The vagina is an elastic but muscular canal that is approximately 9 to 10 centimeters long. The upper part of the vagina connects to the cervix , which opens into the uterus , and the lower part opens outward from the body. It is located between the urethra (which connects to the bladder) and the rectum.
During intercourse, the vagina lengthens, expands, and fills with blood in preparation for the penis. Additionally, the vagina serves as a passageway for cervical mucus, menstrual fluid, and other secretions from the body. During delivery, the baby is expelled from the uterus and from the body, including through the vaginal canal.
It is important to know that the vagina is self-cleaning. Some women feel the need to douche or clean their vagina with sprays or deodorants. This is not only unnecessary, but it can also harm the health of the vagina .
The vagina retains its ability to clean itself in a number of ways.
Its slightly acidic environment prevents most bacteria from living in it. Douching or cleaning the vagina can change the pH, making it more susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections .
Additionally, the lining of the vagina thickens after puberty and before menopause , which also helps prevent bacterial colonization.
Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria are commonly found in the tissues of the vagina and help stabilize the pH at its natural acidic level. Anything that bothers these bacteria (such as antibiotics or high blood sugar levels) can also increase your risk of yeast infection.
Eating plain yogurt or taking L. acidophilus probiotic supplements while taking antibiotics can help prevent infection. Of course, talk to your doctor to make sure it's right for you.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are prone to insulin resistance , which leads to high blood sugar levels and can be a prerequisite for a vaginal yeast infection . Excess sugar in the body is excreted through urination, which can quickly feed small yeast colonies, turning them into nasty infections.
Symptoms of a yeast infection include itching, pain, and an odorless discharge that is clear and watery or thick, white and lumpy, like curds.
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and wearing natural fiber underwear like cotton in addition to taking probiotics can help prevent yeast infections.
If you find that you have recurring fungal infections, talk to your doctor to rule out other conditions, such as a bacterial infection.
At some point in life, all women will experience vaginal dryness, which can make intercourse uncomfortable. Although vaginal dryness is more common in women during menopause, certain medications, including some fertility drugs and antihistamines, can affect vaginal moisture.
There are many treatments for vaginal dryness, including hormonal treatments, vaginal laser treatments, topical radiofrequency treatments, and moisturizing suppositories. Many women find that simply using a lubricant like KY Jelly during sex can ease the pain of vaginal dryness.