Vulval Health

What is the vulva?

The vulva is the outermost part of the female genitals, and includes the clitoris, the labia majora and minora, the urethral meatus (where urine comes out of) and the opening of the vagina.

How do I look after my vulva?

The vulva is an extremely sensitive area of the body and does not need to be washed with soap – plain water is fine. Especially avoid fragranced body washes, lotions, baby wipes and even traditional soap. If you feel you absolutely must use something other than plain water to clean your vulva, use a soap substitute such as QV and sparingly. Pat dry rather than rubbing vigorously with a towel, or use a hairdryer on a cool setting.

What do I do if I’m itchy, painful, dry or irritated?

First, make sure you see your GP, gynaecologist or dermatologist for a check-up, and avoid self-diagnosing and treating for conditions such as thrush. Make sure you practice vulval hygiene, as above, to avoid drying out or irritating the skin. In the meantime, if you’re having periods, try to avoid pads (use tampons instead if you can), and don’t use liners when you’re not bleeding – the plastic backing is not kind to the skin. Wear comfortable cotton underwear and avoid nylon, pantyhose, G-strings and control garments (such as Spanx). Feel free to go without underwear – particularly at night.

You should be aware that you are NOT alone and many women experience vulval irritation at some time, but it is important to see a specialist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, and to prevent long-term complications.

Where can I find more information?

Here are some great resources:
Australian and New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society
UK Vulval Pain Society
Jean Hailes Centre for Women’s Health