May 13-19 is Women’s Health Week. Instead of trying to tackle a whole host of all-over-the-place issues, we thought we would focus on something we always we have questions about — the area down there. That includes the vagina and its parts, the uterus, and a few issues pertaining to our private parts that it never hurts to know more about. To educate ourselves, we sought out the insight of Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald. She is a board-certified OB-GYN based in Chicago and author of the super informative and funny book, It Smells Just Like Popcorn: The Modern Woman’s A-V Guide to Her Vagina and Beyond. This women’s health expert gave us the rundown on what we should know about our sexual and reproductive anatomy, the right way to take care of it, and what it’s all capable of.
We’ve all been there. After a sweat-inducing workout that leaves us drenched, we meet up with friends for brunch, run some errands, and get all too comfortable in our tight and wet exercise pants. We’ve also been there, sleeping in our underwear, and putting on panties of a non-breathable material underneath our tight jeans, leaving everything down there begging for air. And while some of us are lucky enough to not end up with yeast infections and bacteria buildup from our choices of what we put on, how often and for how long, others aren’t so lucky. As many as 75 percent of us will have a yeast infection, at least one, in a lifetime. Not to mention, bacterial vaginosis is more common in women of color. But that doesn’t mean these infections have to be a common occurrence, and pain in the cooch, for you.
“A lot of it comes down to when you have a lot of moisture,” says Dr. Wendy of the reason vaginal infections happen. “The overgrowth of the fungi and stuff like that are just more likely to happen in those areas. They already have a tendency to be more moist. So it’s like an area that, for lack of a better term, is almost always sweating. It’s not sweating necessarily, but there’s the discharge and there’s moisture. So having something that’s restricting that air movement at all times could predispose some women to develop infections or skin irritation, rashes, stuff like that.”
Because of that, it’s encouraged that you ease up on certain style choices. Tight clothes are ok, as long as you switch things up, and the material of the clothing you wear is also of great significance. Also, it’s ok to go commando for bed.
“It’s important to let it breathe, to not always wear super tight clothes, and not always sleep in underwear, especially for somebody who finds themselves prone to infection,” says Dr. Wendy. “Maybe you need to take your underwear off at night and be able to breathe. Even in the gym, maybe you don’t need to wear the super polyester, non-breathable cute outfit. You need to make sure your stuff is cotton when you’re working out.”
And as for those who end up regretting wearing workout pants longer than expected and encouraged, infections due to already present moisture end up being more common.
“Not everybody, but some people with more moisture are going to have an overgrowth of yeast,” says Dr. Wendy. “For those individuals, yeast infections and just general skin irritations, skin rashes are more and more prevalent. So you even see some people who have, maybe it’s not a yeast infection, it’s almost like a jock itch, which, isn’t an internal yeast infection, but there’s a degree of yeast that can build up on the external skin in response to too much moisture for too long.”
With that being said, give your vagina a chance to breathe when you can. Be smart about quickly changing out of and putting back on workout clothing that’s not completely dry or clean. And for those who suffer from consistent yeast infections, try sleeping sans underwear to give your private parts a chance to forgo the irritation and moisture faced throughout the day. Your vagina will thank you.