Vaginal Health: Is There Something Fishy Going On?

Brown woman, waist hips and curves. Vulva.

Vaginal steaming hit the headlines recently, with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chrissy Teigen giving their vaginas what is essentially a hot facial for the vulva. This is all in the name of vaginal health, but we’re not buying what these gals are selling.

The vagina is designed to keep itself clean. This is done with the help of vaginal secretions, not a hot steamer. Vaginal discharge is normal and healthy, and its job is to keep the vagina clean and moist. Your secretions are normal if they’re clear or white, sticky and wet, and don’t smell strong or unpleasant.

It’s perfectly natural for the vagina to change its natural scent during different times of your cycle. This doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. There really is no need to steam, cook or boil your vag to keep it in good health.

Let’s look at what else you need to know to keep your vagina happy, healthy and infection-free.

Vaginal douching

douche is a small bulb that flushes water up into the vagina or the butt.

Some women & vulva-owners prefer to douche their vaginas to clear out secretions. Feeling ‘unclean’ or thinking you have an infection heightens the need to feel super-clean. Douching disrupts the vaginal flora, adding to the issue. You’ll be washing away the good bacteria along with any bad bacteria, eventually developing an itch in your delicate ditch.

We know some women who like using herbs for a monthly “deep clean” of their vaginas. Leave the herby stuff for the Sunday roast, babes. The vagina is like a self-cleaning oven – a mystery we don’t quite understand, but nonetheless, incredibly clever!

Vaginal deodorants and wipes

If vaginas were meant to smell like roses, they’d be smelling like roses. Vaginas smell like vaginas, which is rather seductive, to be honest.

Ironically, perfumed products are often the culprits when it comes to infections and unpleasant smells. This type of product disrupts the vaginas natural balance, just like douching. Put down the scented soap and vag deodorant – you really don’t need it.

Cutely packaged vaginal wipes sure seem handy for a quick freshen up after an al fresco rumble (no judgement, we’ve all been there), but you’re better off using unscented baby wipes. If it’s scented and designed to mask the natural smell, chances are you’ll develop an itchy vagina after using it…

A fishy smell indicates an infection

If your vagina is genuinely smelling “fishy” or unpleasant, it’s time to book an appointment. Most vulva-owners will, at some point, develop bacterial vaginosis. B-Vag is due to excessive growth of bacteria. This can be down to lovely bubble baths (hot water plus scented bubbles are terrible for vaginal health), a new sex partner, tight panties, hot weather… If you think you may have BV, you need to book yourself in at the clinic, where they’ll give your vagina an MOT and prescribe antibiotics if it’s a yes to the B-Vag.

Thrush, or yeast infection, is another common vaginal infection. Symptoms include itching, burning, and a thick, white discharge from the vagina. Thrush is very common after taking antibiotics, as these can alter the vaginal flora. There are over-the-counter remedies, but you should def get yourself checked out if it’s your first bout of yeast infection.

Sexually transmitted infections don’t always have symptoms. Chlamydia, for example, is a notoriously secretive infection – more often than not, there are no symptoms.

These symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have an STI, but you do need to get checked out:

  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pain when peeing
  • Itching, burning or tingling around the genitals
  • Blisters, sores, spots or lumps around the genitals or anus
  • Yellow or green vaginal discharge
  • Discharge that smells
  • Bleeding between periods or after sex
  • Pain during sex
  • Black powder or tiny white dots in your underwear (pubic lice)

Sex, condoms & lube

You might have noticed that your vagina smells differently after sex. This is normal and nothing to worry about. Vaginal fluid tends to be on the acidic side of the pH scale, and semen tends to be on the alkaline side. When the two meet, you have a different chemical mix and the smell changes. Using condoms helps avoid semen messing up the delicate vaginal pH, but condoms have their own particular (not great) smell. If your partner has a vagina, their fluids can temporarily change the pH of your own. Add sweat, arousal and cum to this cocktail, and enjoy the strong whiff of Eau De Sex.

Lubes can mess with your vagina too. If yours is sensitive, we recommend staying away from flavoured lubes and sticking with the plain, paraben-free stuff. Water-based lube is better for your vagina, even though it dries out quicker. Silicone-based lube is long-lasting but coats the internal walls of the vagina where it traps bacterias. The bacteria clings on, multiply and fester… A recipe for an infection!

Going for a pee and a wash after sex is good practice. Wash your vulva (the outer folds) with warm water and mild soap (soap isn’t necessary). Wash front to back to avoid spreading bacteria, and also make sure no soap goes inside your vagina.

Vaginal health includes keeping the pelvic floor in good shape

Pelvic floor exercising should be part of your vaginal health routine too. Experiencing leakages when you laugh, cough, run or lift, is a sign of a weakened PC muscle. Another common complaint is that vaginal penetration offers less stimulation for one or both partners. Orgasmic contractions are duller, and there’s an inability to “grip” firmly around a penis, finger or dildo. If this is the case for you, we have some great advice on pelvic floor exercising here.

Make sure your sex toys are squeaky clean

Not keeping your sex toys fresh and clean for every playtime is likely to result in an infection. We know many peeps are fond of chucking their toys under the bed where they’re ‘stored’ until the next session. Lube, vaginal juices and dust will accumulate, and bacteria multiply. Make sure you wash your bedtime bud before and every use and replace it if it’s beginning to look manky. Toys made of silicone, steel and glass are the most hygienic, so why not treat yourself to something new? And, keep up the sex toy cleaning routine. Trust us: Your vag will thank you!