I have a separate set of underwear reserved for gym outings. My normal undergarments are pretty, but they usually have material somewhere that ends up causing irritation when I’m exercising. And the cotton kind tends to get a little too sweaty. My athletic pairs, however, are seamless and made of a polyester blend. Having this breathable, dry-wicking fabric helps absorb moisture from the skin. Soggy clothes increase your chances of yeast infections and pH imbalance, which can cause discharge, itching, and burning in the vagina.

“Bacteria and yeast love moist, dark places,” says Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a gynecologist and co-author of “V is for Vagina.” “What better moist place is there than your wet gym clothes after you’ve worked out and you’re still wearing them?”

Dr. Dweck’s patients come in complaining of discharge, odor, chafing, and irritation, all problems that can occur from your post-gym hygiene routine. If you’re wondering how to take care of your vagina during or after the gym, here are some of Dr. Dweck’s tips.

Change clothes
While some people can hit the gym hard and stay in their workout clothes all day with no problem, in general, it’s best to get out of your wet gym clothes as soon as possible. No matter what your outfit is made of —- especially if you’re prone to yeast infections or vaginal irritation — it’s best to give your vagina a chance to breathe in a dry, clean place.

“The vaginal and vulva area have perspired,” says Dr. Dweck. “The (wet) clothing you’re wearing is not allowing that breathability factor.”

Wash (and dry) off
Since microbes thrive in a moist environment, whether you’ve spent an hour swimming or cycling, you want to wash and dry your vulva (the outside of your vagina) soon after your workout. If you can’t shower directly at the gym, try to rinse off once you get home. Avoid antibacterial soap or anything with perfume; they can disrupt the pH of your vagina. “It’s best if you can take a shower and use a regular hypoallergenic soap and dry well,” says Dr. Dweck. “That will prevent the chance for bacteria and yeast growing or overgrowing and becoming imbalanced.”

If you can’t hop in the shower quickly, at least change into dry clothes. And in a pinch, Dr. Dweck advises using cleansing wipes with minimal or no fragrance — less chance of irritation — as a post-gym cleanser.

Don’t wear a thong
If you’re concerned about others seeing your panty line, Dr. Dweck suggests going sans underwear instead of riding an exercise bike in a thong. Material wedged up against the body can rub and irritate your body and help E.coli creep from the back to the front, possibly resulting in a urinary tract infection.

“If you’re running or on the elliptical — or doing anything with movement — I’m thinking the tightest g-string or thong is not optimal,” says Dr. Dweck.

If you go commando with shorts, make sure you clean whatever surface your bare skin touches. If you wear exercise pants, choose a pair that are comfortable, don’t have scratchy seams, and are designed for athletic use. “Whatever is touching your vulva should at least be moisture-wicking, whether it’s underwear or your direct workout clothes,” says Dr. Dweck.

It’s all about you
Everyone is different, so don’t worry too much about your post-gym regime if you’ve never had vaginal problems before. But if you have sensitive skin or tend to get infections, following these guidelines could help prevent future problems.

“Some women could wear silk drawers to the gym and they’d be fine. Others, not so much,” says Dr. Dweck.

Keri Wiginton is a writer and photographer focusing on issues related to women's health, mental well-being, and feminism. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Austin-American Statesman, Tampa Bay Times and Houston Chronicle. Follow her work at www.keriwiginton.com or on Twitter at @keriphoto.