Keeping Your “Lady Parts” Healthy
For this post I'm turning over my blog over to Dr. Anna Cabeca, Emory University trained gynecologist and obstetrician and menopause and sexual health expert, so she can let you know more about keeping your "lady parts" healthy. Here's Dr. Cabeca...
You can see the health of your face; the wrinkles, the dryness or irritation (such as breakouts from pH imbalances, toxins and stress), sunburns and more.
The same thing can be said about your “lady parts”! Yes, it’s true!
A doctor can look and easily see if your skin “down there” is dry and irritated. Is it a healthy color, is it a healthy pH? Is there discharge or a brewing infection? How is the vaginal musculature?
But shouldn’t YOU know what’s going on “down there”? After all, it’s YOUR body! And the health of your feminine parts is so important to your overall health and happiness! I can’t tell you how many patients and clients come to me saying they can’t even go jogging, or enjoy a favorite sport, as they are in pain or need to wear a pad due to urinary leakage.
As we age our hormones naturally decline and this has a direct impact on our lady parts.
As a gynecologist, I always tell my female clients – even those who are not having sex – that they need to know what’s going on in their vagina and vulva, especially relating to their overall pelvic health. The reason? If your vagina and pelvic floor muscles are not continually cared for, you are likely to experience resultant symptoms. And those are going to get worse over time. That tiny leak of pee that occurs every time you laugh can turn into the need for surgery down the road! And increasing dryness and discomfort can make you shy away from things that have always brought you great happiness and pleasure.
So grab a mirror and let’s check out those lady bits!
You should assess your vulva and vaginal area just like you would check out those breakouts on your face. Learn what’s normal for you. Know when you need to ask your doctor questions! Evaluate if what you are doing to care for your feminine parts is adequate. Know what causes irritations or other problems (is it that new bubble bath or fancy soap?). Are your folds red or burning?
Wait? What’s a fold…?
Well, maybe you need to know where to find things first.
Where the heck is your vulva?
The parts of your vulva can be depicted with an orchid
You can view my short video to learn where your vulva is as well as learn a bit about the different aspects of your vulva. I like to use the analogy of an orchid when talking about the vulva as it is so appropriate! Just like with orchids, vulvas come in many variations, shapes and sizes; all completely normal. Know that “normal” is what is normal for YOU. Don’t get caught up in media depictions of “perfect” vulvas! So many women run to get their vulva “fixed” with surgery. I say, “Don’t do it!”
The video also mentions a few things you should do to keep things healthy “down there.”
One important aspect of keeping your lady bits in top shape is exercise. But do you know which kind?
Why a healthy hammock is so important
Along with checking your vulva and understanding what’s normal for you, you need to focus on the musculature beneath this area. The muscles here will determine whether you experience urinary leakage when you laugh or cough.
I refer to these muscles as a “hammock” as it a great visual similar to my use of “orchid” to depict your vulva… Your pelvic floor muscles are very much like a hammock, see the picture… and they very much hold everything up!
Your pelvic floor and vaginal musculature needs to be strong or you are likely to experience incontinence as well as pelvic prolapse issues (as organs fall downward)
Over time, natural hormone declines as well as “life” can weaken these muscles. Pregnancies, being overweight, improperly done exercises, squats or pilates for instance, as well as being sedentary affect our pelvic floor muscles. Darn!
The best thing you can do to maintain these all-important muscles is to exercise them. And the best way to do that is through Kegel exercises.
How to do the perfect Kegel (and keep that hammock strong!)
A lot of women don’t do Kegels on a regular basis. And many women do Kegel exercises incorrectly! Do you? (and how can you know?)
To be sure ask your gynecologist during your annual exam! This is the type of discussion you should already be having with your doctor!
A self-test you can do is to try and stop your urine midstream when you are peeing.
If you can’t stop your urine stream, your pelvic floor muscles are likely not as strong as they should be. Note that this isn’t a test you should repeat too often (and definitely don’t do this as an exercise routine!) as it can work against your muscle control. Just do it to initially self-test yourself…and maybe repeat in a month if you implement Kegels. And then test yourself infrequently after that.
Again, doing Kegels is important so that,
- You won’t have urinary leakages when you cough, sneeze and laugh!
- Your pelvic muscles keep providing optimum support to your bladder, vagina and uterus.
- You will have more pleasure, intense orgasms.
- You can stay more active.
- You have increased healthy blood vessels and blood flow and nerve supply to your vital pelvic tissues.
- You have increased confidence and self-esteem to live your life fully.
Here’s how to do the perfect Kegels
- Envision your perineal body, which is the general region between the vagina and anus. Pull up on an exhale and really feel those pelvic floor muscles come up and contract together.
- Initially, hold for a count of three. Eventually you'll get up to a count of six or a count of eight. Then relax.
- While you're holding your pelvic muscles up, I want you to practice continuing to breathe normally and relax—so you don't create counterproductive abdominal pressure that will work against your efforts.
- Repeat three sets of eight lifts, three to five times per week.
I also created a helpful video that will give you a more in-depth explanation!
How to test that you're doing your Kegels correctly.
An easy way to check is to put your fingers on the perineal body and as you contract your pelvic floor, pulling it up, you should feel it rise. Ideally, you should first do it lying down on your side, where you're not putting any abdominal pressure on your pelvic floor so you can relax and focus on the muscles.
Remember my visuals for your feminine health!
Orchids come in all variations, but all are beautiful and all need nurturing to thrive. One great way to nourish this area is with my beautiful new Julva® restorative feminine cream. Julva addresses so many issues women face as their hormones naturally decline, including vaginal dryness and discomfort (which can often be a problem for younger women, too).
Hammocks are needed for strength (and to defy gravity!)! So when was the last time you did a Kegel? And as an added benefit, my Julva feminine cream contains DHEA which research has shown improves the musculature of all three layers - the deeper layers - of the vagina. This increases the density of collagen fibers in the vaginal wall and stimulates the muscle layer.
So take care of the beautiful feminine you so that you can live a long, happy life without giving in to embarrassing and uncomfortable symptoms.
Dr. Anna Cabeca Bio:
Dr. Anna Cabeca is an Emory University trained gynecologist and obstetrician, a menopause and sexual health expert and international speaker and educator.
She created the top selling products Julva - an anti-aging feminine cream for women and online programs Magic Menopause, Women’s Restorative Health and SexualCPR. You can read more on her blog at DrAnnaCabeca.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.