It's time to address a simple question that most women don't know the answer to: what's REALLY going on in your vagina when you get an infection? It can be confusing but let's break it down so it's a lot easier to understand how to take good care of yourself.
First, to understand how infections happen, it is important to understand how your vagina keeps itself healthy. Your vagina is the home to many different types of bacteria that work together to keep the pH level acidic. I know what you're thinking: “bacteria” and “acidic” are generally not terms we use to describe something as “healthy”. However, when it comes to your vagina, it is important your vagina stays acidic, between a pH of 3.8-4.5.
Lactobacilli are the most abundant bacteria present in the healthy vagina and are key to keeping you infection free. These “healthy bacteria”, convert glycogen in the vaginal mucus to lactic acid. This process keeps the vaginal environment acidic. Some lactobacilli also convert to hydrogen peroxide, which functions to kill viruses and bad bacteria. Bottom line, lactobacilli are very important to our vaginal health and are a key (major key) factor to keeping it in tip top shape.
So, what happens when the pH in your vagina is off? The “bad bacteria” can grow and cause an array of uncomfortable and irritating symptoms. These symptoms can range from vaginal itching and abnormal vaginal discharge, to vaginal burning and vaginal odor. If you have ever had vaginitis, you know how uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating these symptoms can be. Thankfully, all it takes is a simple swab from your healthcare provider to see which bacteria or fungus is causing the discomfort.
Finally, a note on vaginal hygiene: have you ever heard of a self cleaning oven? You know, the setting where your oven cleans itself without using harsh chemicals? The setting where you do absolutely nothing but watch as the oven adjusts its temperature to make itself perfectly clean. Well, some are surprised to find out the vagina functions in the same way. Luckily for us, this built in mechanism protects our vagina from infections. So, just let her do her thing, take a probiotic if you need a bacteria boost, and cleanse the external labia with a 100% natural cleanser!