A Gyno Weighs In On What You Ought to Learn about Your Vagina—and Easy methods to Maintain It Wholesome


I usually flash to that scene in Intercourse and the Metropolis. The one the place over lunch, Miranda asks Charlotte, “you’ve by no means checked out your self with a hand mirror?” As Charlotte grimaces, dejected over her vaginal well being and mortified that it’s the matter of dialog, Samantha chimes in: “Go residence proper now and have a look. Or higher but, take my compact and make a fast journey to the women’ room.”

Love or hate the early-aughts present, that scene is apt. Give it some thought. When you’ve got a vagina, how nicely have you learnt it? And your vulva? Have you learnt in the event that they’re wholesome and what their goal is?

Zero judgment right here. I solely just lately realized all about mine—and are available to seek out out, I wasn’t the one one who wanted an anatomy lesson. A 2016 examine by The Eve Attraction, a British gynecological most cancers analysis charity, claimed that almost half of the ladies surveyed couldn’t find the vagina. 

Characteristic picture by Michelle Nash.

Riley Banks by window
Picture of Riley Reed by Jenn Rose Smith.

This lack of awareness is to our detriment, believes Dr. Jodie Horton. “So many individuals do not know tips on how to determine their anatomy and the way it works,” says the board-certified OB/GYN. “Figuring out your physique offers you the facility to advocate for your self and get the help and remedy you want.”

As a result of, as Dr. Horton factors out, it may be straightforward to take our vaginal well being and anatomy as a right when all is nicely. However “it should not be uncared for, as a result of when one thing is off, it may possibly trigger a number of anxiousness.”

To demystify this wonderful a part of the feminine physique, I requested Dr. Horton what we have to know for optimum vulva and vaginal wellness. Plus, I included some good new merchandise to make doing so simpler.

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Anatomy 101: The Vagina and the Vulva

These two essential components of the feminine genitalia are sometimes misconstrued. 

The vagina is the inner feminine genitalia, says Dr. Horton. “It’s a tubular construction, sometimes three to 4 inches lengthy, that connects the vulva to the neck of the uterus, often known as the cervix.” The vagina performs an vital function in varied issues, from menstruation and childbirth to intercourse and sexual pleasure

The vulva is the exterior feminine genitalia, continues Dr. Horton. This contains the mons pubis, clitoral hood, clitoris, labia majora (aka the outer lips) and minor (the inside lips), and the urethral opening.

Picture by Michelle Nash.

Frequent Vaginal Well being Points

Vaginal discharge is without doubt one of the commonest causes of concern, says Dr. Horton. However right here’s the rub: Not all discharge means one thing off. When the vagina is functioning healthily, discharge is a part of the traditional wholesome system. “The vagina is a self-cleaning oven,” explains Dr. Horton, who says, on common, girls produce a teaspoon to a tablespoon of discharge every day. This fluid, which is milky or cloudy when wholesome, is produced by glands contained in the vagina. It contains cells shed from the cervix and vagina and distinctive micro organism that maintain the vagina clear.

That stated, some discharge does imply there’s a problem. When it’s inexperienced or yellow, or has a fishy or foul-smelling odor, is the time to see your physician. The identical goes for itchiness or irritation. These might imply a build-up of yeast, a bacterial an infection, or one other potential concern.

Additionally, Dr. Horton says it’s essential to see your physician when you suppose you’ve been uncovered to a sexually transmitted an infection. “Not all STIs have signs, so you will need to use protected intercourse practices to forestall publicity,” she provides.

Frequent Vulva Points

Vulvar cysts are additionally widespread—“however don’t be concerned as a result of most are benign,” says Dr. Horton. Typically, cysts are the results of ingrown hairs, which some girls are liable to, she provides. Being aware when shaving and exfoliating the pores and skin can assist stop recurring ingrown hairs and subsequent cysts. 

Bartholin’s cysts— fluid-filled cysts close to the opening of the vagina—are additionally widespread. These are attributable to damage or irritation to the vulva, sexually transmitted infections, or micro organism, corresponding to E. coli, says Dr. Horton. They are often painful in the event that they turn into contaminated, which warrants a health care provider’s go to.

Easy methods to Maintain the Vagina and Vulva Wholesome

In accordance with Dr. Horton, the easiest way to forestall vaginal infections is with good hygiene. However this doesn’t imply utilizing any ol’ cleaning soap. Conserving this space healthily clear requires simplicity and care.

First, right here’s what not to do:

  • “Do not attempt to masks regular vaginal discharge or odors,” says Dr. Horton. “In the event you suppose you’ve an an infection, see a health care provider to get recognized and be handled.” 
  • By no means use soaps with fragrances and dyes for the vagina or vulva, as this could change the vaginal pH and alter the stability of Lactobacilli within the vagina, growing the chance of vaginal infections,” provides Dr. Horton. “In the event you should clear the vagina, solely use water.” However once more, as talked about above, a wholesome vagina cleans itself.
  • Keep away from female sprays, perfumes, and douching, as these can also disrupt the wholesome PH and vaginal microbiome. 
Picture by Dagny Piasecki.

Now, right here’s what to do:

  • Maintain your female routine easy, stresses Dr. Horton.
  • To wash the vulva (the exterior genitalia), use a delicate cleanser that is freed from perfume, dyes, glycerin, and parabens, all of which may disrupt the vaginal microbiome.
  • Put on underwear made from breathable pure materials, like cotton or bamboo. “These absorbable materials are moisture-wicking that maintain the vulva and vagina dry when warmth and moisture can accumulate all through the day,” provides Dr. Horton.
  • Observe protected intercourse, one thing Dr. Horton says ought to be taken critically. “STIs can enhance your danger of getting different sexually transmitted infections, result in fertility issues, and have an effect on being pregnant.”
  • In the event you’re liable to ingrown hairs, think about mild hair-removal alternate options like waxing, sugaring, or laser hair elimination. “Or as Dr. Horton suggests, think about not eradicating any pubic hair.
  • Wipe entrance to again. “This minimizes introducing micro organism from the anus into the vagina and bladder, which may trigger infections.”

Probiotics: To Take or To not Take?

Dr. Horton’s recommendation is effusive: Take! “Probiotics aren’t only for intestine well being; they enhance vaginal flora and assist keep the steadiness of the vaginal flora atmosphere,” she says. “This can assist deal with and forestall infections.”

A Phrase on Figuring out Your Physique

When Samantha implored Charlotte to seize her compact mirror to have a look, she was on to one thing. “Do not be ashamed to find out about your vagina and vulva via self-exploration,” says Dr. Horton. The higher we all know ourselves, the higher we will decipher when issues are off. 

That is all a part of wholesome vulva and vaginal well being preventative care—which also needs to embrace common gynecologic exams, she provides. “A go to to the gyno includes a radical examination of the vagina, vulva, and pelvic organs, together with the cervix, uterus, and ovaries. Throughout the go to, you too can be examined for sexually transmitted infections, get a pap smear, and handle any issues about your vaginal well being.”


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