Updated: Mar 10, 2021
Written By: Ashley Paul
Fact-Checked By: Dr. Tara Scott, OB-GYN
There are many dos and don’ts when it comes to cleaning your vulva after a romp in the sheets. There are also a ton of harmful female hygiene myths that somehow still exist. Among them are the notoriously asinine fads of vaginal steaming or using a jade egg to “clean out” the vagina. Nope.
Your vagina is self-cleaning and is frankly a marvel of evolution. Your vagina does not need to be steamed. Your vagina deserves respect. It's actually considered harmful to use douches in particular, especially scented douches after any sexual activity. If you do that you could risk throwing off your vaginal pH which can lead to bacterial vaginosis, a yeast infection, or a UTI.
Prevent UTIs By Peeing Before And After Sex
It is absolutely clutch for women to urinate before and after sex.
As nature would have it, women are more prone to sex-induced UTIs because of their anatomy. Women have shorter urethras than men. Additionally, the urethral opening is closer to the anus. That increases the risk of infection by two different means.
“During sexual intercourse, thrusting can introduce bacteria up the urethra and into the bladder, increasing the risk of a UTI,” explains Dr. Lakeisha Richardson, MD, OBGYN.
Wipe From Front To Back
Drs. Hill and Bohn recommend that we “wipe from front to back so that you don’t contaminate the vagina with bacteria from the rectum, which could ultimately lead to a UTI.” This is the golden standard for how to wipe after a bowel movement because fecal matter may contain E. coli bacteria which is known to cause UTIs.
Gently Wash Your Vulva
So if you don’t have to clean the vagina, then what exactly do you have to clean? Your vulva. The vulva is the part of your genitals that resides on the outside. It includes your clitoris, labia, vaginal opening, and urethral opening. This is a huge pleasure zone for women. This is also the area that is not self-cleaning.
Drs. Hill and Bohn noted, “We recommend you clean the vulva gently with warm water and mild soap with a washcloth to remove sweat, semen, and bacteria.”
Washing your vulva and butt with warm water before and after sex can help decrease the risk. Use either a gentle soap or a pH-balanced soap and rinse thoroughly.
Make Sure Your Sex Partner Washes Too
Before you decide to curse your gender for its fussy sex hygiene requirements, consider this – men are also supposed to urinate and wash before and after sex.
Proper sex hygiene requires teamwork. Think about it. Would you put a dildo or tampon up your vagina if you knew that it wasn’t clean? Penises are no different. It is best to stay safe by having him wash before sex too.
Did you know that having partner sex with a man can jeopardize the pH of your vagina? Drs. Hill and Bohn point out that, “your natural lubricants” plus “semen from your partner can alter your vaginal pH balance which can make infections – like a yeast infection or a urinary tract infection (UTI) – more common.”
This is especially important if you're having sex with a man who has a foreskin. Show your man this informative guide to ensure that his sexual hygiene is as intact as his foreskin; it may save you from a trip to the gynecologist or urologist, not to mention unneeded pain and suffering.
Even if your man does not have a foreskin it's still a good idea to have him wash thoroughly before sex. If the man you're having sex with does not care about your health, then that is a giant red flag. It might not seem sexy to do all this preparation before sex, but take my word for it – UTIs are even less sexy.
After-Sex Care Steps For Hygiene
- Always urinate before and after any sexual activity (masturbation, fingering, oral, vaginal, and anal sex).
- Wipe from front to back.
- After PIV sex without a condom, allow excess semen to drain from the vagina.
- If you are using condoms, make sure that you are not allergic to latex. There are many latex alternatives.
- Gently wash your vulva with a pH-balanced soap in warm water before and after sex.
- Make sure that your partner also washes before sex.
- Grab a glass of water to flush out of the urethra post-sex.
- Avoid scented douches, sprays, oils, or harsh chemicals.
- Pop a cranberry capsule or a D-Mannose capsule for UTI prevention.
- Go commando after sex or whenever your vagina is feeling sore.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing to cut down on general friction down there.
- Eat probiotic-rich foods for a post-sex snack.
- Do not douche before or after sex.
- Clean your sex toys (vibrators, dildos, etc) before and after use. Silicone toys are the safest and can be cleaned with advanced toy cleaner.
Now that we’ve covered the health aspect of after-sex care, it is time to talk about the mental and emotional side of it. Have you ever heard of emotional after-sex care?
Kimberly Atwood, a licensed professional counselor, and certified sex therapist explains the psychological aspects of cuddling and being together after sexual activity: “Afterwards, it’s important to take the time to care for one another, wind down, catch your breath, continue to play/feel/touch, be sensual with each other and take good care of yourself and your partner(s).”
Examples of Emotional Aftercare:
- Pillow talk
- Sensual touch
- Taking care of each other’s physical and emotional wellbeing
- Talking about things that went well and providing positive reinforcement
Sex is very personal. Sharing your body with another person can be a very vulnerable experience so it is important to use emotional aftercare as a demonstration of kindness to your partner. Emotional bonding after sex is imperative for all hookups and relationships.
Spooning or cuddling up to your partner after sex directly causes the release of the “love hormone” known as oxytocin. Oxytocin is known to bolster emotional bonds, improve mood and improve general health.
A study conducted and published for the journal Biological Psychiatry found that after subjects used oxytocin administered via a nasal spray, new fathers noticed a greater bond with their new baby. This means (unsurprisingly) that both men and women are positively affected by the love hormone.
Inducing a blast of oxytocin after you get down and dirty will help foster feelings of love, joy, respect, and trust.
So after you and your special person wash up why not get back in bed for some well-deserved snuggles? Your body and brain will thank you for it.