Lessening shame around discussing topics like vaginal care, which many shy away from, only helps women gain healthier, happier vaginas.
When I started high school, I remember having severe anxieties about how I was to look after my private area. I thought that there were special soaps, creams or other treatments which could make my vagina smell less like a vagina. There weren’t many people I could speak to about things like this, not even my mum. We were not that close, my mum that is, so bringing up concerns like with her was not an option. If anything, she’ll conclude that I wanted to start having sexual interaction, asides from other concerns and I wasn’t ready for any of that. I did not quite understand why the ways I already washed up were not sufficient enough to give me the effects I desired. Effects, which I realize now, were an impossible expectation, to say the least.
I noticed that on some days, I would have yellow-like discharges on my underwear and it came with a peculiar smell. There was a lot of shame, at least for me, surrounding this. Conversations about body care and vaginal care, in particular, were almost like taboo topics not in my home, so I genuinely didn’t know what was what. Since I was reluctant to confront the situation or ask any questions, I would shove my underwear deep in the laundry basket and frequently wear new ones. After a while, I would throw them all out and ask to be bought new underwear.
One day, my mother got tired of my requests for new underwear and checked my laundry basket. When she saw that I had not been doing my washing frequently, she pulled out the dirtiest pair and asked me how I would ever expect someone growing up to be a woman would live like that. How was I expected to get married and raise children when I could not even wash my own personal garments? My mum had shown me how to wash in the past, indeed I was aware that I was expected to wear my clothing then remove them and have them washed.
However, it was not a failure of logical reasoning as to why I had begun hoarding my clothes without washing them. The yeast infections I was getting were also not a result of the fact that I was not taking two showers per day like my mum insisted I did. It was purely because I did not understand the optimal care required by my vagina. I was using scented soaps, scrubbing the area roughly (even inside) and was still unsatisfied when I got the same results. My entire feeling about my body, its scent and function needed a direct and total overhaul.
One thing I didn’t realize earlier, which I wish I did, is that your vagina will always have a smell. While this may be unpleasant for some of us that are turned off by it, we need to familiarize and accept our scent. Vaginas are self-cleaning, which means that it is absolutely unnecessary to insert any item that claims to clean it out. Wash around the vulva, taking care to part the lips and other folds. Wash with warm or cold water, unscented soap and your fingers. Allow the water to run through the inner crevices as well. If you like to shave or wax, apply coconut oil to the area directly after to lessen the chances of having vaginal bumps or ingrown hairs.
Do not feel insecure about your vagina smell, it is completely normal. So is vagina discharge. Sweat around the vagina has a smell, the vagina has its own scent and so does arousal or other fluids. Get familiar with all of these smells, in order to differentiate accordingly. Everybody’s vagina smell may be different, but as long as it is not a fishy smell (yeast infection) then it is a perfectly normal occurrence.
Also, anybody who is intimate with you should never feed you the misconception that your vagina is not to smell or that you do not clean up well enough because your vagina has a smell. This is wrong. In the morning, your vagina may smell fresher than at the end of the day. All you need to do is hop in the shower and clean up. Do not feel shy to tell your partner you need a wash or communicate that you may have a smell down there if they like spontaneous activities after daily activities or the club. Yeast infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common occurrence, even past adolescence. Learning how to treat them and take care of your vaginal area is all that is required. When we lessen shame around discussing these topics, we all gain healthier, happier vaginas.