Sex Advice

OK TMI: Am I, Uh, Supposed To Be Washing my Vagina After Sex?

Zoe Weiner

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Photo: W+G Creative

After any sort of sexual experience, whether with a partner or on your own, it’s tempting to want to lay around and bask in the glory of your orgasm. But you’d be wise to make sure you actually do get up…and go straight to the bathroom. That’s because washing your vagina after sex (yep, including with yourself) is a healthy, doctor-recommended habit for vulva-owners to commit to.

You’ve likely heard that it’s a best practice for vulva-owners to pee after having sex to avoid a contracting a UTI by flushing away bacteria around the urethra. (I, for one, will never forget having that awkward conversation with my mom, of all people). But, that’s not all you should be doing while you’re in the bathroom. According to Love Wellness advisor and OB-GYN Jodie Horton, MD, in order to stave off potential infection, it’s also important to give yourself a thorough cleaning down there that goes beyond flushing away bacteria around the urethra via urination.

“It is important to clean the vagina post-romp, because the mouth, sex toys, fingers, and the penis can introduce bacteria into the vagina, potentially leading to urinary tract or vaginal infections.” —OB-GYN Jodie Horton, MD

“Whether you have oral sex or penetrative vaginal sex, it is important to clean the vagina post-romp, because the mouth, sex toys, fingers, and the penis can introduce bacteria into the vagina, potentially leading to urinary tract or vaginal infections,” she says.

While the risks of infection and type of infection differs depending on what kind of sex you’re having and what you’re using to have it, there are risks to be aware of. If there’s semen involved, for example, it can change the pH balance of your vagina and cause an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast, says Dr. Horton. And if you’re going it alone? Still best to wash your vagina after sex because “your hands may harbor potential bacteria that you can introduce in the vagina when masturbating,” she says, adding that the same goes for your sex toys, too (which means you’ll want to wash them after every use).

To keep your lady bits clean post-coitus, Dr. Horton recommends washing your vulva—the external genital features—with warm water and, if you want, some gentle soap. “While the vagina itself is self-cleaning, the external female genitalia, including the vaginal lips, vaginal opening, and the urethra can be gently cleaned with warm water and a mild fragrance-free soap,” she says.

To be sure you’re hitting all the right spots, pros suggest using your hands to clean between the folds of your labia, specifically the space between your outer and inner lips, then pulling up on the clitorial hood (aka the skin covering your clitoris) and cleaning around there, too. Be sure to rinse the area thoroughly then pat it dry, avoiding any sort of rubbing (which can abrade the delicate skin down there). If you want to wash your butt, be sure to do that last, since washing “back to front” can cause the bacteria from your anus to get into your vagina, which can lead to UTIs and vaginal infections, like bacterial vaginosis.

After a quick and easy clean, you’ll be ready to head back to bed for round two or to simply continue basking in that post-orgasm glow.

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