Summertime. You’re sweating a lot, all over, but there’s one area that gets particularly, shall we say, lush. Sure, people laugh, even commiserate about swamp ass all the time, but why isn’t anyone talking about swamp vagina?
Beyond the discomfort of having constantly sweat-saturated lady parts, the excess moisture can also cause a couple issues, namely yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis (BV). While you obviously can’t avoid sweating, there are a few ways to keep your subtropical region in check. We consulted Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center, to talk us through the “lifestyle measures” we can take to maintain good vaginal health during these muggy months.
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“I would probably refrain from exercising in [excessive] heat,” Shirazian says. As you sweat, the moisture that accumulates in and around your vagina “sets off the vaginal pH, so there’s an overgrowth of yeast and bacteria," she explains.
If you’re hooked on staying active, no matter the temp, at least be vigilant about changing out of that sweaty underwear as soon as you’re done your workout, Shirazian says. If you commute to work via bike, bring a clean pair of underwear to change into. If you use baby wipes, make sure they’re scent-and- fragrance-free, she notes, which can also alter pH balance. “Even water on toilet paper would be good,” she says.
You also want to be sure the clothing you’re wearing isn’t restrictive, she adds. (Thongs and tight jean shorts are not the best idea.)
If you spend a lot of time in pools during the summer, be mindful that the exposure to chlorine could also disrupt things down there. To prevent against that happening, Shirazian says to make sure you’re not sitting around in a wet swimsuit — a good rule of thumb after swimming in salt or fresh water, as well.
Shirazian recommends a daily dose of an over-the-counter probiotic supplement — especially for women who are already prone to yeast infections — to keep your pH levels in check. Foods that contain probiotics, such as yogurt, kombucha and kimchi are also good to work into your daily diet.
Stay away from high-sugar foods, which can cause an overgrowth of yeast. That includes alcohol, particularly those fruity, summery cocktails like margaritas and pina coladas.
Wearing tampons for too many hours can cause bacteria to grow. “Anything that you’re placing internally during your menstrual cycle, change it frequently, every few hours,” she says. That also goes for reusable menstrual devices, such as a Diva Cup.
What about sex?
Because it’s hotter outside, bacteria breed more, causing any bacterial infection you have, like a urinary tract infection (UTI), to likely be worse in the summer, Shirazian explains, although you’re not more likely to get a UTI now than any other time of year. One of the main causes of a UTI is bacteria from the vagina, penis, or anus getting trapped in the urethra during sex.
“Sex is a year-round thing, but maybe it’s happening more in the summer, I don’t know,” she jokes. Using a condom can lower your chances by preventing the exchange of sperm and vaginal bacteria, she explains. (Peeing after sex is another good move, as it helps clear out the urinary tract.)
You should always practice good hygiene with any sex toys that you use, as well, and be even more vigilant during the summer months. “Anything that you put inside you that has the ability to grow bacteria, can affect the pH,” she explains. Make sure you’re cleaning your sex toys with soap and water after each use.