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3 Things Female Runners Should Know About Their Vagina

When you’re getting ready to head out on a run, you probably think about things like seamless socks to keep your feet happy, fuel to keep your stomach happy, and the perfect playlist to keep your head happy. But there are other areas of your body—your breasts, uterus, and vagina—that also deserve some consideration.

Discharge Is Normal –If you get home from a run to find more discharge than usual in your shorts, don’t panic, says Julie M. Levitt, M.D., a 15-time marathoner and board-certified ob-gyn with the Women’s Group of Northwestern in Chicago. While running doesn’t actually make your body produce more vaginal discharge, it does make you expel more. “When you exert yourself physically, you’re going to experience an increase in intra-abdominal pressure,” says Levitt. Plus, high-impact exercises like running work a lot like hitting a ketchup bottle on the end. And all of that pressure results in things coming out.

If you find mid run discharge uncomfortable, Levitt recommends wearing a thin panty liner in your underwear or running shorts’ built-in briefs. However, if you notice that the increase in discharge continues for days or weeks after a run, or it’s accompanied by redness or itching, it might be clue that you have a yeast or bacterial infection, or pH imbalance down there. Read on for more on that.

Running Can Increase Your Risk of Yeast Infections- As you probably already know, crotch sweat is a real thing for runners. That’s what happens when you work out hard with your thighs rubbing together 180 times per minute. If you don’t dry off from all of that sweat (and discharge) quickly, it’s easy for your natural vaginal yeast to grow and multiply, resulting in yeast infections, discomfort, and a whole lot of itching, says gynecologist Alyssa Dweck, M.D., assistant clinical professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and coauthor of V is for Vagina.

Decrease your risk by wearing a synthetic garment that is made of sweat-wicking, Dri-FIT, or anti-bacterial material, Levitt says. Also, keep in mind that cotton and organic fibers tend to trap more moisture than do synthetic ones. And, no matter what you wear on a run, Dweck recommends showering, or at least changing out of your sweaty threads as soon as you’ve cooled down.

Chafing Happens Below the Waistband- We’ve all heard of—or maybe even dealt with—breast and nipple chafing. But if you’ve also experienced vulvar chafing, don’t be embarrassed. It’s not just you. “A fair amount of women complain that their labia minora get chafed when running,” says Dweck. This is most common in women who already feel like their labia minora (often called the inner lips) are large or notice that they are visible when standing.

You can help reduce your chances of chafing and irritation by applying anti-chafing balms to the area both before and after running. A+D Original Ointment is safe for your nether region; just make sure that you only apply it externally, Dweck says. You can also try wearing bottoms that are snug (but still comfortable). They’ll help keep your labia in place against your body so that they don’t rub against each other or your inner thighs during your runs, she says.

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