This has long been a topic in every little girl's potty training (or at least it should be) — and for good reason! Physiologically, it may seem easier to reach forward and wipe back to front but please don’t you dare consider going from your bum to your pum-pum. UTI much?!
This hygiene habit ranks up there with brushing your teeth every day. If you’ve been doing it all wrong, we’ll remind you of the hygienic reasons why those with vaginas are taught how to keep our flowers clean by wiping front to back, and why it’s probably long overdue for you to change your wiping ways.
Anatomy of the Vulva and Keeping it Clean
Contrary to pop culture, the vagina is actually just the term for the tube between the vulva and cervix. It’s what babies exit from during childbirth, where the penis goes during intercourse, and where the blood comes from during menstruation.
Today, we’ll focus on the outer parts of the vagina, called the vulva. Your vulva is made up of the mons pubis, clitoris, labia minora and majora, urethral opening and your vagina. Now, though your anus and vulva are friendly neighbors, the two like to keep to themselves, and for good reason.
As you can see in the diagram below, the anus is literally right next door to your vagina and just around the bend from your urethra. Hey there!
Your urethral opening is the tiny hole that you pee out of, and the urethra itself is the tube located at the bottom of the bladder that allows the urine to flow through and exit at the opening.
With the butt being so close to your urethral opening, it’s bound for caution when wiping from the rear to the front, as bacteria from your bum has no place near your pretty little vulva!
In case you didn’t know, our bowels have some pretty raunchy bacteria in them like E. coli. Before you panic, no, that does not mean you have E. coli. It’s actually a great little germ that is healthy and helpful for your gastrointestinal tract — assuming it stays in there!
There are many strains of E. coli and other bacteria that benefit your GI tract, but can cause health problems elsewhere, like your vagina or urethra.
So, if you wipe back to front, you risk transferring that bacteria into your urinary tract, which can cause some not so pretty vaginal infections. That’s why wiping front to back helps butt bacteria stay where it should.
Why Wiping from Back to Front is A Hard NO
So, now we’re curious. What are your wiping habits? Do you have frequent UTIs or vaginal infections? Wiping back to front could be the cause of these discomforts, and the main reason why wiping that way is a definite no-go. When the GI bacteria mentioned above, enters the holy space of your precious vagina, all hell can break loose.
That’s because the bacteria disrupts your vagina’s native microbiome of microorganisms, which you want to keep around because they keep your Ph levels balanced and help maintain a healthy vaginal flora. It sounds like a place everybody wants to visit, but certain visitors are extremely unwelcome.
Allowing GI bacteria in your flower could lead to infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV) or a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Let’s not offer that butt-bacteria a free ride on down to vulva city where the girls are pretty, yeah?
Symptoms of BV and UTIs
Fecal bacteria that has entered your vagina may give you bacterial vaginosis. If you have BV, you may notice a white or greyish, smelly discharge, itching, or burning when urinating. It’s a common infection and totally treatable with antibiotics, but if you let it go untreated, it can make you susceptible to STIs or even pelvic inflammatory disease.
Wiping back to front can also result in urinary tract infections if the butt bacteria has entered your urethral opening. Ladies, we’ve all experienced a UTI at least once in our lifetime, and it’s not always because we wipe the wrong way!
In the case that you are wiping incorrectly, you are probably much more likely to have UTIs. This is the painful urge to pee constantly, with cloudy or strong smelling urine.
UTI bacteria can enter your urethra, bladder or kidneys, resulting as a form of a urethral infection (Urethritis), kidney infection (Pyelonephritis), or a bladder infection (Cystitis).
And this ladies, is why we are taught to wipe from our hoo-hah to our poo-hah!
Other Ways to Wipe if You Can’t Comfortably Reach Front to Back
For some women, this may not ever cross your mind, but for larger women, pregnant women, those who have shorter arms, or women with disabilities — or any combination of the latter — reaching around to wipe front to back, may not be as simple or as accessible!
Luckily, there are ways to still wipe hygienically when reaching is complicated.
- Try reaching between your legs and going front to back
- Tilting to the side on one butt cheek may also give you more space and flexibility to reach around
- Invest in a handled toilet aid for wiping! These can be used to help you reach from the front or back and wipe away from your groin area
- Start using a bidet attachment so that you can use less toilet paper and less friction on your lady parts
- Try a handheld bidet sprayer. These function like a handheld hose attached to your toilet tank, that can be used to aim and spray off your bum and pum
- Use a portable or travel bidet to assist you with wiping when you’re out in public
What if You’re Just Peeing? Does Wiping Direction Still Matter?
For consistency’s sake, we’re going to say yes. You should always be in the habit of wiping front to back, no matter if you’re peeing or pooping. Matter of fact, if you are just going number one, it is worth noting that instead of wiping, blotting may be the safer option.
Wiping your vulnerable vulva can cause irritation if you’re wiping too hard, using a rough toilet paper, or going too frequently. Blotting the moisture off of your urethral opening and vulva should suffice. Our vag is a super power of it’s own in self cleaning!
Why Men Don’t Have to Worry About Wiping Direction
Men always seem to get the larger end of the stick, don’t they? They can wipe back to front, front to back, all around, and upside down if they wanted to. Because their sexual organ is much more forgiving when it comes to giving the anus room to do its thing, they have less risks of contracting bacteria in their urethra.
It is still possible, though less likely, and we like to think that it still makes the most sense to wipe front to back, even for men. Besides, not sure that men want boo-boo riding up near their balls — just sayin’.
Why a Bidet is Overall A Great Option for Women
Overall, having healthy wiping habits is imperative for women's vaginal health and we suggest getting in the habit of wiping front to back. Nobody wants butt bacteria in, near, or around their vag, and it’s a simple prevention method for any vaginal infections.Another great option that, of course, we’re a fan of, is using a TUSHY bidet attachment. For women especially, using a bidet helps eliminate cross-contamination or irritation from toilet paper and is more comfortable for our curvy girls, pregnant women and postpartum mommas.