24 things every woman should know about her vagina

24 things every woman should know about her vagina

24 things every woman should know about her vagina

Considering that discussing vaginas is no longer a taboo topic, it’s incredible how little most women actually know about theirs, from the anatomy, monthly changes, hygiene and various sensations experienced. So, in the interest of female education, we’ve summed up a few things that may or may not surprise you about yours.

We should be using the term ‘vulva’ instead of vagina
Woman lying down

Technically speaking, the vagina is actually the elastic, muscular canal that connects the vulva to the cervix and uterus. Vulva is the correct term to use when referring to the external female sex organs. This encompasses the pubis, urethral opening, clitoris, labia minora and the labia majora and vaginal opening.

The external structure

External structure of the Vagina

As you can see in the diagram, the external structure of the vulva consists of the labia majora, which are the outer lips of the vagina, the labia minora, the inner lips and the clitoris, a highly sensitive, erogenous zone that contains more nerve endings than any other part of a woman’s body.1

The vagina is at a 130-degree angle

Woman getting ready to insert a tampon

The vaginal canal is set at an angle in your body, which is why sometimes during sexual intercourse or the insertion of a tampon it may feel like you are hitting a wall.

You do not urinate from your vagina

Diagram of woman's Urethra, Vagina and Anus

This may surprise you, but there are actually three holes ‘down there’ and not just two. While men urinate from their penises, women urinate from the urethra (a tubular structure that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body). From front to back the first hole is the urethra and then the vagina, which is above the anus.

The rainbow nation of vulvas

Colour palette

While porn stars may portray a seemingly different picture, every woman’s vulva actually looks different. Some labia majora (outer lips) are tucked in and some hang down, some are symmetrical and others asymmetrical. You get both long and short outer lips.

Labia minora also differ in their appearance and size, and it is important to remember that when comparing yourself to porn stars, many have undergone labiaplasty procedures to cosmetically alter the appearance of the labia minora.

The colour of vulvar anatomy is also completely different from one individual to the next, ranging from light pink to dark brown.

The purpose of pubic hair

Pubic hair

Yes, believe it or not, pubic hair has a job. It takes on the role of a protective barrier to the genital tissues and vaginal opening. It also acts as a barrier against infection. Makes you think twice about that Brazilian wax doesn’t it?

The similarity between a penis and a clitoris

Male & Female Symbols

These two structures are more similar than you realise. Just like the penis, the clitoris has the frenulum (the small fold and ridge of skin that supports motion) and a prepuce (or ‘clitoral hood’ is a fold of skin that covers it). The clitoral hood is comprised of the same kind of tissues that make up the foreskin in males. Like the penis, the clitoris has erectile tissues that are activated upon arousal.

Few women orgasm from vaginal penetration

Man and women being intimate

Most women do not reach a climax through vaginal penetration and need clitoral stimulation to orgasm. This can be achieved through masturbation, manual or cunnilingual stimulation by a sexual partner.

Female ejaculation

Woman having an orgasm

Most women do not ejaculate during an orgasm, but if you do, this is considered normal. Female ejaculation can occur as the result of two different phenomena that most are not aware of.

If ejaculate is produced in a small amount with a milky or cloudy appearance, it is most likely emitted from the paraurethral glands located inside the urethra. If the fluid is clearer and more than a cupful, it is usually urine diluted with substances from the female prostate. Either way, for the women who experience this phenomenon, the sensation is orgasmic and differs from urinating.

Lubrication is important during intercourse

Lubrication

Sufficient lubrication of the vagina prevents painful sex and tissue tearing. Vaginal lubrication is affected by the level of oestrogen in the body. Things like taking birth control, menopause and breastfeeding can alter oestrogen levels.
The lower your oestrogen levels, the more difficult it is for your vagina to lubricate naturally.

As women age natural lubrication tends to dry up and the administration of topical oestrogen treatments or the use of manufactured vaginal lubricants may be required.

If you are dealing with a very dry vagina you should speak to your doctor and seek a solution.

Vaginal farts are a real thing

Couple being intimate

Otherwise known as “queefing”, vaginal farts will occur in most women at some point in their lives, especially during exercise and intercourse which traps air in the vagina.

The shame of painful sex

Woman sitting shame

It’s important to note that intercourse should not be painful in any way. Even in today’s forward-thinking world, many women are still too embarrassed and ashamed to talk about it. Should you experience any form of pain during sex, visit your doctor or gynaecologist, often the cause is easily resolved.

