According to a report published in peer reviewed medical journal Gynecology & Obstetrics (1) investigators reported that the overall prevalence of abnormal vaginal discharge in females is 12 to 30%. Report also suggested that most cases of genital infections (Genital Herpes Learn More) or sexually transmitted diseases (What are STD’s Learn More) are preventable with optimal genital hygiene.
Genital hygiene is a broad term that include several behavioral and habitual factors required for the maintenance of overall physical and sexual health (Healthy Sexual Relationship). Besides reducing the risk of infectious diseases like HIV (HIV Global Learn More), Hepatitis B (Oral STD’s Learn More) and C; optimal genital hygiene also reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea (Gonorrhea Treatment Learn More), Chlamydia (Chlamydia Symptoms Learn More), HPV (HPV in Men Learn More) and other similar ailments. Unlike the popular belief, the concept of maintaining genital hygiene applies to both males and females.
Palaniswamy (2) and associates conducted a study on male patients with a history of urethral strictures. Investigators reported that most study participants reported passage of infected/ pus like urine, frank balanoposthitis and subpreputial calculi along with secondary or multiple urethral strictures. On deeper analysis, it was observed that poor genital hygiene was the main culprit in over 88% of the cases.
Maintaining Optimal Genital Hygiene
A multi-modal approach is needed to maintain functional genital hygiene; a few guidelines are listed below
- Change undergarments daily: It may seem amazing but according to a study conducted on University students in Turkey, it was reported that only 47.6% students change their underwear on daily basis.
Besides periodic changing of undergarments, there are several other factors that may help in reducing the risk of infections by optimizing personal and genital hygiene. Such as cotton undergarments offer less friction/ irritation to genital region as compared to silk garments; pantyhose and tight fighting garments increases the risk of genital irritation. Likewise, use of briefs in males increase the risk of sweat accumulation and resulting irritation.
Daily bathing: It is recommended to bathe at least once a day (regardless of seasons, especially if you have a dynamic lifestyle) to wash away dirt, sweat and impurities.
- Frequent washing of genital area: Frequent washing and appropriate wiping practices after defecation or urination helps a great deal in reducing the risk of bacterial contamination. The pubic region (Pubic Region Learn More) should be wiped from front to back in order to reduce the risk of fecal contamination of vagina/ urethra. In addition, washing genital region is also recommended after sexual intercourse.
Research conducted by Nigel O’Farrell and associates (3) suggested that uncircumcised males (Circumcision Benefits Lear More) are at much higher risk of developing sexually transmitted diseases and infections than circumcised males. Likewise, uncircumcised males require more proactive approach to maintain genital hygiene.
- Sex toys: Sex toys and objects that are used during the act of intercourse should be thoroughly cleaned after each use. It is also recommended to avoid using same sex toys on different partners. In addition, avoid using anal toys on vaginal or vice versa.
Obsessed With Genital Hygiene – Helpful or Hazardous?
Limiting the use of perfumed/ scented products for sanitation:
It is also very important not to get overly obsessed with genital cleanliness. For example, a lot of women use perfumed/ scented sanitary products that are extremely dangerous (especially if you have a sensitive skin or propensity to develop allergic reactions).
If you are suffering from bad vaginal odor (Yeast Infection Learn More) or foul smelling vaginal discharge, using douche or scented products can exacerbate the problem. It is recommended to see a healthcare professional for advice.
Cleaning vagina with soap – A Big No-No:
Cleaning/ washing the vagina (inner aspect) with a soap is also fairly hazardous especially because the internal environment and pH of vagina is maintained under strict limits with the help of normal commensals of genital tract. Any alteration in the pH of vagina can increase the risk of infections several folds.
General Tips for Genital Maintenance
- Frequent hand washing especially after using restroom/ loo is helpful in reducing the risk of all infectious diseases.
- Undergarments, towels and personal articles of every individuals should be washed separately
- If you or your partner is suffering from any genital infection, intercourse should be avoided until the infection has resolved completely.
- Circumcision in males reduces the risk of infections and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV (4)
- Develop healthy eating (Healthy Snacks Learn More) and drinking habits; research suggests that certain factors like infrequent voiding of urine, functional retention of stool or poor fluid intake also affects the genital health (5) and increase the risk of recurrent urinary tract infections (UTI Antibiotics Learn More)/ vaginitis and other ailments.
- Practice safe sex (Safe Sex Wiki Page)and use protection in case of chance encounters.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your personal or sexual hygiene or if you are experiencing recurrent attacks of urinary or genital infections; speak to a genital hygienist for further advice.
Sevil, S., Kevser, O., Aleattin, U., Dilek, A., & Tijen, N. (2013). An Evaluation of the Relationship between Genital Hygiene Practices, Genital Infection. Gynecol Obstet, 3(187), 2161-0932.
Palaniswamy, R., & Bhandari, M. (1983). Point of focus: poor genital hygiene and terminal urethral strictures. Tropical and geographical medicine, 35(2), 139-143.
O’Farrell, N., Quigley, M., & Fox, P. (2005). Association between the intact foreskin and inferior standards of male genital hygiene behaviour: a cross-sectional study. International journal of STD & AIDS, 16(8), 556-559.
Weiss, H. A. (2007). Male circumcision as a preventive measure against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Current opinion in infectious diseases, 20(1), 66-72.
Mazzola, B. L., von Vigier, R. O., Marchand, S., Tönz, M., & Bianchetti, M. G. (2002). Behavioral and functional abnormalities linked with recurrent urinary tract infections in girls. Journal of nephrology, 16(1), 133-138.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]