How To Wash Your Vagina — Plus More Awks Period Questions Answered

Step away from the sanitary "perfume".


Dr Christine Kriel |

  • Is your period normal?
  • How to wash your vagina on your period.
  • Plus: Everything else you need to know about your flow.

Embarrassed by your period? Let’s break down the lingering stigma and shame this Menstrual Hygiene Day (28 May). From how to wash your vagina on your period to yeast infections, it’s time to start talking…

Periods – what’s the problem?

With more than half the world’s population being women, what’s with our monthly flow being such a taboo topic? From cute little names like “red lady” and embarrassed innuendo like “that time of the month” to sneakily hiding your tampon under your sleeve as you head to the loo, convo around menstruation is still very much hush-hush.

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So, what’s normal?

A normal period comes in a cycle of 21 to 35 days, lasting two to seven days, and should progress to a moderate, relatively painless bleed. Using a period app like Glow or Flo is a good way of tracking your cycle.

How to tell if your period is considered “heavy”

Heavy periods – if you’re using more than 16 regular tampons or pads during a period, you have a heavy flow. This is often the result of a hormonal imbalance (so it’s worth mentioning to your gynae or even your regular doc).

Did you know that popping ibuprofen three times a day can reduce your flow by 50 percent? It will obviously also help with pain. And don’t fret – there’s no problem using ibuprofen for short periods. Just make sure you always take it on a full stomach because it can damage your stomach lining. If this doesn’t help, chat to your doc to exclude other causes, like an underactive thyroid, bleeding disorders or uterine conditions like fibroids or polyps.

READ MORE: “I Tried Moontime Reusable Pads – Now I Won’t Go Back To The Regular Kind”

How much pain is too much?

Period pain is normal for the first two days of your period and should improve with ibuprofen. It should not interfere with school or work. Taking regular supplements like magnesium and zinc can offer relief. Ditto with exercise. Again, if this doesn’t help, consult your doc to exclude other causes.

Pads, tampons or menstrual cups?

Choose your product wisely – find one that best suits your lifestyle. Pads are a good choice for those with light periods and should be changed every eight hours to prevent skin irritation and infection. Tampons are ideal for active women and should be changed every four to eight hours.

Menstrual cups can be safely used for up to 12 hours – this is a great option for those without regular access to clean toilets. Often, women avoid using tampons or cups because they’re not exactly sure how to use them. You might not get it right the first time. Ask for advice from a friend or healthcare professional on how to insert them correctly.

And… the hygiene thing…

Wash properly with water and soap. Remember that blood can run into your vaginal folds during the day, so wash with water and soap on the outside of your vagina and in the folds. Always wipe from front to back to prevent faecal bacteria causing infection. Then step away from the sanitary perfumes and soaps, and give douching a skip – all of this disturbs your normal vaginal flora, putting you at risk of infection. Your vagina cleanses itself with secretions, causing a normal, healthy discharge.

READ MORE: 5 Alternatives To Pads And Tampons You Should Think About Trying

Can I Have Sex on my period?

There’s nothing wrong with having sex during your period, but condoms are recommended. Why? You’re at an increased risk of yeast infections and STDs because menstrual blood increases your pH. There’s also a higher risk of getting HIV for both partners. Though unlikely, you still have a chance of falling pregnant during your period if you’re not on another form of contraception.

And be kind to yourself

No, your period shouldn’t affect your daily functioning, but it is okay to take special care of yourself during this time. It’s important to sleep enough, eat healthily and drink plenty of water. If you’re absolutely dying to have a chocolate, that’s also okay. Try not to take your moods out on others, but remember that PMS is normal, because of fluctuations of hormones like oestrogen. Go easy on yourself. You’re awesome.

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READ MORE ON: Health Health Advice Periods Sexual Health Vaginas