10 Things Your Vagina Wants You to Know
1. Calling it your vagina is OK.
Yes, the word "vagina" can sound weirdly formal for something that is attached to your body, but it's not Voldemort. If you need to talk to your doctor about an itch or a bump, lose the synonyms and just say it. It'll make the convo less awkward in the long run. "If you tell me you have itching 'down there' — what do you mean? Down where?" says Melisa Holmes, MD, an ob-gyn and co-founder of Girlology.com. "But if you give me specifics, it's much easier to help you."
2. What you're calling your vagina might not actuallybeyour vagina.
At some point in human history, "vagina" somehow became a catch-all for everything between our legs (?!). But the truth is, that's nottechnicallycorrect. "I can't tell you how many people — even grown women — ask me about the hair on their vagina," says Dr. Holmes. "I have to tell them: That's not your vagina. You don't have hair on your vagina!" So here's a super-quick anatomy lesson to get us all on the same page: Youroutergenital area, aka the stuff you can see, is known as your vulva. This consists of the labia majora and labia minora (outer and inner "lips"), the clitoris (it's at the top point of your labia), the mons (that area of flesh above your clitoris, which is covered by your pubic hair), and the *openings* of both your urethra (where you pee) and your vagina. Now the vagina itself — THAT is somethingyou can't actually see. It's the tube that connects the outside parts of your reproductive system to theinnerparts.
3. Go ahead, introduce yourself.
Now is as good of a time as ever, so lock your door, grab a mirror, and take a peak at what's down there. "It's important to know the parts and what they look like," says Dr. Holmes. "Every woman needs to have her baseline of what's 'normal' forherso she can notice changes or problems down the road."
4. Your labia aren't supposed to be symmetrical.
Seriously! Uneven, pink or brown, smooth or wrinkly, tucked in or poking out — whatever your worry is about the lips, you can probably stop stressing. "Just like everyone's face looks a little bit different, everyone's vulva looks a little bit different too," says Dr. Holmes. You're literally a special snowflake. ❄️
5. That discharge? It's most likely normal.
In fact, it's probablygoodfor you. "The vagina is like a self-cleaning oven," explains Jennifer Ashton, MD, an ob-gyn and author ofThe Body Scoop for Girls. "Your body makes mucous to flush out bacteria — that's what discharge is." Clear or white-ish is totally fine, but if it's clumpy, yellow-green, brown-ish/tinged with blood, or fishy-smelling? Don't freak — just talk to your doc. Thesecouldbe signs of an infection.
6. Soap and water only, please.
Even though discharge is normal, that doesn't mean it won't gross you out — and your instinct might be to spend a solid segment of your shower scrubbing up between your legs with your regs body wash. But ironically enough, trying to clean yourself down there is only going to upset the pH balance inside your vagina — andthatwill cause the sort of stuff (infections, smells, icky-colored discharge) you're trying to prevent in the first place. "Nothing, not even water, needs to go up there!" Dr. Ashton explains. Instead, put a dab of shampoo on your hand — it's milder than soap — and gently clean theoutsidewith your fingers. (Just be sure to wash between the labia majora and labia manora, aka the outer and inner lips, where discharge can get stuck.)
7. Lemme breathe!
No joke: Youshouldgo commando at night. (That doesn't mean youcan'tsleep in loose sweats or boxer shorts, but the goal is to wear something airy — so your vagina can breathe.) "When you sleep, you sweat — and the yeast and bacteria that cause infections love these dark, damp areas," explains Dr. Ashton. The same goes for other clothing that can hold moisture in. That's why you should always,alwayschange out of your wet swimsuit or sweaty gym clothes ASAP.
8. What you do with pubic hair is your business.
But know this: It's not only OK to resist the pressure to go bare — it's functional, too. "Pubic hair exists to trap vaginal discharge and bacteria away from your skin, so that it doesn't irritate you," explains Dr. Holmes. So while shaving/waxing are probably fine, you may want to talk to your doc if you've been all kinds of red-and-itchy lately, or if you notice bumps on your outer labia. While these maybe signs of an infection, the solutioncouldbe as simple as switching up your shave-strategy.
9. Yes, there's a smell.
Every female on this planet has a natural vaginal odor. And if you're generally healthy, it's not going to be foul — it's just going to be a little bit…different. "It's not supposed to smell like flowers!" says Dr. Holmes. Some words to describe the normal scents you may or may not notice at times: musky (when you're turned on); "tinny" (during your period); and BO (there aretonsof sweat glands down there, after all!). And what about theabnormalones? It's tricky, but the docs we talked to say their biggest advice is to watch out for fishiness and/or any overwhelmingly strong smell that's accompanied by OTHER symptoms, like itching or burning.
10. Nope, you can't lose something inside of me.
Not a tampon, not a condom —nothingcan be set loose into the abyss of your body through the vagina, and here's why: There's an end to it! (That end = your cervix, which is the lowest part of your uterus/womb.) "I hear this question all the time, but it's just not possible," says Dr. Ashton.
Video: 10 things you must know about your Vagina
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