Once the champagne has been popped and confetti has layered the ground, the party has passed—and it’s time to plan. Many people usually think of resolutions that advance their careers, brighten their mental state, or ignite their wanderlust, but health-focused New Year aspirations are important, too. We’re not talking weight loss or running goals here—but what’s happening downstairs.
In fact, making the overall condition and vitality of your vagina a priority could improve a plethora of aspects of your life—from your sexual satisfaction to your monthly period. And without giving your lady bits the TLC they need, you could actually run the risk of illness. As OB/GYN and author Dr. Felice Gersh, M.D. explains, a vagina has its own unique microbiome and interface with the immune system. “If a woman has an unhealthy microbiome, there is the theoretical possibility that toxic bacteria can cross into her vascular system and create an overall inflammatory state and even induce autoimmunity,” she explains. “A women’s self esteem and overall life quality depends on a healthy vagina.”
So in addition to making 2019 the year you cross the Atlantic to Europe and shut off your iPhone by 10 p.m., consider making these resolutions for you vagina:
I’ll Trade Douching For Probiotics
If you have a douching habit—it’s time to quit it, stat. Founder and president of Natural Fertility and author, Hethir Rodriguez explains that the vagina has an amazing ability to self-cleanse as long as a proper pH is maintained. Though douches are advertised as a way to rid the vagina of toxins and bacteria, she explains douching actually disrupts the delicate pH balance most women have, leading to uncomfortable and problematic yeast growth.
If you want to ensure a fresh smell and a consistent, normal discharge, Rodriguez suggests turning to your diet this year. “Work to reduce sugars and alcohol, and include more whole foods, veggies, fermented foods, and water,” she continues. “You’ll see this effort reflected in a healthy vaginal environment.” While it’s recommended to talk to your trusted doc before introducing a supplement into your routine, a new breed of vaginal probiotics are trendy right now, as they work with your natural rhythms to omit unwanted smells or grimy textures.
I’ll Only Use the Best Products On My Vagina
Fun(ish) fact: the vaginal mucosa can absorb virtually anything that’s placed in there, and those substances can travel through your body, according to Rodriguez. That means shaving creams, oil, lotions, lubricants, tampons—the list goes on. “If unnatural and harmful chemicals get into your bloodstream, they can create all sorts of harm,” she warns. She suggests making the switch to organic-only, and obsessively reading reviews to understand how other women have experienced products. If you and your partner swear by lubricants, Dr. Gersh notes there are many natural lubricants that use aloe vera or coconut oil instead of a host of ingredients you can’t read on the back label.
I Won’t Fake It
When you’re in a long-term committed partnership, not every romp is going to make you go cross-eyed. Or curl your toes. Or leave you out of breath. But if you are with someone you love dearly and the sex is just so-so, the New Year is a good time to ask yourself why you’re willing to fake it.
Various seasons of life change the intensity and frequency of intimacy—looking at you, toddlers—but many couples report that making sex a priority helps them through difficult times and bonds them together. So if you aren’t being truthful about what gets you going? Rodriguez says to resolve to communicate with your partner on what works best for you and gives you the most pleasure. “If you refuse to fake it, you may find new avenues of pleasure as you both work towards the same goal—a happy vagina,” she adds.
If Sex Hurts, I’ll Tell My OB/GYN
Another person you should have open lines of candid, vulnerable discussion with? Your OB/GYN. Many women disregard certain symptoms because they don’t believe they are important or telling, but OB/GYN Dr. Joanna Bedell, M.D. says a policy of honesty should be a top resolution for any year. After all, intense pain during intercourse isn’t normal. “There are many causes of pain during sex, and every woman deserves to have a pain-free sex life,” she continues. “Whether a woman is in menopause or not, there are treatments out there for each diagnosis. Not all gynecologists are experts in this, and it may take time to find help, but it is definitely worth the effort.”
I Will Always Use Condoms
It has been preached to you from your teenage years—but when the wine hits right and the mood is tempting, a condom seems more cumbersome than it’s worth. What you might not want to accept or acknowledge is just how prevalent sexually transmitted infections are these days. According to Dr. Gersh, gonorrhea and chlamydia are being treated at ‘epidemic’ levels, while herpes and HPV are rampant. Even contracting vaginitis and trichomonas are miserable to deal with, she adds, and of course, HIV is still out there.
They might not feel as great as skin-to-skin contact, but condoms could save you from a headache, a nightmare—or potentially, something life-threatening. In recent years, condoms have seen a rebirth, with plenty of vegan and natural options flooding the internet, as well as brands that recognize ‘small,’ ‘medium,’ and ‘large’ don’t fit all. It’s worth doing your homework to keep yourself healthy. “Though condoms don’t guarantee protection, they help lower the risk of transmission. Your vagina is the critically important entrance point into your body for all sorts of pathogens,” Dr. Gersh explains. “Protect it and you!”
I Won’t Forget My Kegels
It’s a punch line in plenty of sitcoms, and while comical to think about, Rodriguez says these do more than tighten your canal, but they can actually improve your sex life, too. Especially for those who have given birth, investing in a kegel routine while you’re sitting in traffic, waiting in line, or catching up on Netflix will strengthen your pelvic floor. Even women who haven’t had children will benefit from this commitment, since Rodriguez says those who practice regularly see increased circulation to their vagina, which can increase pleasure during intercourse—and heighten your orgasm. (Are you squeezing yet?)
I’ll Love and Accept My Vagina the Way She Is
Everyone can be hard on their bodies, and the vagina is no exception to self-criticism. You may compare your vulva or your lips to what you see splashed on TV, in porn, or even to the woman changing next to you at the gym—but Dr. Bedell says a healthy vagina looks normal, just as she is. Much like you remind yourself of your facial beauty or that your shape is fine how it is, say the same kind words to your baby-maker. “Especially in this new year, don’t ever tell yourself that your vagina is abnormal. Make it one of your resolutions,” she urges. “Take it from someone who sees many vulvas and vaginas in a day—they all look different, and the bottom line is that they all look normal.”
Featured image by Cora