There are several wonderful reasons to use cloth pads: they help save the planet from huge piles of disposable products; they save us a big slice of cash that would otherwise be flushed down the toilet (oh, wait… not supposed to flush those things, sorry!); they’re more comfortable; the colours and patterns can bring us joy instead of making us feel like we have an ailment. But then there’s the health issue…
We ladies have a long history of ill-treating our parts, due to various cultural pressures. I’m thinking here about the wonders of Lysol douches (touted in their day as not only great birth control, but also as a marital aid to reduce feminine scent), and of puffing great clouds of baby powder into your undies, undoubtedly for similar smell-related reasons. I remember using a public washroom after an older lady had vacated it and being very confused about all the powder left on the seat. Was she a very rich and devil-may-care cokehead?? No, she was not. She was simply under the impression that it was necessary to walk around with a cup full of talc in her crotch.
Thank goodness those days are gone, right? But, there’re not quite, unfortunately. There’s still a huge market for various products designed to address vaginal odour: feminine wash; feminine wipes (what’s so feminine about scouring your nether regions into oblivion anyway?); intimate deodorant powder; scented panty liners and pads. Why is there so much fear around this subject? If left unchecked, will the smell overtake all that we hold dear in the world? Will it be like the 2007 refuse strike, with us all pinching our noses as we walk around? Now, I did go to college with a girl whose boots could command nasal attention from about 10 ft away, but I have no recollection of becoming aware of another woman’s vaginal odour. And, as for those who might get a little closer to other people’s vaginas than I generally do, well… isn’t the scent part of the charm?
You want to know the truth about vaginas? A healthy vagina has a pleasant, sweet smell. It’s true. In fact, you probably wouldn’t have to walk far down the high street before you passed someone who really REALLY likes the smell. Whether or not they’d be willing to talk about it in the street is another matter entirely. As for an unhealthy vagina, the smell is one way that our bodies use to let us know that something needs attention (but not douching, please and thank you). Why would we want to spritz and spray our way into denial about something that could be a serious health concern. Maybe it’s just a dietary thing, maybe it’s not. Better to find out why the old honeypot ain’t smelling so sweet, don’t you think?
And here’s a top tip, if you find that you have a yeast infection: Before leaping to the pharmaceuticals, give your system a break and try a natural remedy, like garlic, first (apparently, if you sew straight through a clove and insert it, it can get to the root of the problem, and you’ll have a handy thread to pull it back out again – if you’ve tried this, let us have some feedback please). Or you could simply try pouring some salt water over the whole area a couple of times a day, and see if it brings a little instant relief, before deciding whether medical advice is necessary (and, I repeat, do NOT douche!) Just a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water is enough. Boil the water first, if you want to maximize salt dilution but please please please let it cool down before you pour it on your parts! While I’m on the subject, make sure you’re not being too harsh when you wash. The inner portion of your vagina is actually very good at keeping itself healthy without the interference of soaps, which should only be used on the outer portion.
And this brings us on to the culprits who aren’t quite so showy as the perfumes and medications. How about the chemical filled and treated pads and tampons that are on the market and which have been linked to infections, rashes, TSS, etc.? When we first get our period, we generally fall into step with what the masses are already using, without thinking about whether or not things need to be bleached white and full of some kind of undisclosed unflammable gel. Our mucus membranes are sensitive, permeable little critters and are a big access point into the rest of our bodies. Let’s really start thinking about what we’re putting in and on them, shall we? We think about what goes into our mouths so so much these days, but many of us don’t notice the nasties that are sneaking in via the basement.
And here, as I come to the end of my rant, I should probably throw in a disclaimer and point out (though I’m sure it’s obvious), that I am not a medical expert, and that you should seek medical advice if you are concerned about a vaginal issue. I am merely a random woman who thinks that you and your vagina deserve a break.