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Switching pills and douching

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Dixie asks:

My boyfriend and I have had a sexual relationship for over 5 years now. I've always been on birth control, but recently (1 week ago) switched to another pill. The past 2 weeks he has been ejaculating inside of me.
Two questions: does my risk of pregnancy go up since I am in the middle of transitioning between pills AND how do I clean myself since he has been finishing there? I hear so many different views on douching, but I don't feel clean and would like to do something about it. Thanks so much.

Heather Corinna replies:

It's generally agreed that when switching from one pill to the next, you do not have to worry about being without effective protection, so long as you didn't take more than a one-week placebo period between the two types of pills.

The douching is a larger issue.

Douching -- when specific douches at specific times are not suggested by a doctor or alternative healthcare provider -- is just plan bad news. It basically only got popular based on women's insecurities and mistrust of their own bodies, and a cultural desire to "sanitize" women because natural parts of womanhood really freak people out or intimidate them. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, and douching hinders it in doing that well and ably. The vagina has a pretty specific acid and bacterial balance which douching often screws up, which is why women who douche are MORE likely to develop yeast or bacterial infections than those who do not.

Understand that semen DOES also change that balance of the vagina, so when you have a male partner ejaculating inside you, you are going to notice changes in scent and discharge for a couple of days, while the vagina is re-regulating itself. That doesn't mean it isn't a clean vagina, mind you. Semen doesn't make the vagina unclean, but it does change it for a few days.

If you don't like that -- and it's okay not to -- the simplest way to deal with that, and the healthiest for your vagina, is to just have your male partner use a condom. If you feel like it's awkward to ask for that if you've already done all your STI testing and safer sex back when, and have since been fluid-bonded for a long time, allow me a suggestion. You can simply say that you just don't really like what happens to YOUR vagina when it comes to ejaculate, rather than making it sound like there's something icky about his fluids. You can let him know that semen does change the acid balance of the vagina for a bit, and that it's not about something wrong with him, but that it's just about a preference you have right now. And a partner of so long shouldn't have a big issue with that, since condom use just isn't a big deal.

If you're feeling "unclean" at times other than after he's recently ejaculated inside you, you also just want to be sure you're up-to-date with your annual pelvic exams and don't have an infection or imbalance right now. Obviously, it'd not be surprising to be disturbed by a scent or discharge that is because of an infection, and if you do have one, it's important to get that treated for your health, not just because of a preference.

Lastly, just be sure you're doing right by your girly bits and your body as a whole: eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, getting rest and activity, and when you're washing your genitals, that you're only washing your external vulva -- your mons, outer and inner labia, and around your anus, not inside the vagina, and using a gentle, unfragranced soap. Too, deodorant tampons are another thing that can muck up the works, and tampons period can also do that. So, if everything else fails, you might want to try switching to pads, washable or disposable.

And if allllllllll that is already taken care of? Then you may just need to adjust your mindset. Vulvas aren't supposed to smell like roses (and it'd be a little disorienting and strange if they did, dontcha think?), they're supposed to smell like vulvas. Like male genitals, that tends to be a scent that's a bit musky or salty, and around the time of your period, probably a bit metallic. Normal stuff, that. As far as how "clean" they feel, again, they're just not something that's supposed to be sanitized and shiny: after all, the vagina is an entrance to the inside of your body, so it's a pretty organic place. The big concern to have is really about your health, and if you know you're healthy, it's all good. If you're not good with that, then the thing to be done is just to invest some time and energy in getting good and comfy with your body as-is. :)

I'm going to leave you with that, as well as just a couple vulva-happy links to help you work it out.

written 25 Jan 2008 . updated 22 Jan 2014

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