The Complete Guide to Feminine Hygiene

In this guide, we discuss key aspects of feminine hygiene, including how to maintain optimal vaginal health, how to prevent conditions such as thrush and UTIs, and much more.

Updated: Friday 24 May 2024

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Maintaining adequate feminine hygiene is essential to prevent common health conditions such as vaginal thrush and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

It often requires the use of feminine care products and the implementation of certain lifestyle habits to improve vaginal hygiene and reduce the risk of experiencing the aforementioned conditions.

This comprehensive guide discusses the basics of feminine hygiene and offers scientifically proven ways to prevent and treat conditions such as thrush and UTIs.

The basics of feminine hygiene

Feminine hygiene is closely linked to maintaining a good level of general health by exercising regularly and following a healthy and balanced diet.

Some exercises such as walking and running are especially beneficial as they help tone the pelvic floor, contributing to healthy vaginal function.

Besides being generally healthy, it is recommended to:

  • Avoid feminine hygiene products that might alter the healthy balance of bacteria and pH levels and cause irritation[1], such as soaps containing fragrances.
  • Clean the vulva every day with specialist feminine care products such as Femfresh Daily Wash.
  • Take particular care to keep the perineal area clean (the area between the vagina and anus) during menstruation, using an on-the-go feminine hygiene product such as Femfresh Wipes.
  • Avoid using vaginal douches as these will disrupt the natural, healthy bacteria levels in the vagina that are self-maintained.
  • Keep the intimate area clean before and after sex, and try to use the bathroom to urinate (if needed) as soon as possible after having sex.

Feminine hygiene and oral contraceptives

Some oral contraceptives may cause dryness, breakthrough bleeding, or changes to vaginal discharge - all of which can potentially affect female hygiene in the intimate area.

These symptoms usually resolve themselves, but if they persist, then it might be worth trying different oral contraceptives to find one that works best for the individual.

Feminine hygiene and pregnancy

Some women may experience a temporary loss of some elasticity and strength in the vagina after giving birth.

If this alters muscle tone and support, it can affect feminine hygiene as reduced muscle tone can impact the ability of the pelvic floor muscles to effectively control urine flow, potentially leading to urinary incontinence.

Additionally, the vaginal walls may not return to their pre-pregnancy state immediately, which can affect the natural lubrication of the vagina, resulting in dryness and discomfort.

Performing Kegel exercises[2] can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, supporting healthy bladder and bowel function.

Feminine hygiene and menopause

The vagina undergoes several changes during perimenopause, typically after the age of 40 when oestrogen levels in the body begin to decrease.

Some of these changes can result in vaginal atrophy, which is when the vaginal tissue becomes more susceptible to irritation and infection as a result of thinning out and becoming drier[3]. This can result in symptoms such as a burning sensation, redness, itching, and/or pain during sex.

Vaginal moisturisers and oestrogen creams and tablets are available to tackle vaginal dryness and treat vaginal atrophy. The condition can also be slowed down by hormone therapy, as well as by maintaining a healthy weight, moderating your intake of caffeine and tobacco, and doing bladder training exercises.

Feminine hygiene and vaginal thrush

Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of the yeast fungus ‘candida’ due to various factors, including female hygiene.

This yeast is found in many areas of the body and isn’t typically considered harmful. However, if the conditions are right for candida to multiply too fast, it can cause thrush.

Thrush tends to occur in warm, moist conditions, and a change in your vaginal bacteria balance can trigger the onset of the symptoms[4], which can include:

  • Itchiness or soreness on the vulva (the outside area of the vagina)
  • A thick, white discharge from the vagina (often described as being similar to cottage cheese)
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain during urination
  • Red, damaged or cracked skin (during severe thrush)

It is recommended to be mindful of the following factors that can cause thrush:

  • Skin irritation or damage, as this can increase the risk of infection and offer an easier entry point for the candida fungus to penetrate the skin and multiply.
  • Taking antibiotics, as doing so may potentially disrupt the body’s microbial balance by eliminating beneficial bacteria, leaving more space and nutrients for candida to feed on and grow. This mechanism can be countered by taking probiotic supplements, and by eating foods that naturally contain probiotics (such as yoghurt), to prevent thrush while on antibiotics.
  • Immune system weakness (e.g. from chemotherapy or HIV), which can have the same effect as taking antibiotics.
  • High blood sugar levels, as this can provide a source of nutrients that feed the candida yeast.
  • Pregnancy, which tends to cause hormonal changes that can affect the balance of natural flora around the vagina, triggering thrush.
  • Hormone replacement therapy, which could cause a change in the body’s hormonal balance, resulting in thrush symptoms.

How to treat vaginal thrush

Despite being a common condition, thrush is not typically severe, and the symptoms can be alleviated through a variety of thrush treatments:

  • Clotrimazole cream - Clotrimazole is a powerful antifungal ingredient that fights fungal infections. It is the primary active ingredient in Clotrimazole 1% External Cream, as well as in Canesten External 1% Cream and Canesten External 2% Cream. These creams are formulated to be applied to the vulva or labia and vary in the strength of the active ingredient concentration to suit the severity of symptoms. It is also worth noting that Clotrimazole 1% External Cream is medically identical to Canesten 1% External Cream, with the only difference being price (Canesten 1% External Cream is more expensive, as it is branded).
  • Canesten Internal Cream - this thrush treatment is identical to other clotrimazole creams in terms of the active ingredient, with the main difference being that it comes with an applicator to be inserted into the vagina to target any internal thrush symptoms.
  • Fluconazole - this oral treatment for genital thrush comes in a capsule form and is quick and easy-to-use, with just one capsule required to clear a vaginal thrush infection. The capsule is also available with Canesten external cream (known as Canesten Duo) to be used alongside the oral treatment to help provide immediate relief from itchiness or soreness. Canesten Duo is significantly popular given its dual action in clearing thrush infections.

Preventing vaginal thrush

The following precautions can help with the early prevention of thrush:

  • Avoid perfumed bath products and soaps when cleaning the genital area, as these can alter the balance of healthy bacteria in and around the vagina.
  • Consider specialised feminine hygiene products such as Femfresh Daily Wash, which has a low pH level and can prevent irritation while washing the intimate area.
  • Use on-the-go products such as Femfresh Wipes to conveniently freshen up whilst being kind to sensitive skin (note: Femfresh Wipes are especially useful during a period).
  • Do not wash the inside of the vagina with water or a special douching fluid, as this can lead to an increased risk of developing thrush. Note that the vagina is self-cleaning and will produce a white or clear discharge as it cleans.

Feminine hygiene and urinary tract infections

The urinary tract consists of organs running from the kidneys, through the ureters, to the bladder, and out via the urethra, which produces urine and removes it from the body.

The design of the urinary system minimises the risk of the kidneys developing an infection by preventing urine from travelling back up into the kidneys from the bladder.

UTIs can occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract due to poor feminine hygiene, particularly in the vaginal area[5]. Common scenarios in which this might happen include:

  • During sex
  • When inserting a tampon
  • By wiping from back to front
  • By not keeping the genital area clean and dry
  • When inserting a catheter
  • When using a diaphragm for contraception

What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?

Common symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:

  • A painful or burning sensation when urinating
  • Needing to use the toilet more often than usual during the night
  • Needing the toilet more suddenly and more urgently than usual
  • Urine that looks cloudy
  • Urine containing blood
  • Lower tummy or back pain
  • A high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
  • A very low temperature (below 36°C)

How to treat a urinary tract infection

There are numerous methods of easing the symptoms of UTI. Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • To reduce the burning or stinging sensation when urinating, CanesOasis Oral Solution is a quick and effective treatment. Taken by mixing the sachet with water, the active ingredient sodium citrate makes the urine less acidic, reducing irritation. Note that this treatment is not suitable for men or children.
  • Over-the-counter pain relief medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help mitigate the pain associated with UTI.
  • Drinking plenty of water can help flush out the infection.
  • Filling a hot water bottle and placing it on the lower abdominal area can help ease the discomfort.
  • Avoid using spermicidal jellies (a form of birth control inserted into the vagina) as these can increase the risk of thrush.

