Ask the Doctors: Is The Vagina a Self-Cleaning Oven?

Many women believe that the vagina is like a self-cleaning oven that needs little maintenance or care. If that's the case, why do they have so many feminine health issues? RepHresh asked doctors to address this difficult feminine health issue.

Is the Vagina Really a Self Cleaning Oven?

For many women the vagina is self-sufficient and naturally self-cleaning. A healthy vagina is colonized by a mutually symbiotic flora of microorganisms that are naturally present and, most of the time, this maintains normal vaginal flora. But, this is not always the case.

In a recent survey of nearly 1,200 women ages 25-49 from the U.S. and Canada, in the past 12 months 37% had experienced vaginal itching or irritation, 24% had vaginal odor and 21% had an infection. So, if the vagina is like a self-cleaning oven, why are so many women experiencing so many vaginal issues?

The RepHreshing Truth asked two of North America's top gynecologists to weigh in on the subject. Here is what they told us:

Dr. Lauren Streicher, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University's medical school and author of the newly published book "Love Sex Again: A Gynecologist Finally Fixes The Issues That Are Sabotaging Your Sex Life"

"There is a misconception that the vagina is always self-cleaning, and that women who have vaginal issues must be doing something wrong. Not true. The normal vaginal pH balance of 4.3 can be easily disrupted by everyday occurrences like menstruation, intercourse and normal hormone fluctuations," says Dr. Streicher. "In other words, the 'self-cleaning' mechanism for some women is not adequate to withstand pH elevations, so feminine odor and other issues can result - even when women are doing everything right."

"We need to stop stigmatizing this problem," Dr. Streicher explains. "While most women's bodies can tolerate episodes of pH elevation, in some women even a slight imbalance can tip the scales, causing a funny odor or other vaginal issues. It's normal - it happens - you take care of it. It's nobody's fault."

Dr. Streicher explained there are some things women should avoid and things that they can do to maintain their vaginal health. Dr. Streicher warns, "Maintaining healthy pH and a good balance of beneficial lactobacillus is the key. This is the body's natural 'self-cleaning' mechanism."

Dr. Machelle (Mache) Seibel, a national authority and speaker on women's health and menopause. Dr. Seibel was a member of the Harvard Medical faculty for 19 years and is the founder of My Menopause Magazine, the first digital magazine on the subject.

"If a person believes that the vagina is a self-cleaning oven, nothing may change their minds. But, the truth is, that sometimes even things that are perceived as self sufficient occasionally need intervention," says Dr. Seibel.

Dr. Seibel used nature to try to illustrate how the vaginal ecosystem can be both self-cleaning AND need proper maintenance and care. "It's like the ocean is self-cleaning in an ecosystem. When circumstances alter that ecosystem, it has to be recreated... When a healthy ecosystem is maintained, the vagina can be self-cleaning -- until something upsets the balance again."

Do RepHresh Products Interfere with the Vagina's Self-Cleaning?

RepHresh products do not disrupt the vagina's delicate ecosystem. Instead, RepHresh products are specifically designed to work with your vagina's natural self-cleaning abilities. RepHresh Gel maintains healthy vaginal pH. Healthy pH can help reduce risk of vaginal issues. RepHresh Pro-B provides probiotic lactobacillus that works with your body to balance yeast and bacteria and helps maintain vaginal flora in a normal range.*

While Dr. Streicher warned against washes, wipes or sprays in her comments above, this concern about feminine hygiene products does not apply to RepHresh products. In her Oz blog, When Your Vagina's in a pHunk, Dr. Streicher recommends two over-the-counter products to maintain vaginal health: RepHresh Gel because it maintains healthy pH and Pro-B because it provides vaginal strains of beneficial lactobacillus.*

Dr. Seibel also recommends Rephresh Gel and Pro-B. Expanding on his ecosystem example, Dr. Seibel says, "RepHresh Vaginal Gel maintains the healthy pH that reboots the vaginal ecology and Pro-B provides the beneficial bacteria to balance yeast and bacteria."*

RepHresh Gel and Pro-B complement the vagina's self-cleaning abilities instead of disrupting it.* And that is the RepHreshing Truth!

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.