No, 'Winter Vagina' Is Not a Thing
The concept of a "winter vagina" is not new, but it sure gains plenty of airtime when temperatures drop in the Northern Hemisphere.
A couple of back-to-back articles set the conversation in motion this year. A tabloid article claimed it is, in fact, real. Meanwhile, a different article took a more speculative approach, asking, "Is 'winter vagina' an actual thing?"
Actress Felicia Day shared a screenshot of the second article with her fans, and that's when things really took off. "Why do I even read the news anymore," she rhetorically asked her 1.5M followers on Instagram and 2.6M on Twitter. Soon, it seemed the whole internet was asking if they needed to winterize their vaginas.
But, no, winter vagina is not a thing.
"There is no clinical entity known as winter vagina," said Kecia Gaither, M.D., MPH, FACOG, a double board-certified OB-GYN. "I have no idea how the rumor began," she added.
"As an expert in female pelvic medicine, reconstructive surgery and sexual wellness, I would like to say definitively that the 'winter vagina' is not a thing! Nor is there a 'summer vagina!'" said Patricia A. Wallace, M.D., a gynecologist and Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery specialist with Providence Mission Hospital in Orange County, California.
Understanding what affects your vaginal health
What does make some sense, according to Wallace, is that when the climate changes, our habits, hydration, clothing, hygiene and our sexual frequency changes. All of these factors do influence vaginal health. If you notice a change in your vaginal health, including reduced moisture, these lifestyle changes could be the real culprit.
"Vaginal dryness can be caused by medications, hormonal fluctuations, age, medical conditions. The ambient outside temperature has no effect on the vagina, as it is an internal organ," Gaither explained.
The vagina is a microbiome, teeming with life in the form of bacteria and fungi that keep the vaginal environment healthy. An imbalance of the beneficial microorganisms may lead to itchiness and dryness, among other issues, including infections.
Cold weather habits such as hot baths, including fragrance-filled bubble baths, layers of less-breathable clothing, such as tights, and perhaps increased stress over the holidays can cause changes in the vaginal environment that can lead to dryness, irritation and infections.
Tips for preventing vaginal dryness
Vaginal health is directly impacted by hormone levels, birth control, antibiotics and sex, according to Wallace. "The vagina is a resilient part of the body and often self-correcting when there is a change. There is a local microbiome that keeps the pH acidic, reducing [the] risk of infection and enhancing lubrication," she said.
In any season, vagina owners need to stay hydrated, wear cotton underwear when possible, change out of wet clothing and urinate after sex.
"There is usually no need for additional measures," Wallace said. "However, if a person experiences vaginal dryness, itching, or a change in discharge or odor, then a few things can be tried before heading to the doctor."
Here are Wallace's additional tips for a healthy vagina this winter (and every season):
- Emily Morse, of Sex With Emily, says, "Lube is life!" And I agree!
- You don't have to be "dry" to use lubrication during intimacy. It actually enhances sensation and arousal. If choosing a water-based lube, make sure it is glycerin-free and have a water squirt bottle ready because water-based lubes dry up quickly.
- Take an oral probiotic to replenish the lactobacillus and other helpful bacteria, especially if you're on antibiotics.
- Boric acid capsules or suppositories are available over the counter and can restore vaginal pH if you notice mild itching or a change in discharge or odor.
Of course, if there is any significant change, doubt or a lack of response to the above, seek professional help from your doctor. Never ignore lasting itchiness and dryness, or any condition that causes discomfort or painful sex.