In some cases, the UTI may progress into cystitis[6], in which case the GP may prescribe a course of antibiotics that should clear the infection within a day or two.

During this time, additional cystitis treatments can help ease symptoms such as frequent urination or a burning sensation when urinating.

If symptoms persist thereafter, the GP may prescribe a low dose of antibiotics to take continuously over several months.

How to prevent a urinary tract infection

The probability of developing a UTI can be reduced immensely by following the straight-forward preventative steps below:

  • Wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet. This reduces the likelihood of bacteria from the digestive system entering the urinary tract (a common cause of UTIs).
  • If needed, use the toilet as soon as possible after having sex to flush out bacteria entering the urethra.
  • Wash the skin around the vagina with water, both before and after sex.
  • Keep the genital area clean and dry whenever possible.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day as this can encourage frequent urination, preventing infections.
  • Avoid scented soaps.
  • Avoid consuming lots of alcohol and sugary foods or drinks.
  • Wear loose-fitting underwear made from cotton.


The feminine hygiene practices and treatments outlined in this guide can help with maintaining a level of vaginal health that minimises the risk of conditions such as thrush and UTIs.

By understanding and implementing proper hygiene routines, you can ensure that your vaginal health is supported through various life stages and hormonal changes.

Consulting with healthcare professionals for personalised advice and regularly monitoring your vaginal health can further enhance your efforts, helping you to stay healthy and comfortable every day.

Looking to order feminine hygiene products conveniently and discreetly? Consider Pharmica - we're one of the UK's leading pharmacies with a 4.9/5 rating from more than 190,000 reviews.

Our experts have assisted over 1.3 million customers and patients and remain committed to offering the very best online pharmacy experience in the UK.

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  1. Chen et al. (2017). Role of female intimate hygiene in vulvovaginal health: Global hygiene practices and product usage. Women's Health, 13(3), pp. 58–67. doi: [Accessed: 24 May 2024].
  2. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Kegel exercises. Available at: [Accessed: 24 May 2024].
  3. Baylor College of Medicine. (n.d.). Vaginal atrophy. Available at:,typically%20brought%20on%20by%20menopause. [Accessed: 24 May 2024].
  4. Bupa UK. (n.d.). Vaginal thrush. Available at: [Accessed: 24 May 2024].
  5. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Urinary tract infection (UTI): Symptoms & causes. Available at: [Accessed: 24 May 2024].
  6. NHS. (n.d.). Cystitis. Available at: [Accessed: 24 May 2024].
Rehma Gill

Written by: Rehma Gill

Pharmacy Manager・GPHC Number 2225869

Rehma completed her pharmacy degree at the University of Portsmouth in 2019 and went on to complete her internship in community pharmacy. As a pharmacy manager and a responsible pharmacist here at Pharmica, Rehma’s responsibilities include managing day-to-day operations at the pharmacy and ensuring we provide outstanding service to our patients.

Carolina Goncalves

Medically Reviewed by: Carolina Goncalves

Superintendent Pharmacist・GPHC Number 2088658

Carolina Goncalves is the Superintendent Pharmacist at Pharmica, where she ensures patients receive exceptional healthcare and support, as part of a seamless online pharmacy service.

With a comprehensive professional background spanning more than 13 years, Carolina has extensive experience supporting Men’s and Women’s health. Carolina is responsible for providing expert treatment advice to thousands of patients in areas such as Sexual Health, Erectile Dysfunction, Hair Loss, Weight Loss and Asthma.

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What Causes Thrush? Common Triggers, Risk Factors and Treatments
What Causes Thrush? Common Triggers, Risk Factors and Treatments