I’m not one for beating around the bush. I prefer to call a spade a spade and a vagina a vagina.
For today I’m toning it down because (a) I don’t want to scare anyone off and (b) anatomically ‘vagina’ refers to the internal part of our lady cave only. My sister suggested hoo-ha, and I like that it’s a fun word to say out loud. Feel free to see how it rolls off the tongue.
The below points are straight forward. I try my best to keep lady biscuit jokes and puns to a minimum (Update: I failed). I’m hoping this is suitable for all ages from puberty onwards.
NB – I am not a medical professional. Not even close. Please don’t treat this as medical advice as it’s merely intended as an informative chat.
Say no to soap
Your front bottom needs a daily cleaning, but it doesn’t do well with regular soap. The pH in and around the secret garden is very delicate, and disrupting it often leads to dryness, discomfort and thrush.
The ideal wash is soap-free, pH neutral and fragrance free. When in doubt, look for a creamy emollient wash for dry or compromised skin (like those for eczema). I don’t believe that we all need special intimate washes, but if you get recurring thrush, it’s worth using one of those.
Your actual lady cave is self cleaning, so you only need to wash the external area of your foofoo.
Speaking of thrush…
Thrush is a yeast infection – usually Candida Albicans. It’s something women seem very embarrassed about, but there’s really no reason for that. It’s not caused by uncleanliness and it’s not and STD.
A yeast imbalance in the honeypot is caused by a myriad of things. Likely culprits include medication side effects, hormonal imbalances, and as result of other illness/immune system deficiencies. You can get over the counter thrush cream from the pharmacy, but if it’s a recurring problem get a script for tablets from your GP – it usually sorts out the problem long term.
I get loads of frustrated questions about ingrowns around the velvet lounge, and it really is a pain to deal with (the ingrowns, not the questions).
Regular exfoliation helps up to a point, not wearing too-tight underwear has its merits – but if you’re prone to ingrowns, you’re probably rolling your eyes right now.
The most effective way I’ve managed them – on myself and on clients back in my skin therapist days – is with a combination of chemical (AHA) exfoliants and scrubs on the greater area. Follow that by dabbing acne cream or spot treatment on problematic small areas a couple of times a week.
The anti-inflammatory action reduces redness and swelling, and there’s usually something in there to further exfoliate, which helps bring the hair to the surface. Benzac 5 works well, as does creams with a combination of AHA and Tea Tree oil. Use these only on external areas of the pink panther.
You can then eventually lift the hair with a (CLEAN) lancet or needle. Never pluck the hair after you’ve lifted it – you’ll very likely have an ingrown hair in the same spot a few weeks later. Give it a couple of weeks first.
I know way too many women as young as their 40s who leak urine when they sneeze, cough or laugh. I also know two 50-something women with prolapses – and those are only the ones that speak about it freely.
While there are a lot of factors involved, the least we can do is strengthen our pelvic floor muscles by regularly doing kegel exercises. If you’re not sure how, there’s a good guide here.
As for getting into the habit, the best is to get yourself some visual or audio cues that will remind you to do some kegels. Most people start clenching when they hear the word ‘kegel’, which is a great start.
Maybe for you it’s red traffic lights, every time you open an email, every time you drink water, whenever your phone rings, when someone calls your name – nobody will know you’re doing kegels, you just need a few cues as reminders. I’ve done so many while writing this, I’m good for the next three weeks.
If you already have a problem, don’t ignore it – it’s very unlikely to go away by itself. See your GP or gynaecologist, who will either offer treatment or refer you to someone who can help. They will also be the right people to ask about kegel balls, and how to use them if that’s what you need.
If you’re not in a committed monogamous relationship where you’re 100% sure both you and your partner have tested negative for all sexually transmitted diseases, you should always protect yourself against potential risk.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs/STIs) often come with no symptoms or warning signs. They are not transmitted by a certain ‘type’ of person, and they vary from being treatable by a course of antibiotics to staying with you for life.
It is your right and your responsibility to insist on safe sex on every single occasion. This means some version of a condom, no matter whether you already use another form of contraception or not.
If you don’t know how to engage in certain acts – say, oral sex – safely, refrain from doing so and find another way to safely have fun with your partner. If a partner (whether casual or longer term) gives you any grief about this, they’re not worth your time and they very likely have something to hide. Read that again and think about it. You and your cave of wonders deserve better.
Trust me on this one. In the pharma/health industry you see things you can never, ever unsee.
You can go to a free government clinic, a specialised reproductive and sexual health clinic like Marie Stopes, or your GP or gynaecologist for advice on how to take all the necessary precautions and how to get tested.
Don’t be shy to ask all the questions you want/need to, and don’t allow yourself to feel judged about absolutely anything. You’re doing a very good and proactive job by going. Anyone in those fields are obligated to assist you without judgement, and you do not have to explain yourself. You and your tinkleflower have the right to information and treatment.
While we’re on the health wagon, a yearly pap smear is recommended to check for any abnormal cells that lead to cervical cancer. I visit a gynae for this, but you can also have it done at a government clinic, pharmacy clinics like Dis-Chem, Marie Stopes or your GP.
While I’m there my gynae also does an ultrasound and a breast exam. Pap smears are recommended as soon as you become sexually active, otherwise from around age 18.
On the upside, they’re great at early detection of very treatable cancers that often have no symptoms. On the downside, pap smears are unpleasant and uncomfortable. The actual pap smear takes two minutes, and we all know as women we can handle much more than that for two minutes.
I also opted to have HPV vaccines, which prevents a bunch of cervical cancers. I only recently did this as I thought it’s something that had to be done before you become sexually active, but I was assured you can have them up to well into your 50s. It’s a course of three vaccines and I had mine at a Dis-Chem clinic – it was around R800 per injection.
Here’s to happy, healthy koekies all round!