Sexual health: 8 things you need to know

It’s the embarrassing problem no woman wants to talk about.

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Itching, burning or discharge ‘down below’ can leave many in agony – but some are too mortified to seek help.

Leading gynaecologist Dr Ahmed Ismail, of Queensway Gynaecology, London, said a healthy vagina is one that is odourless and symptom-free.

Women should have regular check ups to ensure their nether regions are in good order – whether they are sexually active or not, he said.

Writing for Healthista, he said there are steps women can take to protect themselves from catching infections and ensure their under carriages are well ventilated.

From washing sex toys to wearing cotton underwear, below he shares his best tips…

1) SIT ON YOUR OWN TOWEL IN PUBLIC PLACES

When using public toilets and swimming baths, jacuzzis, spas and saunas, always use your own personal towels to avoid picking up thrush or bacterial vaginosis, which can commonly be found on surfaces and transmitted.

2) WASH YOUR VAGINA – BUT NOT WITH ANTIBACTERIAL SOAP 

If you’re out for long hours, make time to wash your vagina with normal water, allow time for ventilation and dry it properly during the day.

There’s no need to use harsh antibacterial soaps as these will change the delicate pH balance present in your vagina and could also wash away important good bacteria as well as bad.

This could actually make any unpleasant smells worse.

3) AVOID WEARING SYNTHETIC UNDERWEAR

Cotton underwear is always preferable as this will keep the area dry, well ventilated and less exposed to allergic reactions.

4) CLEAN YOUR SEX TOYS

If you use sex toys during sex or masturbation, make sure that your hands and/or any apparatus are extremely clean. Wash with warm water and soap to remove potential bacteria or infection. 

5) NO TIGHT CLOTHING

Try to avoid wearing tight pants for long hours as they can also reduce ventilation.

6) SEEK REGULAR MEDICAL ADVICE EVEN IF YOU ARE CELIBATE

If you are celibate, you should always seek gynaecological advice to check that your vagina is healthy.

7) SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE IF YOU ARE SEXUALLY ACTIVE

If you are sexually active and have developed discharge as a result of a new (or old) relationship, you must seek gynaecological advice to check that you are not carrying an STD. If you are infected, it is important that both you and your partner receive treatment immediately.   

8) BE CAREFUL WITH ANAL SEX

If you participate in anal sex, you must always be sure not to have vaginal sex following anal sex.

If you do, it can result in devastating and extremely serious medical problems, as infections including E-coli are transmitted via one’s back passage and can then be transmitted to the vagina and urethra – the pipe which carries urine out of the body.

This can lead to severe cystitis, endometritis, pelvic infection, pelvic adhesions and chronic pelvic pain and lead to fertility problems.

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