Vagina Facts: 25 Things You Ought To Know About Your Lady Parts
When it comes to your lady parts, you’ve probably heard every nickname in the vocabulary. From lady taco to pink clam, there’s lots of ways that we avoid saying the actual words for what we’re dealing with down there. But unlike our shyness about saying words that just call our bits what they are we must not be shy about the knowledge that is important to have about our lower anatomy.
There’s probably not a whole lot that you learned about your female genitalia from your mami, and that’s okay. Now that you’re an adult, you can certainly take your women’s health into your own hands and read through our handy list of 25 crucial things that you should know about your lady parts. But don’t just take it from us: Within these tidbits, you’ll find quotes and pieces of advice from medical professionals. And, of course, if you have your own questions or concerns, head to your OB-GYN for a check as soon as possible. It’s always best to seek your medical advice from a professional, after all.
1. You kind of are what you eat.
Or at least, when it comes to your smell it’s true.
Okay, so most of the evidence for this is anecdotal because the truth of the matter is that not much research has been done on the topic. But according to Alyssa Dweck, M.D. and co-author of V is For Vagina, who spoke with Women’s Health, your smell down there can be stronger during ovulation and when you eat pungent things like garlic.
2. Down there can be different colors, regardless of what your skin color is.
Your labia doesn’t necessarily correlate to the tone of your skin. In fact, you can be light skinned and have brown or purplish labia or darker-skinned and have lighter labia. And, even weirder still, you can actually have different colors for different areas of your lady parts.
3. You’re slightly acidic down there (but don’t worry).
According to Prevention, the pH of your vagina is about 4. That’s about the same as a glass of wine or a tomato, with normal ranges being from 3.8 to 4.5. However, this isn’t anything to worry about. What you SHOULD worry about, however, is using certain feminine hygiene products (like douching), which can disrupt the pH level of your lady parts and create a problem such as irritation.
4. Your pleasure center extends further back than we ever thought.
New research shows that our clitoris (that’s right, the little nub thought to be about the size of a button) is actually more like a wishbone that branches out and extends down underneath the skin alongside either side of the vulva. And, according to Debby Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., associate professor at Indiana University and author of The Coregasm Workout, who spoke with Buzzfeed Life, they “can potentially be stimulated from the outside.”
5. You can’t actually lose a tampon up there.
Having a stuck tampon can be scary and seriously dangerous, and you should certainly go to your doctor ASAP if this happens so that a medical professional can take it out. However, you don’t have to worry about a tampon getting lost in your vagina and traveling to another part of your body. That’s just not possible, thank goodness.
6. There are actually a LOT of “parts” down there.
Most of us probably call that general area the vagina, but that’s just the name of the muscular, elastic canal that extends from your cervix to your human. However, according to Anna Druet and Anne Högemann, research scientists at Clue, the period-tracking app, who spoke with Glamour, female genitalia is a lot more complicated than that. The “vulva” is what we should use to refer to external sex organs, such as the clitoris, urethra, labia minora and major, and then the pubis (which is all the stuff you can’t see, such as the cervix, vagina, and uterus).
7. You don’t need any special stuff to clean it.
Remember when I mentioned douching earlier? You actually shouldn’t do it, nor should you scrub inside or use any scented products inserted into your vagina. Why? Because it cleans itself, according to Dr. Dweck. “You should not need to put anything in the vagina to clean the actual inside,” she said to Health. “Our culture is obsessed with the gazillion products out there for the vaginal area, but you really don’t need anything other than soap and water.”
8. Your lady parts actually expand (yes, really!).
Your vagina will never fail to impress, as with what happens when you are aroused. It’s called “vaginal tenting,” according to Dr. Dweck. The inside of your vagina (about two-thirds of it) increases in length and width when you returned on, which is why you can accommodate even a well-endowed guy. Perhaps this is something you should experiment with? (wink wink)
9. There is no “typical” look to a woman’s lady parts.
Sure, the vagina (which is on the inside) generally looks the same, but there is great variation in the vulva (the outer parts, remember?). “Clitoral width is generally anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5 millimeters. I’ve examined women with a clitoral length of 0.5 inches all the way to over 2 inches, and studies confirm this variability. There is not just one size that’s normal,” said Dr. Karen E. Boyle of Chesapeake Urology Associates to Cosmopolitan. The same goes for inner and outer labia, which aren’t always symmetrical and can vary in length and shape.
10. Stimulation happens in many different areas.
That AH-mazing sensation you feel during sex (aka orgasm) actually happens because of four different nerves — the pelvic, hypogastric, sensory vagus, and pudendal nerves — that supply pleasure to the genital area. In fact, some recent brain studies have found that nerves in the spinal cord can also produce arousal. “This is the reason why some women with complete spinal cord injuries can still experience orgasms in response to sexual stimulation,” Beverly Whipple, PhD, sex researcher and educator and co-author of The G Spot: And Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality said to Prevention. “The research also validates that women all experience pleasure and orgasm differently.”
11. Hymens are not for everyone.
The common myth about losing your virginity is all about breaking of the hymen (aka popping the cherry), but the truth is that not all women are born with a hymen. In fact, hymens also range in thickness and the amount of coverage, which is why a “hymen check” is outdated and silly, according to Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva.