Catching an STD is still possible when using  condoms

Woman in pain

You can still catch some STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) even if you use a condom. STD’s such as herpes, HPV, pubic lice and molluscum contagiosum are still transferable due to the fact that the vulva can still come into contact with the infected skin of the scrotum (or vice versa), thus passing on the infection.

Orgasms help with period pain

Women holding her vagina

It is said that having an orgasm can help to relieve menstrual cramps. This is due to the increase of blood flow that occurs when climaxing. In addition, when you orgasm, your uterine muscles contract and release chemicals into the brain that generate a natural pain reliver for menstrual cramps.

Pink Balls are a real thing

Woman in discomfort

Women have their own version of the condition referred to as ‘blue balls' which is normally associated with men who experience discomfort in the penis and/or testicles due to sexual frustration and can also experience a degree of discomfort as a result of sexual frustration.

Vaginal discharge changes

Vaginal discharge

The quality and quantity of vaginal discharge can vary due to the various stages of your menstrual cycle. It usually starts off whitish with a creamy tint when your cycle begins. The amount of discharge then increases along with the sensation of wetness and transparency as you near ovulation. When ovulation begins, discharge becomes slightly thicker and has more of a gooey texture (similar to that of egg whites).

Vaginas are all about that pH Balance

pH balance scale

In order for sperm to survive and swim inside the vagina, the vagina maintains an acidic environment with a pH balance of 4.5.

Pregnancy and childbirth changes your vagina

Woman's purse with baby stuff

Pregnancy and natural childbirth changes your vagina in various ways:

  • During pregnancy elevated levels of the hormone oestrogen are present, keeping your vagina well lubricated. After giving birth this drops off and causes vaginal tissues to shrink and thin, often leading to feelings of dryness.
  • Directly after natural childbirth your vagina and perineum (the area between the vagina and anus) may be exceptionally tender and even painful.
  • If you tear during birth or have an episiotomy (a surgical incision of the perineum and posterior vaginal wall) you may be left with scar tissue that can cause pain during sex.
  • The size and shape of your vagina may be altered, and you may find that your vagina is wider than before.
  • Pelvic floor muscle tone may change, and this can affect the strength of orgasms (although Kegel exercises can help to restore muscle tone to its previous state)

Rest your vagina after childbirth

Woman resting with baby

Whether you have had a C-section or natural childbirth, most physicians recommend taking at least four to six weeks off before engaging in any vaginal penetration so that the vagina can heal properly.

Kegels! Kegel! Kegels!

Woman sitting and doing kegels

It is recommended that women do Kegel exercises after childbirth to strengthen the vaginal muscles again.  Kegels are easy to do and can be done almost anywhere at any time.

  1. Start by making sure that you are strengthening the right muscles. First pretend that you are preventing yourself from passing gas or urinating by holding it in or if you’re going to the toilet, physically try to stop your urine stream midway through. Feel that contraction in your pelvic floor? Good.
  2. With an empty bladder either sit or lie down.
  3. Begin by breathing in deeply and squeezing in the pelvic floor muscles and holding them tight for a count of eight. Be sure not to tighten your thighs, chest, stomach or buttock muscles.
  4. Relax and release the pelvic floor muscles for a count of ten.
  5. Continue to repeat this exercise for three times a day.

Vaginas self-clean

woman holding feather duster

The glands located in the lining of the vagina release a fluid that is designed to naturally lubricate and cleanse the vagina. When you use certain soaps or cleaning devices, these can interfere with the vagina’s natural pH balance and trigger infections like thrush. To avoid this, you should only use soap on the outer labia

Douching is a thing of the past

Doctor and two douching is a device with soft and hard tip

Today, douching is considered to be more harmful than beneficial as it disrupts the natural balance of bacteria and can lead to an infection.

Vaginas all smell different

Different flowers

There are a variety of factors that go into the smell of your nether regions.

 

Every single woman has a different odour due to their choice of fabric when it comes to underwear, hygiene level, diet, gland secretion and the unique mix of internal bacteria.

The pap smear screen

Pap Smear screening

Some women do not know this, but a pap smear can only screen for viral infections such as Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the resultant abnormal cells that have the potential to cause cervical cancer. It does not check or screen the condition of your uterus, ovaries and colon for cancer and other illnesses. It is important to visit your doctor at least once a year for a full check-up which should involve a sonar scan.

 

References

[1] Sexinfo Online. 2 June 2017. The clitoris. Available at:  http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo/article/clitoris  Accessed [23 March 2018]