Keeping Up With Vagina Health Before & After Sex

By Catherine Santino

keep-vagina-healthy-before-after-sex

Have you ever noticed that the characters in movie sex scenes always look impossibly polished after doing the deed, with sweat-free faces and not even a single flyaway? Yeah, that’s just not reality. Sex is messy business, and there should be zero shame in that. The sweat, saliva, and other bodily fluids involved are perfectly natural—in fact, they’re usually a sign of a good time. 

While the mess is all part of the experience, there are still measures you should take to protect your vagina. And no, we’re not talking about douching or other methods of vaginal “cleansing”. Not only are these practices totally unnecessary, they’re also potentially harmful. As Raquel Dardik, MD, a gynecologist and Clinical Associate Professor at NYU Langone Health explains, the vagina is a self-cleaning machine.

“The inside of the vagina does not require any additional ‘cleaning’, she says. “Many problems women have occur when they attempt to ‘steam’, douche, or otherwise clean their vagina. It can change the vaginal flora and that can cause infections.”

Here are the *safe* steps you can take (both before and after sex) to keep your vagina happy and healthy.

wipe down

Though you may sometimes feel like it, it’s not necessary to jump in the shower before or after sex. However, the external vulvar area can get irritated if it remains moist for long periods of time. During penetrative sex, “[The vulva] can also get irritation from seminal fluid, so making sure the area is clean and dry after intercourse is a good idea,” Dr. Dardik says.

To avoid irritation, rinse and dry the area, or simply cleanse with unscented baby wipes. Make sure to stay outside the vagina itself, cleansing only the vulva, labia, and surrounding areas.

drink water

We’ve all been preached to about the importance of staying hydrated, but you might not realize how your vagina can also benefit. Not only will drinking water keep your external genital skin hydrated, it can also help you stay lubricated internally. Which, of course, makes for a much more enjoyable sexual experience.

Dehydrated skin in and outside of the vagina can also lead to itching or even infection. Sherry A. Ross, M.D., a women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period., told The Huffington Post that dryness can result in an unbalanced pH, which could cause yeast or other bacterial infections.

pee!

It’s no secret that UTIs (or urinary tract infections) are a very real risk for sexually active people with vaginas. “UTIs are common in sexually active women, especially in women who have not been active in some time and are active with a new partner,” Dr. Dardik says, “Or in women who are more sexually active than they have recently been, even with the same partner.

To avoid this extraordinarily uncomfortable infection, Dr. Dardik recommends peeing after intercourse (within 30 minutes usually suffices), a practice that prevents any bacteria that may have entered the urethra from taking hold in the body. “Also, whenever possible, avoid touching vaginal and urethral area after touching near the anal area,” she adds.

be wary of bacteria

This leads us to what is still, for some reason, a taboo topic...anal sex. When partaking in anal sex, it’s important to take extra caution to avoid spreading fecal bacteria. “Making sure not to have contact that is from the anal area to the vaginal area is important as fecal bacterial can potentially disrupt the vaginal ecosystem and create infections,” Dr. Dardik says. 

Before anything (penis, sex toy, fingers, you name it) is transferred from the anus to the vagina, be sure to wash thoroughly and/or put on a new condom.

know your partners’ history

Of course, you should always be aware of your partners’ sexual health status so you don’t contract any transmissible sexual infections. It’s not always the most pleasant conversation to have, but it’s important to be transparent in order to avoid the spread of STIs and STDs.

What’s on your checklist for keeping your V healthy before and after sex? Let us know in the comments. 

Catherine Santino is a freelance writer in New York City. She’s written for Bustle, HelloGiggles, Sunday Riley, and Wonderland Magazine, among many others. Currently, Catherine is a contributing editor at LADYGUNN Magazine, where her work has been featured online and in print. You can check out more of her writing here.