No two 'snowflakes' are exactly alike. Therefore, the care down there should be unique to each individual.
Here are a few tips that I follow for proper care ‘down there’ as a quad. Not so different from an able-body.
Get regular screenings.
Stay current with health screenings and see your gynecologist for routine care. Use this visit to discuss risk factors (along with your personal and family histories). It is common to feel uncomfortable when talking about vaginas. However, a doctor’s office should be a bastion of comfort. Take advantage of this ‘safe place’ to discuss any concerns or questions.
It's YOUR body.
Learn your body and don't be shy to discover it. Even after spinal cord injury, the vagina is an amazing part of your body. Exploring and understanding your body is a way to know when changes occur. It is your body; take good care of it.
Be kind to your vulva.
Take a hand mirror and check her out in all her glory. She’s unique and perfect just like you. Gain confidence in caring for your body. Take some time to connect with your vulva. Trust me, you will be glad you did.
Just use water.
The vagina is a self-cleaning organ (like a self-cleaning oven). For me, using harsh chemicals, prepackaged wipes or douching can disrupt its normal process. If you must, a gentle soap can be used (see more under 'Cleansing Options')
Consider natural lubricants.
I have found that coconut oil provides lubrication as well as natural benefits. K-Y Jelly is another common lubrication. It is a water-based jelly.
Prolapse and incontinence.
This is an occurrence in able-body women as well (surprise...our issues 'down there' are not uncommon as we may think). It has been helpful for me to remind myself that incontinence is not just an unwanted issue for spinal cord injuries. Women deal with this after pregnancy, during menopause, and other conditions may cause prolapse or incontinence. Always seek medical care if you experience any changes down there.
Wear cotton undies (or go commando).
For me, it's all about that breath-ability—cotton lets air in and absorbs moisture.
I have been told by my doctor that overuse of antibiotics may reduce vaginal health. Discuss with your physician any changes or concerns you have regarding antibiotics.
Menstrual Cycle Care.
My preference is tampons as they don’t contribute to skin irritation and provide better protection during transfers. They also minimize leaking during my intermittent cathing. If you use pads, check regularly for signs of skin irritation and possible skin break down between your legs.
My best advice on cleansing your 'Queen V' is look for an all-natural product. The vagina has a natural PH balance that helps in maintaining overall health. Body soaps can over dry. Shop for a product specific for the vagina area. Natural products are my first choice.
So again—no two snowflakes are alike. Learn about what is best for you and always take with your doctor if you have questions or concerns.
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BD-12189