Midwife and fertility coach, Helena Tubridy, believes that there should be a Public Health Campaign to encourage after-sex self-care. She is calling on GPs to advise women and men to look after themselves post-sex.
"There are lots of UTIs and kidney infections that are caused by reasons other than sex but at least we should address self-care as one possible aspect," she explained. "It’s still a little reserved in Ireland in relation to sex, but self-care if you're sexually active, in my opinion, is a health issue of importance."
With this in mind, we asked Helena to share her top after-sex self-care tips.
1. Intimate areas are delicate so hands need to be thoroughly washed and properly dried, to minimise the risk of passing on pesky infection. The same goes for fingernails, which hold loads of ordinary bacteria. A cursory rinse doesn’t cut it!
2. Too much washing of intimate areas with perfumed soaps and shower gels can strip natural oils, and change the PH of skin, which encourages harmful bacteria. Skin and mucosa (the vulva, vagina and glans penis) with fewer oils are protected and more prone to friction abrasions.
3. Being bare down there may be on trend, but with an alarming increase in Bacterial Vaginosis, it’s worth remembering that ‘au natural’ pubic hair seems to have an evolutionary role in vaginal well-being - as a gatekeeper for blocking infection. Frequent waxing, shaving, and plucking by women and men alters the skin’s natural flora risking unwanted infection.
4. Keep it brief. Thongs act as wicks for spreading bacteria from back to front, leading to cystitis and UTIs. Big girl pants are safer for regular daily wear.
5. Panty liners are a great idea but prevent adequate ventilation ‘down below’ and can support a bacterial breeding ground.
6. Men need to keep their foreskin well retractable and adequately cleaned. A foreskin that cannot be fully moved from over the top of the penis glans, is likely to harbour harmful bacteria. Circumcision, a full or partial surgical removal of the foreskin, alleviates tightness and prevents this reservoir of discomfort.
7. One size condoms do not fit all. Finding the right size condom means a comfortable fit and less risk of leakage, skin irritation and contraceptive fails. Unusually large or more slender-fit condoms can be ordered online.
8. Sensitivity to rubber causes inflammation, creating the perfect portal for infection to set in. Consider using silicone condoms instead.
9. When you’re intimate enough to have sex with someone, it's important to stay safe and healthy. Deciding to stop using condoms may seem normal as time goes by, like a mini-milestone in a relationship, so it’s a good idea to schedule an STI screen for each partner whether it's for the peace of mind of an all clear or to clear up any infections.
Remember, a three month safety period of condom use is recommended as infections such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C may be passed via blood.
10. Washing and peeing immediately after sex dramatically reduces the risk of bladder infection and discomfort. Wiping alone is not enough, even with wet wipes. A bidet wash is ideal.
While you're in the bathroom, remember to brush teeth, rinse out your mouth and to wash hands, with good quality, gentle natural soap.
11. Vaginas are naturally self-cleaning areas so douching is completely unnecessary and may harm the vaginal microbiome balance by washing away useful bacteria and encouraging pathogens to flourish.
12. If you like to sleep in your briefs, be sure to pop on a fresh pair every night.
More information can be found on Helena Tubridy at http://www.helenatubridy.com/