Do Vaginas Really Need To ‘Breathe’?

by
woman pulling at underwear

Have you ever wondered if your vagina is happy? I have the thought often.

It’s not that it’s not well-cared for, I just have a curiosity as to whether it could be better or superior than it currently is.

I presume it’s kinda like when you have kids. Am I doing as good a job as the other parents at giving my kid its best life? Or is there a better way of doing things?

Don’t ask me where I heard this because I don’t remember, but I somehow came across the idea that vaginas need to ‘breathe’ and that going commando (ie. without underwear) is good for it.

It was during a time in lockdown where I was living in tracksuit pants and exercise tights day in and day out, where the only time my vagina was out and about was during shower time and the swift changes between.

I had friends who swore by sleeping naked and (in my head) probably had better vaginas than me, so I decided to give it a whirl.

Here’s what happened when I slept naked for a week

Yeah so… this isn’t one of those ‘it changed my life’ stories. I lasted a week and only so I could do the experiment justice.

Truth is, I found sleeping without any underwear on uncomfortable. I knew I would at the beginning as I never really had before, but it didn’t get any better as the nights went on.

I felt vulnerable and my dreams followed suit, with sleepless scenarios whirling around in my head. Also, when you sleep without underwear on… there’s nowhere for anything to go.

So yeah, if discharge happens, it’ll likely wind up on the inside of your leg. Or your sheets.

I didn’t find any changes in this department either. Things were no better, no worse. No more, no less. If anything, I probably found myself holding my legs together more tightly, which probably created a less breathable environment than my usual stripper pole pose with underwear on.

Kudos to those of you who can sleep free and breezy, because my mind (more so than my body) just couldn’t cope.

What the gynaecologists say about letting vaginas breathe

So considering I had failed my mision, I decided to ask the experts whether there was any truth to the ‘vaginas need to breathe’ theory. Turns out, there sure is.

“All skin needs to breathe and the intimate skin of the vulva and vagina is no different,” says Dr Raelia Lew. “Trauma from chafing garments can cause skin barrier disruption, resulting in discomfort and potentially infection and flora imbalance.” 

Dr Gino Pecoraro agrees and says constricting underwear, particularly those made from synthetic fibres, can lead to moisture and fluid becoming trapped, which in turn can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the vagina.

“If not addressed, this can lead to increased discharge and symptoms such as itch and discomfort,” he says.

So is sleeping naked the solution?

Dr Raelia is all for it. “When I see women with vaginal or vulval irritation, one piece of practical advice I offer is to sleep without underwear, to allow delicate skin regular time to breathe,” she explains, saying that the underwear-free moment gives the skin barrier function an opportunity to heal and restore natural defences.

She also recommends her Smooth Love lube ($65 at loversproducts.com.au) as a “daily treatment to achieve comfort at rest, as well as a luxurious lubricant to enhance sexual pleasure.” bh also recommends: FRENCHIE Oh La La Love Lube ($24 at getfrenchie.com) and pjur Med Repair Glide ($34.95 at aphroditespleasure.com.au).

However, if you’re not experiencing irritation and your vagina is (for all intents and purposes) happy, Dr Gino says the choice is a personal one and that a healthy vagina should be able to manage either scenario (ie. underwear or no underwear).

Both gynaecologists agree that it all comes down to comfort and this is ultimately what should guide you in your choice.

Although, if you are choosing to keep the underwear on (me!) Dr Gino says that “generally speaking natural fibres like cottons, linen or silk are preferable over synthetic fibres like nylon and polyester, which can trap heat and moisture and promote the growth of bacteria and candida.”

Got it doc. Only the best for our queens.

Had you ever heard of the underwear-free theory before?

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