginal antibiotics. For women who have frequent bacterial infections, Dr. Price suggests asking doctors about Aci-jel, a jelly that helps get a woman's pH back to normal.
"Trichomonas is sexually transmitted. It's a little one-celled organism that swims in the vagina and can multiply," Dr. Price explains. Trichomonas is usually accompanied by a yellow or green discharge and can also be cleared up by antibiotics. Make sure your partner takes them too.
The Right Stuff
If you have an infection, don't be fooled by products that claim to get rid of itching and odor, Dr. Price warns. "Products like Vagisil and Yeast Guard are not anti-fungal, so they don't get rid of the problem, they just mask the problem."
Remember to wipe from the front to back when you go to the bathroom. Don't wear pantyhose every day. And here's one your man will like: go to bed without underwear. It helps if your V gets some fresh air every now and then.
Did we miss something? If there's any information about a healthy pH that we didn't cover, let us know. Check back tomorrow for part two of our investigation: What's Going on Down There?.