Women suffering from persistent vulvar pain are often burdened by conflicting advice and ideas on what they ought to do to manage their pain. This often results in frustration, and the longer the pain continues without relief the more likely that anxiety and depression may set in. A wholistic approach to self care needs to be emphasised, which is discussed during therapy in more detail. The emotional issues in self care are as important as many of the physical suggestions.
Generally, the following suggestions may assist in promoting healthy vulval skin.
Bathing, Hygiene & Hair Removal
- Most soaps and shampoos have a very high pH and may contain chemicals which tend to irritate vulval skin. Excessive scrubbing and washing using harsh soaps needs to be avoided. When washing and shampooing hair, rinse in a way that will avoid the soap run-off entering into the vulva area.
- Always rinse thoroughly with clear water.
- After washing pat the vulva area dry, do not rub.
- Avoid wearing moist clothing. Avoid overly hot baths, bubble baths and scented oils and lotions.
- Baking soda baths may soothe vulval itching and burning, and cleanse the skin of any build up of discharge. Use a moderately warm bath with 4-5 tablespoons of baking soda and soak for 10-15 minutes.
- Try to use unscented and preferably unbleached toilet paper.
- In the event that passing urine causes skin irritation and burning, rinse the area with clear water after voiding (a soft plastic squirt bottle can be convenient to use over the toilet) and pat the area dry.
- Barrier creams may protect the skin from urine and discharge irritation.
- The use of panty liners, scented pads, deodorants, sprays and perfumes may need to be avoided.
- Hair removal is discouraged, as it can provoke irritation.
- Avoid wearing tight clothing that increases pressure and friction in the vulva area.
- If possible avoid wearing synthetic pants that prevent good aeration of the area and contribute to the build up of heat and moisture.
- 100% cotton underwear, pads and tampons are recommended.
- Always double rinse underwear to ensure there is no residual detergent or soap remaining in clothing.
- Avoid the use of softeners and deodorants.
- Natural lubricants such as vegetable oils may be preferable to synthetic lubricants.
- Contraceptive jells and lubricated condoms may cause some women irritation.