A healthy vagina is important for all women, particularly once they've become sexually active. A woman's vagina needs to maintain a slightly acidic pH level to prevent bad bacteria from taking over, and sustaining the correct pH can be tricky when having sex is part of the scenario.
If you're sexually active, check out our list of what you should, and shouldn't, do to help achieve a good balance.
Do enjoy safe sex with latex condoms
If you're having sex with a male, it's important to practice safe sex for a variety of reasons. When it comes to your vaginal health, sexual encounters with a man who uses latex condoms can prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and keep your vaginal pH balanced.
Don't have unprotected sex
The general rule is that you should never have unprotected sex—the exception being if you're in a long-term, monogamous relationship with a partner you trust. However, this is particularly important if you're prone to developing yeast infections. Semen is alkaline and can alter your vagina's acidic pH and lead to bacteria growth. Unprotected sex with a woman is safer but can still spread STIs or STDs. If one of you is prone to infections, know that they can spread through genital-to-oral contact. You can use dental dams (latex or polyurethane sheets placed between the mouth and vagina or anus during oral sex) to continue having sex safely.
Do urinate after sex
Urinating after sexual intercourse won't prevent pregnancy or STIs/STDs, but it can help flush bacteria out of your urethra, which lowers your chances of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) or other infection.
Don't use scented condoms or lube
Some vaginas are extremely sensitive to pH changes, which could be why some women develop bacterial vaginosis (BV) and yeast infections more frequently than others. The best way to decrease your chances of infection is to avoid scented or flavored condoms or lubricant altogether. The chemicals in these products can be harsh on your vagina and could alter your pH level.
Do clean sex toys regularly
Sex toys can be great tools for a solo session and immense fun with a partner, but they can also act as breeding grounds for bacteria. To ensure your vagina stays healthy, wash your sex toys after each use with hot water and gentle, unscented soap. Be sure to adhere to the manufacturer's instructions.
If you do change orifices, change the condom
Even if you're having protected sex, it's important that your partner always changes condoms during any switch from anal to vaginal sex or vice versa. The same rule applies when switching from vaginal or anal sex to oral sex. Use a fresh condom every time you switch to reduce the chance of spreading bacteria.
Do gently clean your vulva daily
The good news is your vagina is self-cleaning. To keep your genital area fresh, simply wash the exposed areas of the vulva gently with water and/or a mild, fragrance-free soap.
Don't use douche or soap inside your vagina
Douching products and vaginal soaps often target women who want their vagina to smell fresher. Your vagina should have a musky, earthy smell naturally, and attempting to cover that up can cause bacteria growth and infections. Avoid douche and scented soaps; opt instead for gentle, unscented soaps if you desire.
Sex can be a lot of fun, but not if it's causing vaginal infections and bacterial imbalance. Practice good sexual hygiene to keep your vagina safe and reduce your chances of throwing off your pH level.