- Fact No. 1: The vaginal canal cleans itself.
- Fact No. 2: You can't 'lose' anything in your vaginal area.
- Fact No. 3: The terms vagina and vulva are not interchangeable.
- Fact No. 4: During arousal, the vaginal depth increases.
- Fact No. 5: Your vaginal area isn't intended to smell.
- Fact No. 6: Vaginas and vulvas exist in a variety of sizes and forms.
Although the vagina is an important part of the female anatomy, many individuals are unaware of its existence.
Dr. Lauren Streicher, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and creator of the podcast Dr. Streicher's Inside Information, tells Yahoo Life, "When we do exams in the office, we get out a mirror, show women their vaginas, and point out the anatomy of the area." "For the vast majority of women, this is their first close examination."
Many people, according to Streicher, "do not know the correct language and anatomy" when it comes to discussing the region. Dr. Christine Greves, a gynecologist at Orlando's Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, agrees. She tells Yahoo Life, "A lot of ladies don't know a whole lot about their vaginal organs."
"Whether the fault lies in sex education in the schools, public health messaging, self-reluctance, or a combination of these factors, not knowing and understanding how the entire body functions and what is normal or abnormal could have health consequences," says Dr. Jennifer Wider, a women's health expert.
"It's critical to understand our bodies, including the bits we can't see very clearly," she says.
In light of this, and in honor of National Vagina Appreciation Day on April 23, we spoke with a few ob-gyns and learned some amazing facts about vaginas.
Fact No. 1: The vaginal canal cleans itself.
As Greves puts it, the vagina is frequently compared to a "self-cleaning oven." She claims that the bacteria in the vaginal area include healthy bacteria called lactobacillus, which work in a similar way to a robot vacuum. Greves explains, "It just takes care of your vagina." "If you have the right amount of lactobacillus, it can fight off harmful bacteria and yeast that could otherwise overgrow."
TAccording to Wider, the vagina likewise sheds its outermost cells to clean itself, washing them out through discharges and mucus.
Fact No. 2: You can't 'lose' anything in your vaginal area.
Online horror stories abound of women "losing" tampons in their vagina, but while foreign objects can become lodged in the vagina, losing them is impossible, according to Streicher. "Everyone thinks the vagina is this endless road, but it's actually a dead end," she explains. "You can't lose a tampon or anything because it comes to a halt at the dead end."
The cervix, or lower section of the uterus, is what most women have, she says, and it only opens during birthing. The back of the vagina is sewed up during a hysterectomy, "so it's still a dead end," Streicher notes.
Fact No. 3: The terms vagina and vulva are not interchangeable.
Patients frequently confuse the two, according to ob-gyns. "I still have people come in saying their vagina hurts when they really mean their vulva," Greves explains. "Everything is referred to by a single phrase."
Streicher concurs. "No one ever speaks vulva," she says. "The vagina, on the other hand, is entirely internal. The vulva is everything you perceive." According to Streicher, the cause behind this is most likely cultural. "No one teaches little girls suitable words, and no one uses it," she says.
Fact No. 4: During arousal, the vaginal depth increases.
Most women aren't aware of this, but "there is increased blood flow to the genitalia during arousal," Streicher notes. "It also lengthens to fit a penis - that's why we have sex biologically." "The aroused vagina is generally longer and a little more dilated than the non-aroused vagina," she adds.
Fact No. 5: Your vaginal area isn't intended to smell.
Despite the widespread use of douches and other feminine deodorants, Streicher says it's "natural for a vaginal aroma to exist." (Ob-gyns advise against using douches and deodorant sprays since they can cause vaginal infections.)
"A mild odor in the vaginal area is normal," Streicher explains. A strong, unpleasant stench or a fishy odor, on the other hand, could indicate an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis, the most prevalent vaginal infection in women, and should prompt a visit to the doctor, she says.
Fact No. 6: Vaginas and vulvas exist in a variety of sizes and forms.
Every vulva and vagina, like other body parts, has a unique appearance. "Many women are self-conscious about their vulva's appearance, but they shouldn't be," explains Wider. "Vulvae occur in a variety of sizes and forms. The term "normal" encompasses a wide variety of conditions."
Greves agrees, observing that some women's labia (skin folds around the vaginal opening) are longer and asymmetrical. "Everyone is unique," she continues.