We all know exercising is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body. The question is, what can exercise do to your vagina? There is a lot of sweating and friction that can wreak havoc down there. Post-workout we usually make sure to freshen up. The vagina is no different and may even need some extra attention.
The vagina has normal bacteria that prevents the overgrowth of bad bacteria like bacterial vaginosis and yeast. However, a warm, wet environment after a sweat sesh can be a breeding ground for infection. Here are some tips to keep the vagina fresh and clean after a heavy workout.
- Wear moisture-wicking breathable workout clothes with a cotton crotch to allow airflow. Materials like nylon and lycra can trap moisture and heat. Try to avoid these materials if you are susceptible to infections.
- Cotton and seamless workout clothes are going to be the most vagina friendly and prevent chafing and irritation.
- Go commando. Even wearing cotton underwear adds another layer that can cause irritation and trap moisture.
- Ditch the thongs. The thong's friction and movement can introduce E. coli from the anus into the vagina and lead to potential urinary and vaginal infections.
- Change your clothes as soon as you finish your workout. Always keep clean, dry clothes with you to change into afterward.
- If you have time, take a shower and wash the vulva with warm water and mild fragrance-free soap and gently pat the vagina dry before putting new clothes on. In a hurry? Keep vaginal wipes handy in your gym bag.
- Avoid using any douching, deodorants or sprays to mask odors. If you get frequent infections, use a fragrance-free hypoallergenic detergent to wash your workout clothes
When cleaning your vagina, it's so important to gently clean the outside, known as the vulva, with warm water and a mild soap. The vulva is the external female genitalia and includes the clitoris, labia majora, labia minora, and the vaginal opening. You want to avoid cleaning the inside of the vagina because it is designed to keep itself clean with the help of natural secretions. Washing the inside can disrupt the normal acidic pH of the vagina (between 3.5-4.5) and create an environment for bacteria and yeast to thrive.
As we age, hectic schedules dictated by jobs, school, kids, and gym time can interfere with vaginal hygiene. Keep vaginal wipes handy in your purse and gym bag is always a good idea when on the go.
If you are a woman approaching menopause, a decrease in estrogen can lead to a reduction of the good bacteria that helps maintain a normal pH of the vagina. The pelvic floor muscles also get weaker and have decreased tone. You may notice leakage of urine with certain exercises. The combination of altered pH, decrease in Lactobacilli, urinary incontinence, and the moisture and friction from exercising can be challenging. To prevent urinary incontinence, you can do Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the uterus, bladder, small intestines, and rectum. Adding probiotics and using the tips mentioned above will help your vagina stay healthy when exercising.
By following these tips, you CAN still keep your vagina happy and healthy, even when working out.
Dr. Jodie Horton