20 Things Every Woman Should Know About Her Vagina
Here are 20 things every woman should know about her vagina and vaginal health.
It’s amazing how much misinformation is out there about the vagina. Given how fascinated our society is with the female body, you’d think we’d be a little more informed. But from what I discovered while soliciting questions for my book What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, many of us still have a lot to learn.
20 Things Every Woman Should Know About Her Vagina
To help out, I’ve compiled a list of 20 things I believe every woman should know about the vagina.
While men do pee out of the penis, women do not pee out of the vagina. There are three holes. Learn to know your anatomy. Get a hand mirror and go to town. From front to back, the urethra is the first hole, the vagina is the second, and the anus is the third. Don’t laugh! You’d be amazed how many people don’t know this.
The vagina doesn’t connect to your lung. If you lose something in there, don’t worry. Reach in all the way and pull it out. Do not--I repeat, do not--go hunting for whatever you’ve lost with a pair of pliers. If you think you put something in there and you can’t find it, chances are good that it’s simply not there. Think of your vagina as being like a sock. If you lose a banana in a sock…it stays in the sock.
Yes, it’s true--your vagina can fall out. Not to belabor the sock metaphor, but it can turn inside out just like a worn out sweat sock and hang between your legs as you get older. But don’t fret; this condition—called pelvic prolapse—can be fixed. Pelvic prolapse is unfortunately common, and estrogen decline with postmenopause and multiple vaginal deliveries are the main risk factors for developing it. There are also various degrees of prolapse: if it’s mild and doesn’t interfere with your quality of life, there is no need to medically treat it. For those on the other side of the extreme, surgical repair is an option.
Contrary to popular mythology, there’s no such thing as being revirginized. Once you lose it, it’s gone. Just so you know.
You can catch sexually transmitted diseases even if you use a condom. Sorry to break it to you, but the skin of the vulva can still touch infectious skin of the scrotum—and BAM! Warts. Herpes. Molluscum contagiosum. Pubic lice. So pick your partners carefully.
The vagina is like a bicep. Use it or lose it. If you don’t have a partner, pick up a battery-operated boyfriend to help keep things healthy as you age. But don't worry—it's usually not an issue until after menopause, when fragile vaginal tissue can scar and shrink. If you are not sexually active and do not engage in manual stimulation, practicing some pelvic floor exercises will be useful. Your vagina will be able to pleasure you until the day you leave this life.
Every vulva is different and special. Some lips hang down. Some are tucked up neatly inside. Some are long. Some are short. Some are even. Some aren’t. All are beautiful. You’re perfect just the way you are.
Most women don’t have orgasms from intercourse alone. The clitoris is where the action is. Most women who do orgasm during sex have figured out how to hit their sweet spot, either from positioning or from direct stimulation of the clitoris with fingers.
If you’re hunting for your G Spot, be patient. Stimulating this area usually requires more time and deeper stimulation than most people think. Try using a finger in a “come hither” motion to stimulate the front wall of the vagina, where the G spot lives. If you can’t find it, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Many can’t--and it's definitely not critical to having a fulfilling romp in the hay.
How you choose to decorate is completely personal. Waxing, shaving, tattooing, piercing, or simply going au natural. It's your choice, and don't let anyone else pressure you into doing something that doesn't resonate with you.
The vagina doesn’t need to be douched. As Eve Ensler says, ““My vagina doesn’t need to be cleaned up. It smells good already. Don’t try to decorate. Don’t believe him when he tells you it smells like rose petals when it’s supposed to smell like pussy. That’s what they’re doing—trying to clean it up, make it smell like bathroom spray or a garden. All those douche spraysfloral, berry, rain. I don’t want my pussy to smell like rain. All cleaned up like washing a fish after you cook it. I want to taste the fish. That’s why I ordered it.” Amen, sister. I second that.
The only cancer a Pap smear screens for is cervical cancer. It doesn’t check your ovaries, your uterus, or your colon, so even if you don’t need yearly Paps, you still need to have a yearly general physical to make sure you are completing all of your preventative screenings. (Please note: The USPSTF no longer recommends annual pelvic exams for all women).
How much vaginal discharge you make varies widely. Some normal, healthy women spew loads of discharge and need to wear panty liners every day. Others are bone dry. As long as you are not at risk of STD's and you have no itching, burning, or odor, you're probably just fine. If in doubt, see your gynecologist.
Menstrual blood is supposed to clot, so don’t freak out. Usually, what you think are clots are just pieces of uterine lining. As long as you’re not losing too much blood, small clots during your period need not concern you. Clots are just nature's way of keeping you from bleeding too much. Blood is supposed to clot. It's when the clots are accompanied by heavy bleeding that we start to worry.
Lots of vaginas need help lubing up during sex, especially as you get older. Don’t be afraid to slick on some lubricant like K-Y Jelly or Astroglide.
Vaginal farts (some call them “queefs” or “varts”) happen to almost all women at one time or another, especially during sex or other forms of exercise. Don’t be embarrassed. You’re perfectly normal.
Vaginas stretch out when you have babies vaginally. It’s natural but it can leave you feeling a bit loosey goosey. Pelvic floor exercises (formerly called kegel exercises) that contract the muscles of the vagina really do help. To do them, practice stopping the stream of urine when you pee. There—that's the muscle! Now contract and relax it 10 X for three or more sets several times per day.
Some women do ejaculate during orgasm, but you’re normal if you don’t. The controversial “female ejaculation” most likely represents two different phenomena. If it’s a small amount of milky fluid, it likely comes from the paraurethral glands inside the urethra. If it’s a cup, it’s probably pee. Many times, it may be a little bit of both. But don't stress out about peeing on yourself. Put a towel under you and surrender to the experience.
Sex shouldn't hurt, but it does for many women. If you're one of those women, see your doctor. So many women are too embarrassed to say anything, so they suffer in silence. There are things physicians can do to help you.
Safe sex (or even just orgasm alone) is good for you. Benefits include lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke, reducing your risk of breast cancer, bolstering your immune system, helping you sleep, making you appear more youthful, improving your fitness, regulating menstrual cycles, relieving menstrual cramps, helping with chronic pain, reducing the risk of depression, lowering stress levels, and improving self esteem. So go at it, girlfriends!
So there you go. It’s important to know about the vagina and your vaginal health. Your vagina is the portal to all things magical in your life. Once you own and accept this part of yourself, you can do and be anything you choose. The more you know, the more you’re empowered to live life out loud, love fully, and really rock this life.
If you like what you hear, you won’t want to miss my book What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend. Imagine being out with your girlfriends, one of whom is a gynecologist. The witty banter turns to sex, girly parts, and intimate storytelling, and next thing you know, you’re asking about everything you’ve been dying to know but were too embarrassed to ask even your own gynecologist. As outrageously funny as it is empowering, this book reveals how to love yourself and your body—and will have you recommending it to every woman you know. For more information about me and my book, visit OwningPink.com.
Sanaz Majd, MD, contributed to a version of this article, which was updated on October 18, 2016.
Female Reproductive System image from Shutterstock