12. Exercise is good for the vagina.
You’ve probably heard of kegels, also known as pelvic floor exercises, and they’re actually a great way to strengthen your pelvic muscles. This can help you avoid urinary incontinence in the future as well as improve sexual satisfaction. Here’s how to do them: Simply squeeze the muscles you use to stop yourself from peeing. That’s it! Do this for 2-3 sets of 10 squeezes once or twice a day.
13. Your lady parts have quite a bit in common with a man’s parts.
“It has the prepuce, the glans, and the frenulum, just like the penis,” Sharon Gerber, M.D., ob-gyn, and fellow in family planning at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said to Glamour. Add to that the fact that the clitoris, although smaller than the penis, has twice the nerve endings. The latest research estimates that the clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings while a penis has only 4,000.
14. Cotton panties are best for a reason.
You need breathable underwear and clothing that provides a little airflow to your vulva, since a moist, warm environment can breed yeast and bacteria. Thongs are still fine if they aren’t causing chafing or irritation, and underwear should at least have a cotton crotch even if the rest of the material is something else. “Don’t wear panty liners or pads 24/7 if you don’t need them — they don’t allow breathable conditions, ” Dr. Dweck told Health. “I often recommend sleeping without anything on your bottom, to give you plenty of aeration.”
15. It’s easy to tell when you’re ovulating.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, then you need to know all about ovulation — and cervical mucus. “It’s incredibly cool that your vagina will let you know when it’s the optimal time to get pregnant,” Dr. Dweck said to Women’s Health. “The cervical mucus during ovulation is clear, rubbery, and stretchy.”
16. No, your vajayjay can’t “revirginize” itself.
According to Cosmopolitan, if you’ve gone through a long dry spell, sex-wise, there’s no actual risk of your vagina becoming so tight that you’ll be in pain next time you might have sex. You can’t just be a virgin again, though anxiety about this might make your vaginal muscles tense at first. Otherwise, though, penetration shouldn’t be painful even if it’s been quite a while.
17. Some parts are a lot bigger than we thought.
As I already explained, only a small part of the clitoris is on the outside. And in fact, according to Prevention, the clitoris is actually about 80% the size of a penis. So when you think about how women are smaller than men in general, this means that the clit is actually about the same size as a penis when we’re talking about proportions. Wowza!
18. Your lady parts won’t dramatically change after you have kids.
Despite what urban legend tells us, a woman’s vagina size doesn’t actually change dramatically between having babies and not. Groundbreaking research published in 1996 told us that, thank goodness.
19. Most women can’t orgasm from vaginal stimulation alone.
This is something that often makes women feel bad and men frustrated, but studies suggest that about 25 to 25 percent of heterosexual women always climax from vaginal intercourse alone, according to Glamour. Instead, there are other ways of achieving orgasm that women (and their partners) can experiment with, including clitoral stimulation. Don’t forget about those 8,000 nerve endings!
20. If you’re itching down there, it might not be what you think.
“There are a lot of things that can cause an itch that aren’t a yeast infection,” Hilda Hutcherson, MD, professor of ob/gyn at Columbia University Medical Center, said to Health. Itching in your vulva area can also be caused by chafing from your clothing, irritation from shaving, or laundry detergent or soap that your sensitive skin is reacting negatively to. Discharge and discomfort can be caused by yeast infection, sure, but also by other types of vaginal infections and sexually transmitted infections. You should always check with your doctor before using over-the-counter medication.
21. Your lady parts are a LOT stronger than you think, especially when it comes to childbirth.
“It’s an unbelievable fact that the vagina can allow a 10-plus-pound baby to come through it and still come back to a normal size,” Dr. Dweck said to Women’s Health. Your vagina is seriously incredible to go through all of this, but it does take about six months to heal post-baby. Still, that’s really impressive considering what it goes through during this process!
22. If there’s pain, go to your doctor ASAP.
According to Cosmopolitan, there are several different things that can cause you to have pain in your lady parts. One is vaginismus, which is when the vaginal muscles contract involuntarily, and this can make it near impossible to use a tampon, have sex, or even get a gyro exam. The other culprit could be vulvodynia, which is when you have vulva pain, stinging, or sensitivity so intense that direct touch is very painful. See your doctor for what’s going on, because they can help determine your condition and its best treatment.
23. Lubrication down there is more complicated than we think.
Eric Marlowe Garrison, clinical sexologist and author of Mastering Multiple Position Sex who recently spoke with Prevention, revealed that there is some research that indicates both the Bartholin and Skene (female prostate) glands around the vagina provide lubrication. However, most of it comes from transudation, which is when mucous moves through the vaginal wall. Fascinating!
24. There is a reason why you have hair down there.
You might love shaving (or waxing or you’re even considering laser hair removal), but you have to know that pubic hair actually has a job to do. In particular, Dr. Gerber says that it “serves as a protective barrier to genital tissues, particularly the sensitive vaginal opening. As well as providing a protective barrier, it also acts as a buffer against friction. Shaving can leave tiny — and easily microscopic — wounds on the skin, temporarily rising one’s risk of infection.”
25. Sex is really good for your lady parts.
“Sex keeps the vagina alive and lubricated, especially as women get older and estrogen goes down,” Dr. Hutcherson said to Health. “Sexual activity keeps blood flowing down there and decreases some of the changes that you get with menopause.” So other than the fact that you already know that sex is really good because it burns calories, reduces stress, boosts immunity, AND brings you closer to your partner, now you can have the excuse of it also being good for your overall vagina’s health.