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Female Hygene: Keeping it clean down there

By Bukola Adebayo - Nigeria

Do you know that no fragrance, however potent, can overpower an offensive odour from the genital area? By that, we mean the vagina, anus and other organs of the groin.
In a new study published in the Journal of Internal and Reproductive Medicine, researchers say that the state of your genital is the best way a woman can know if she is healthy or not.
They note that though it is not every smell or discharge from the area that is abnormal, it is also perfectly natural to have a slight sweet smell that is non-offensive. But a strong and foul odour is a strong indication of an infection.

Chief Gyneacologist at the May Clinic , New York, Dr. Anthony Parks, says apart from sexually transmitted infections, a smelly crotch could result from poor personal or genital hygiene.
He says,"The genital area is moist and warm. Bacteria can grow easily there. Excretions from the vagina, perspiration and urine can build up thereby making it even easier for the bacteria to grow if we do not care for them the way we should."

Parks states that it is important to regularly wash the anus and the vagina, but warns that failure to do so could put one at greater risk of contracting a vaginal or urinary tract infection.
Here are some common vaginal and urinary tract infections that can occur as a result of poor hygiene.

Trichomoniasis, also referred to as trich or TV, is an infection caused by a protozoan called Trichomonas vaginalis. The symptoms include a discharge that is foul-smelling, frothy, and greenish-yellow. It causes severe itching, painful and frequent urination, and, sometimes, pain in the lower abdomen.

Yeast infection
A yeast infection, or candidiasis, occurs when the yeast fungus called Candida albicans, which is normally found in the vagina and anus, grows above normal levels. The result is a thick, white, cottage cheese-like discharge with itching, redness, and burning.

Gardnerella is another bacterium that is normally found in the vagina. An infection occurs when the amount of gardnerella bacteria increases, causing symptoms such as a gray or yellow, fishy-smelling, creamy discharge and mild itching and burning. The smell may actually become worse after washing since soap reduces acidity and bacteria grow better in a less acidic environment.

Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections can occur when bacteria from the anus or vagina make their way into the urethra and bladder. Urinating helps to flush some of the bacteria from the urinary tract, but sometimes the bacteria left behind can cause an infection. Sexual intercourse, wiping from back to front, or irritants used in a bath (such as bubble bath or bath salts) are common causes of UTIs. The symptoms include painful and frequent urination, burning on urination, blood in the urine, and a fever.
Just like any part of the body, keeping a healthy vagina means taking care of surface areas, avoiding chemicals and listening to your body when something feels out of place.
Parks recommends that the vulva and vagina should be cleaned with a bland bar soap once a day and advises that women should stay away from liquid body washes because they often irritate the vulva area and can lead to burning or itching.

He adds that it is better not to wash the vagina with a soap-based substance every time as too much cleaning can also cause irritation.
The gynaecologist states that besides washing the external genital area, it is important to wipe it with toilet paper after urinating or having a bowel movement.
According to him, solid body waste expelled by the anus contains bacteria that can cause vaginal and urinary tract infections if it is not cleaned off properly and hands should be washed after going to the bathroom.

Therefore, the proper wiping method is from the front to back to ensure that bacteria from the anal area do not make their way to the vaginal and urethral area.
Douches and feminine hygiene sprays are products that work to mask or limit odor or wetness,but doctors argue that these feminine products are unnecessary (unless used for medical reasons) and can cause more harm than good.

According to Parks, douches and feminine sprays can change the natural acidic balance of the vagina, which can cause bacteria to grow and put a woman at risk for infection.
Finally, a major part of good hygiene is being aware of what to wear and making sure that anything that touches the vaginal area is clean.
"A girl should wear cotton underwear or the ones with a cotton crotch, at least. Underwear should be changed daily and after it becomes soiled or wet. Tight or nylon underwear, tight pants, or pantyhose cause greater perspiration, which can allow bacteria to grow.
" Towels should not be shared because they can pass along bacteria. Toilet seats are also breeding grounds for bacteria. It is wise to cover public toilet seats with toilet paper before sitting down. Taking these precautions can help lower the risk of infection and keep the genitals healthy."he states.

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