NB: I am not a gynaecologist. Contact a healthcare professional before taking my advice.
Vaginal health is as important as your mental and physical health. Unfortunately, due to misconceptions spewed by people who often don't even have a vagina, knowing how to take care of such a "taboo" part of your body can be hard.
Here are a few practical tips and tricks to improve your vaginal health, sans the myths:
"The vagina is a tube of muscle inside a woman's body that runs from the cervix (the opening of the womb) to the vaginal opening. The external sex organs, which are called the vulva, surround the vaginal opening." - NHS UK
Image: Lucy Han via Teen Vogue
#1: USE PROTECTION
If you're sexually active, I don't need to tell you how important it is to use protection. There are steps both males and females can take in order to ensure you don't contract an STD (sexually transmitted disease), and/or fall pregnant.
#2: CONSISTENCY IS KEY
Vaginal discharge, (a clear or white mucus), is your vagina's way of cleaning itself.
Vaginal discharge can vary from person to person, and the only time you should be concerned is when the colour, odour or consistency changes. If it does, visit a healthcare professional.
#3: BREATHE, BABY, BREATHE
Your vagina, much like you, needs to breathe. Constricting your vagina by frequently wearing thongs, tight clothing or underwear made of synthetic material is not only uncomfortable, but can lead to a vaginal infection.
Instead, opt for cotton underwear on a daily basis, wearing thongs on occasion, and consider sleeping naked.
#4: WHAT'S UP, DOC?
A gynecologist is a physician who specialises in female re-productivity.
It is important, as soon as you turn 18 or become sexually active, to visit a gynecologist to make sure your vagina is happy and healthy.
#5: DON'T DOUCHE!
Again, your vagina is self-cleaning. There is no need for you to use foreign substances to "clean" your vagina, because it could do more harm than good.
Douching can lead to STD's, infections, abnormal discharge, and the list goes on.
#6: FROM FRONT TO BACK
Contaminating your vagina, either while using the toilet or during sex, can cause infection and increase your chances of contracting an STD.
The cardinal rule is: always go from front (vagina) to back (anus), and if going from anal sex to vaginal sex, change condoms and/or thoroughly clean your genitals.
It's important to wash your labia to get rid of sweat, bacteria and odour.
Using water to clean around the area should suffice, but if you prefer to go the extra mile, using an unscented, pH balanced soap can also do the trick. It is, however, recommended to only use warm water.