An Ob-Gyn's Guide to a Healthy Vagina at the Beach
Two top physicians reveal the seven best ways to fend off down-there issues during the summer.
Beach days aren't exactly your ob-gyn's favorite. Sun exposure aside, damp bikini bottoms give way to one of summer's most unwanted side effects (ugh, yeast infections) and a day of sand and surf can sometimes lead to other pesky problems below the belt.
Fortunately, you don't have to skip out on going to your favorite sandy spots. You just have to be smarter about planning your seaside trips. We asked two ob-gyns how to enjoy the beach and keep your lady parts healthy and happy (and yep, it's possible). Consider this your summer beach script, doctor's orders!
Pack another bikini bottom. It sounds like a hassle, but throwing another pair of bottoms in your beach bag could be the difference between winding up with a pesky yeast infection and not. "Yeast infections are very common in the summer-it is hot, and we sweat all over (particularly in 'lady' areas). Sitting around in a wet bathing suit is a major culprit," says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University. At the very least, make sure to change into dry, clean shorts post-beach trip.
Ask your doc for a script. Particularly prone to yeast infections? Fortunately, you can prepare. While Monistat is generally available everywhere in the U.S. (and OTC), if you're a fan of the (oral) prescription medication Diflucan (fluconazole), get an extra pill or two from your gynecologist before you leave on a beach vacation, suggests Dr. Minkin. That way, if you feel the symptoms coming on, you're prepared. (Related: The 5 Biggest Yeast Infection Myths-Busted)
Pop a probiotic. Daily probiotics for women's genital health, such as RepHresh Pro-B, work to help keep vaginal bacteria and yeast in check, which can help you avoid infections, says Leah Millheiser, M.D., a clinical assistant professor and director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University Medical Center. Adding a pill to your daily routine can help beef up your body's "good" bacteria.
Pee more than you usually do. Beach vacations can mean less clothing and more sex. But they can also mean long days in the sand without a restroom in sight. It's not a good recipe for your vaginal health. "Make sure to urinate frequently while enjoying beach time," notes Dr. Millheiser. "Many women will hold their urine while out and about on the beach as they have limited access to a bathroom. Holding your urine for prolonged periods of time in the setting of having lots of sex can lead to the buildup of bacteria in the bladder, which can cause a urinary tract infection."
Drink lots of water. Says Dr. Minkin: "If you get dehydrated, you might be increasing your chances of a urinary tract infection (UTI)." That's because staying properly hydrated helps your body flush bad bacteria out, including the kind that can lead to UTIs. And while we hate to be the bearers of bad news, sometimes keeping yourself hydrated doesn't just mean adding water-it also means skipping the boozy beach drinks.
Lather up. Unless you're wearing a bathing suit with UPF factor, your skin is still technically exposed, so consider a sunscreen geared toward sensitive skin down there, says Dr. Millheiser. (Sunbathing nude? You'll definitely need sunscreen.) After all, sun exposure will come back to bite you when you're older. Dr. Minkin notes that many of her patients going through menopause bemoan their years in the sun because they led to dry and tough-to-moisturize skin.
Wash well. Playing in the waves and body surfing is fun. Going home to find sand trapped down there because of it? Not so much. For some ladies, sand can be super irritating, notes Dr. Millheiser. "Make sure to rinse the vulva really well with water at the end of the day," she says. Just don't wash with a washcloth-sand is abrasive enough. (FYI, here's your complete guide to how you should and shouldn't be cleaning down there.)