Here are 20 things every woman should know about her vagina and vaginal health.
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