in collaboration with @balancedblackgirlpodcast
For years, my life revolved around healthy choices...or so I thought. I was dedicated to eating "clean," getting in as many steps as I could in a day, and doing intense workouts 5+ days per week. Little did I know, the latter "healthy choice" would do a number on my vaginal health.
In fact, I had my first experience with bacterial vaginosis when I was in the best shape of my life. I was physically strong, super athletic, and had stamina and energy my present-day pandemic self envies greatly.
So when my doctor diagnosed me with BV, I was shocked. I wasn't sexually active at the time, and knew that wasn't a factor in my condition. Did that mean that I wasn't as "clean" or didn't take as good of care of myself as I thought?
I racked my brain trying to figure out how it could have happened. After a period of reflection, I realized many of my lifestyle choices didn't have vaginal wellness in mind. My schedule largely revolved around my workouts — at the time, I was a personal trainer and constantly felt pressured to stay in tip-top shape. I was also working for a popular athleisure retailer, and between my two jobs, I was in tight workout leggings 99.9% of the time.
I also realized my underwear stash exclusively consisted of thong underwear due to my (then) fear of having dreaded visible panty lines when constantly wearing said leggings. Thankfully, I'm over that fear, and comfort and breathability are now my top priorities.
Those who workout more often can be prone to vaginal infections because movement generates warmth and moisture that can easily get trapped in the inner and outer folds of your vulva. If and when these exterior skin folds — respectively called the labia minora and labia majora — are sweaty or damp for extended periods of time, it creates the perfect environment for yeast and harmful bacteria to thrive.
Now I'm certainly not telling you to give up your workouts to keep your vulva happy. Finding a balance between fitness and vaginal health is possible. Let's talk about post-workout vaginal care tips to support your vaginal health and prevent irritation and infection.
1. Take a shower or rinse off ASAP after your workout
If possible, change out of sweaty workout clothes as soon as you can after your workout ends. Ideally, you’ll want to take a shower, or rinse your vaginal area to prevent the growth of any harmful bacteria that may have surfaced during your workout.
If you can't shower immediately, keep an extra pair of (breathable, cotton) underwear to change into and, at the very least, be sure to wipe away excess sweat. Try using a water-based product like the Hydrosol to feel refreshed while maintaining your pH balance and eliminating sweat and odor. The light blend of Rosemary, Orange Blossom, and Rose Water makes the Hydrosol an antimicrobial powerhouse that can help prevent skin irritation and body breakouts.
PRO TIP Hydrosol is an antimicrobial powerhouse. Spray it on your yoga mat or other workout equipment so you can rest assured that you won't transfer bacteria between you and your mat.
2. Dry off well before getting dressed
After your shower, make sure your vulva is thoroughly dry before getting dressed. Getting dressed while your vulva is still wet can trap excess moisture around your vaginal area, which can cause yeast or bacterial overgrowth, leading to infection or imbalance.
Instead of immediately getting dressed after bathing, try slowing down and creating a personal care ritual while you get ready. Take your time moisturizing your skin with Body Oil, or tending to your skincare routine to give your vulva time to air dry before getting dressed.
3. Try not to live in workout clothes 24/7
I know it’s tempting to live in leggings – workout clothes are just so damn comfortable. However, when you are constantly wearing tight workout clothes, or worse, not changing out of your workout clothes post-activity, clothing items that lay close to the skin and trap in heat can leave you vulnerable to infection.
Though I regularly shower and change post-workout, in the past I would immediately put on another pair of leggings which wasn’t providing the breathability I needed to maintain a healthy pH. I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s made that mistake. Make sure you’re alternating tight-fitting synthetic fabrics with loose breathable clothing items to promote breathability.
4. Mix up your exercise intensity and activity
Some forms of exercise can make maintaining a healthy pH more challenging. If you like to swim, take note that the chlorine present can dry out your skin and kill the good bacteria, disturbing your vaginal pH. Cycling, specifically, has also been linked to vaginal infections due to the seat’s pressure on the pubic area and increased heat and moisture buildup.
If you rely heavily on swimming and cycling as your only form of exercise and notice vaginal discomfort or increased infection you may want to incorporate other forms of cardio into your routine to give your vaginal area a break from the inevitable pressure and moisture. You can still get benefits from low intensity aerobic exercise like walking, or even playing with your pup in the park without putting more stress on your body.
Additionally, hair removal options such as waxing or shaving can make you more susceptible to infection when immediately followed by a high-intensity workout. Your skin is already sensitized, so try incorporating lower-intensity workouts where you’re less likely to accumulate heat in that area until you’re a few days post hair removal.
PRO TIP A pea sized amount of Salve on your labials folds creates a protective layer that helps prevent bad bacteria from traveling up your urinary or vaginal tract.
Now, you shouldn’t avoid working out for fear of harming your vaginal health! After all, the benefits of exercise far outweigh the drawbacks. Regular exercise — no matter how you choose to move — is important for boosting blood flow, reducing stress, and improving stamina, which can greatly benefit your sexual health (and pleasure) and overall well-being. With the right aftercare, you can reap all the benefits exercise has to offer without compromising your vaginal health.
Meet the Author
Balanced Black Girl was created to be a safe space for candid conversations about all things well-being. At Balanced Black Girl, health is so much more than the physical — it is also mental, spiritual, and social — and they're here to provide the resources you need to feel your best. Balanced Black Girl is a top-rated health podcast and digital platform connecting community to Black women+ health, wellness, and personal development experts.
Momotaro Apotheca and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on Momotaro Apotheca is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition.