by Charli Penn of essence.com
No matter how busy life can become, some things should always come first – and your vaginal health is on that priority list. We sat down with popular Atlanta OBGYN, Dr. Jacqueline Walters (AKA Married To Medicine star “Dr. Jackie”) to find out how you can pamper and protect your vajayjay and keep her happy when you are. Put simply, you won’t need an appointment to get this “sensitive” advice on the record, so ladies, get ready to take notes.
How do you keep your vagina as healthy as possible in your 30s and beyond?
DR. JACKIE: First and foremost, quit putting soap down there and don’t douche. The vagina is a self-cleaning oven. The vagina has it’s own pH level, so it’s supposed to be acidic [and the level should be] no less than 4.5. When we start adding all of the antibacterial soap what happens is you kill off the bacteria that is supposed to be there that creates the eco-system for the vagina and controls the acidity. When you destroy the normal pH of the vagina then you now have vaginal dryness and you’ve allowed yeast and bacterial vaginosis to overgrow, which of course creates discomfort and in a lot of cases odor.
So you just need hot water to keep your vagina clean?
DR. JACKIE: Well, not hot; lets make it warm. Just really clean the exterior of the vagina and in the crevices and folds. What I recommend is to make [your vagina] the first thing you clean when you get in the shower. Before you get the soap or the sponges out, just self clean the vagina with your hand and water only. The vagina was never designed to smell like a flower or fruit. We’re really big on putting smell-goods in the vagina. It’s supposed to have a particular odor, but not an offensive odor, and as women we really want it to smell like perfume. Don’t try to change the odor of the vagina; it is a God-given odor. Throughout the day yes we sweat and you notice it more, but please don’t use perfumes and especially powder. Powder creates an increased risk of ovarian cancer. So keep the powders out of the vagina too.
But not all odors are good, right?
DR. JACKIE: If [your vagina] has an offensive or very noticeable odor, has a discharge that’s not white or clear or if it’s itchy or irritated, there’s something wrong with it and water won’t do the trick. But crazy enough, soap won’t help either.
How does your diet affect your vagina?
DR. JACKIE: Oils come out through the pores of the vagina, so when you eat things like sunflower oil or pineapples it gives the vagina a pleasant taste. If you cannot break down the oil found in seafood (and there are probably about 10% of women who just cannot break that oil down) you’ll get that seafood smell or seafood taste. Asparagus is another one of those foods that if you eat it it’s going to have a bitter taste. So, yes, there are foods that can make or break the vagina.
What if a woman isn’t having orgasms? Should they see a doctor?
DR. JACKIE: I definitely start with the psyche behind sex. Are you in a good relationship? In most of the patient’s situations there is something not right in their relationship. I’m always saying your partner needs to know you; he needs to know what you like. And believe it or not, the brain and the vagina are so interconnected that as women we are so consumed with doing 10,000 different things that we can have sex and have our mind on work or on what we have to do tomorrow.
What are some of the most common concerns or questions you hear from patients?
Dr. JACKIE: I think women are always afraid of the vagina. Most women really think that the vagina is their enemy. And it’s probably one of the cleanest organs you have in your body. Anytime there is a problem I think they immediately think they have done something to affect their vagina, so I wish they could get better in touch with it. I want women to know that it is a very friendly organ.
How does one get to know her vagina better? Where do you start?
DR. JACKIE: First I would want you to understand the anatomy. It is a very forgiving organ, you can do a lot of things to the vagina and it will bounce right back. Know the purpose of the vagina and that each part of the vagina has a unique purpose. Secondly, know that the vagina is a clean organ—it’s cleaner than the mouth! I definitely tell women take a mirror and look at it because when you come to me and say “something’s wrong with my vagina,” I need you to know what’s normal and what isn’t. If you don’t know your norm then it’s hard for me to talk to you about what abnormal is. The vagina has its own beauty. A lot of women are very obsessed now with vaginal rejuvenation and classic surgery to make it look a certain way but you’re given your God-given anatomy for a purpose.
What do you think causes women to want vaginal rejuvenation?
Dr. JACKIE: I think that it starts as children when we’re told to be ashamed of the vagina. We have to do a better job at letting them know that it’s a private organ but there’s nothing to be ashamed of because every woman has one.