Guest Author - Tammy Elizabeth Southin
All the parts of our body need to ‘breathe’ or have adequate oxygen intake. The vulvar region is no exception! It needs oxygen to help sustain a healthy vulvar region. Common sense, not to mention common decency, dictates that we keep our ‘privates’ properly covered and concealed at most times. But in the privacy of your home or bedroom, taking time to ‘air out the vulvar region’ will help you become more comfortable with this part of your body and care for it. For those suffering from the dreaded night sweats allowing the vulvar area to breathe means greater comfort during the night.
Air circulation and the vulvar region
During menopause, genital dryness is a common symptom that affects anywhere between 40 to 60 percent of women. But airing out the vulvar region is not referring to increasing the dryness in this region. Rather, it means allowing oxygen to circulate around your genital area to maintain proper health. Women suffering from night sweats often wake up drenched with the vulvar area being particularly moist and uncomfortable.
Think of our feet and how they sweat when bound up in socks all day, or our skin perspires to cool us off. When we wear tight clothes made of materials that prohibit air getting near the skin, the natural breathing process of the skin is affected. When we remove our socks or change into loose fitting clothing, we allow air to make contact with our feet or skin. This wicks away excess moisture (removing sweat from the skin) and prevents too much bacteria from building up.
Keeping a healthy vulvar region
Along the same lines, when the vulva is allowed to have contact with air it can do a much more efficient job of keeping itself clean and free from harmful bacteria. Vulvar or feminine dryness associated with menopause is due to decreasing levels of estrogen, leading to dryness in the interior vulvar walls. The outside of the vulvar area still requires oxygen to ensure that fewer bacteria make their way inside.
Menopausal vulvar dryness can mean irritation and sometimes slight tears in the interior walls. Keeping the vulvar region healthy and clean will prevent bacteria from entering those small interior tears and possibly causing more serious infections.
What about showering or bathing?
All day long, we have to keep ourselves under wraps and that often means wearing tight fitting underwear, pantyhose, or slacks. This allows more moisture to build up. Daily bathing or showering is a must to keep everything clean. Excess moisture can cause unpleasant or strong odors. Allowing air to circulate around the genital area will help it keep its natural moisture balance which in turn keeps it healthy. A healthy vulvar region has a natural scent that is quite normal.
I am not roaming around stark naked!
This is not so much about walking around in the all together or becoming a nudist. It is about ensuring that we shed the tight clothes in favor of lighter and looser fitting fabrics that give a chance for air to circulate around the skin. Most types of pyjamas or nightgowns are perfect choices to accommodate modesty and personal preferences.
Depending on your tastes and comfort level, you may be able to sleep ‘bottomless’ - a night gown or without pyjama bottoms - to allow greater air circulation while in bed. However, if this is not a choice you are comfortable making you can choose to wear pyjamas made of cotton. Make sure the bottoms are loose enough to allow sufficient air flow. Many women keep a fan by the bed to help increase air circulation in the room; others keep a cold cloth nearby to help cool down in the event of a night sweat.
Other tips for vulvar health
During the day, choose to wear cotton underwear instead of nylon fabrics. There are also several brands of pantyhose that feature cotton crotch inserts that keep moisture to a minimum. Sprinkling a small amount of moisture absorbing baby powder or talc also helps. When wearing panty liners, change them frequently; particularly after working out or during hot weather.
Above all, avoid using those commercial deodorant sprays or douches. These products have made women feel ashamed of their bodies; we are to consider ‘down there’ to be a negative aspect of being a woman. But when allowed to perform its natural cleansing functions, the vulvar area is capable of keeping harmful bacteria out. Daily washing and air circulation will keep the vulva healthy without having to spend money on needless products designed to make women insecure.
For some women, this topic is very difficult to talk about; for those who have had children modesty may have decreased a little. But all women owe it themselves to keep their bodies in the best shape possible during menopause. The vulvar region is not very high maintenance. A few minutes of fresh air every day will help keep it clean and functioning properly.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You