The state of our vaginal health impacts the state of our intimate relationships. Have you ever had a vaginal irritation or infection to then find that you are not in the mood for sex? Yup, me too. I personally suffered from vaginal irritation for years while working in the sexual wellness industry and as a result, my intimate relationship suffered too. Having worked with a company that sells pleasure, my life ended up being unpleasurable and I was having less sex. This can be attributed to the fact that while I was product testing, I discovered that ~98% of vaginal care products contain at least one toxic ingredient.
These toxic ingredients offset the vaginal microbiome, causing women/humans with vulvas to experience discomfort.
The Vaginal Microbiome
The vaginal microbiome refers to the bacteria, fungi, and viruses that naturally live in the vagina and its function is to maintain vaginal health, and pH and protect you from infections (ex: yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis).
Studies have shown how race and the vaginal microbiome correlate. Women of color tend to experience more vaginal irritations/infections than white women due to being disproportionately exposed to endocrine disruptors. This exposure can come in the form of institutional oppression, environmental issues, and/or ingredients in personal care products.
Several factors can affect the vaginal microbiome and pH balance, including:
- Douching (which can wash away the good bacteria that help to maintain the pH balance in the vagina)
- Uncontrolled diabetes (high glucose levels in the vagina can lead to an overgrowth of certain bacteria)
- Hormonal changes during menopause or pregnancy
- ‘Bad for you’ intimate care ingredients
A healthy vaginal pH is acidic and falls between 3.5 to 4.5 on a scale of one to fourteen. This acidic pH level helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in the vagina. It is essential to maintain a healthy vaginal pH because an imbalance can lead to an increased risk of infection and other reproductive health problems.
Ingredients To Avoid
It is important to read the ingredient labels of any personal care products you use and to choose products that are free of potentially irritating ingredients. If you are experiencing irritation or infections, you may want to try using more natural or unscented products. Rythm is building the trusted destination for nontoxic essentials that enhance your sexual wellbeing. This means that we curate all the products we sell to make sure they are vagina-safe and doctor-approved so that you can shop worry-free.
For more information, check out The Top Ingredients to Avoid for your Vaginal Microbiome and Safe Materials for Sex Toys.
The Causes for Low Intimacy in Relationships
Sometimes, without physical intimacy, emotional intimacy can suffer between partners. Some common reasons for decreases in physical intimacy include:
- Vaginal irritations & health concerns
- Sexual dysfunction
- Lack of time and energy
- Communication breakdown
- Mismatched libidos or different intimacy needs
- Unresolved issues, resentment, distrust
- Stress and external factors
It’s important to communicate with your partner and try to identify any underlying issues that may be causing low intimacy in your relationship. Working together to address these issues can help improve intimacy and strengthen your connection. Regarding communication, sex therapist Kayla Brock, says “avoiding [conversations] that evoke feelings of shame is what stops true intimacy from forming in relationships. At its core, intimacy is the ability to trust, be vulnerable and communicate and avoidance is a big barrier to that.”
How to Improve Intimacy in Relationships
Rythm asked Dr. Laurie Mintz, sex therapist, psychologist, and author of Becoming Cliterate and A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex what fosters intimacy in modern relationships. Dr. Mintz said, “One thing that fosters intimacy now, in modern relationships, but is not modern (i.e., has always been part of fostering intimacy) is good communication, both general and sexual.” She also recommends that “in our busy, fast-paced, technology-driven lives,” we should spend quality time together (away from our phones), engage in verbal and physical affection to show affection for even the littlest of things, and finally, do new things together. Dr. Mintz informs us, “research shows that doing novel activities together enhances connection.”
There are many ways to improve intimacy in a relationship in addition to Dr. Mintz’s recommendations. Here are just a few:
- Communicate Openly and Honestly with Your Partner: Good communication is essential for intimacy. Try to be open and honest with your partner about your needs, desires, and concerns.
- Practice Active Listening: When your partner is speaking, give them your full attention and try to understand their perspective. This can help improve communication and intimacy.
- Be Supportive: Show your partner that you are there for them and that you care about their well-being. Offer support and understanding when they are going through a difficult time.
- Practice Forgiveness: Holding grudges or refusing to forgive your partner can damage intimacy. Try to let go of negative feelings and work towards forgiveness.
It’s important to remember that intimacy takes time to build and requires effort and intention. By making an effort to connect with your partner and address any underlying issues, you can improve intimacy in your relationship.
If time is a constraint and you are looking for a quick fix, here is our four-step guide to enhancing intimacy on the daily:
- Attention: Carve out 10 mins at the end of the day to put your phones away and sit down with each other, staring into each other’s eyes.
- Physical Touch: Perform an act of touch (hold hands, cuddle, hug), while this check-in takes place.
- Words of Affirmation: Give your partner a compliment (anything from how nice they look, to what you value or like about them).
- Be Vulnerable: Share something that happened in your day with your partner and how it made you feel.
This four-step intimacy check-in will leave you both feeling connected without putting immense pressure on the relationship.
How Rythm Can Help
At Rythm, we believe in strengthening your vagina-mind-spirit connection through nontoxic essentials that enhance your sexual wellbeing. We work with experts, academics, and doctors to curate and vet products that are vagina-safe, efficacious, and backed by science.
We help you shop clean and play dirty.
Alysha Malik, Founder of Rythm
Peer-reviewed and edited by:
Gillian ‘Gigi’ Singer, MPH
Board Certified Sexologist, Sexuality Educator, and Sex Ed Content Specialist