Fierce

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.

bentleycomponents / Instagram

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.


Three Migrants Kids Died Of Flu-Related Illness, Now The Trump Administration Is Refusing To Administer The Vaccine

Things That Matter

Three Migrants Kids Died Of Flu-Related Illness, Now The Trump Administration Is Refusing To Administer The Vaccine

US CBP / DHS

The Trump administration has made it clear that when it comes to its immigration policies, the cruelty is the point. Officials within the administration have admitted that their inhumane policies are meant as deterrents. The administration believes that if you’re cruel enough, people will stop seeking a new life in the United States.

However, that isn’t what the US is supposed to be about. The US is supposed to be a country of immigrants. A nation that welcomes people fleeing from poverty, violence, and even possible death. With each new anti-immigrant policy the administration puts forward, that reputation of a nation of immigrants is continuing to crumble. 

For example, the administration will not provide the flu vaccine to people in detention centers even though several have already died due to the illness. 

The US won’t be vaccinating migrant families in holding centers ahead of this year’s flu season, despite calls from doctors to boost efforts to fight the infection that’s killed at least three children at detention facilities in the past year.

At least three children who were held in detention centers after crossing into the U.S. from Mexico have died in recent months, in part, from the flu, according to a letter to Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., from several doctors urging Congress to investigate health conditions at the centers.

The move is just the latest in a series of cruel tactics targeting the migrant community.

We already know the Trump Administration is practically torturing undocumented immigrants detained at various detention camps by separating them from their families, denying them hygiene products, denying them water, forcing them to endure harassment and abuse by untrained employees, and detaining them longer.

The Trump Administration’s latest form of torture denies detained migrant families basic healthcare, including not administering to them the flu vaccine.

And the excuse from CBP makes absolutely zero sense. 

“In general, due to the short term nature of CBP holding, the time the vaccine takes to begin working, and the complexities of operating vaccination programs, neither CBP nor its medical contractors administer vaccinations to those in our custody,” a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement to CBS News.

This statement is flawed. Migrant families are being detained for long periods of time. The way officials get away with it, under the law, is to continuously transfer them to other detainment centers.

And now with the administrations upcoming rule change that would allow for indefinite detention, this makes absolutely zero sense. 

Medical groups and immigrant advocate groups are calling this inhumane treatment out for what it is. 

Doctors have already noted that CBP is not following medical screenings of incoming detainees and that officials have had to quarantine people multiples times because of the outbreak of disease. 

Three undocumented children have already died of the flu under the mishandling of the CBP.

“I can tell you from personal experience that child deaths are rare events,” Harvard pediatrics professor Dr. Jonathan Winickoff said to CNBC in an interview. 

Winickoff said that current holding conditions, like being placed in close proximity to other immigrants, make it easy to spread infectious diseases from person to person. He added that contracting the flu weakens a child’s immune system, making it harder to fight off other illnesses.

“A child might start out with flu but then die of another infection,” he added.

If conditions don’t improve, Dr. Julie Linton, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Immigrant Child and Family Health, said more children will needlessly die.

While people on social media had plenty of strong reactions against the policy.

People on social media are calling this torture of detainees a form of genocide, and here’s why: under Hitler rule, while some Jews died in gas chambers, others died because of disease. Last month, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) internal watchdog released a harrowing report about the health dangers inside detention centers.

“We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained,” the report said.

Flu season is just over a month away and for migrants being held in detention centers across the US, it could be a very dangerous one.

The CBP and the Trump Administration don’t seem to be too worried — or worried at all — about the health risks migrant families are being exposed to and who falls victim to them because if they did, immediate action would be taken to help these communities.

Flu season begins in October and will last through January — possibly longer. Something tells us the ramifications of this year’s flu season will last longer than a couple of months.

Explaining Racial Trauma To A White Therapist Isn’t Always Easy, Here’s Why Seeing A Therapist Of Color Might Be Better

Fierce

Explaining Racial Trauma To A White Therapist Isn’t Always Easy, Here’s Why Seeing A Therapist Of Color Might Be Better

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness month, a time of year the U.S. Government designated to “bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face in regard to mental illness in the United States”. And with good reason.

Chilling statistics tell us that while 41.5% of children aged 12-17 received care for a major depressive episode, the percentage of minority children that received treatment is much lower, with 35.1% of black children and only 32.7% of Latino kids receiving care. The reasons behind this are varied. Not only are minorities more likely to be misdiagnosed and less likely to receive appropriate care due to clinician bias, but according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, minorities are also “less likely to use community mental health services, more likely to use emergency departments, and more likely to receive lower quality care”, due to a variety of socioeconomic factors. We know that mental illness is a cultural issue that permeates every aspect of society, so the problem, then, lies in awareness, diagnosis, and treatment. 

The idea of consulting a therapist for professional help seems like overkill, a little foreign, and definitely a little scary. We’ve all head the common refrain: “Isn’t therapy for crazy people?”. Not at all. Therapy is simply a way of practicing self-care and should have no greater stigma surrounding it than going to the doctor for a check-up. In 2017, a study showed that 18.9% of adults in the U.S. had a mental illness. That’s 46.6 million people! Statistics like this simply prove how much therapy could benefit the population. 

Luckily, we live in a time where millennials are no longer as afraid of talking about their struggles with mental health or afraid of getting outside help to deal with them. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, five times as many college students went to therapy in 2017 as compared to the years between 2011 and 2016. According to Peter Economou, a professor of Applied Psychology at Rutgers: “treatment has become de-stigmatized so people are more open to it”. But, we still have a long way to go. 

The Latino community, like many marginalized communities, is notoriously conservative when it comes to views on mental illness. As Twitter user @itsk80prince put it so perfectly: “talking about mental health in Latino families be like: “eres un emo?”. Many Latino families believe that problems should be discussed with a priest or maybe with your girlfriends during a round of chisme.

Before you start your search for a therapist, keep the following points in mind:

1. Do your research about their ethnic background and background in treating certain demographics.

There’s no shame in wanting a therapist who either looks like you or might come from a similar upbringing as you do. Often times, these are the therapists who can make us feel the most understood, related to and comforted. Having to explain racial trauma to a therapist who might not be able to relate or validate your feelings will undoubtedly bring you way more frustration in the end. “I’m a Latina who identifies as queer and started to see a white female therapist after I found myself going through a lot of depression while trying to get a job at a new company,” one woman explained to FIERCE in an interview. “All was well at first but after a while, I realized that talking about the frustrations I was experiencing were not being registered her accepted by her. For example, speaking to her about the frustrations of being interviewed by white men over and over again was okay but speaking about the racist microaggressions I would experience under my white female boss was always met with questions about why I thought my boss’s behavior was racist even at all. Ultimately I left her and started seeing a black female therapist who gets my situation so much more and I feel so much more validated.” 

2. Know the difference between a Counselor vs. a Therapist vs. a Psychologist

Counselors don’t require an advanced degree and, in fact, the term “counselor” kind of works as an umbrella term for therapists, social workers, and psychologists. Therapists, on the other hand, usually need a minimum of a Master’s degree in Psychology, Social Work, or Marriage and Family Therapy in order to call themselves a therapist. Psychologists are required to hold at least a Masters degree in psychology, with many opting for a doctorate.

3. Okay, so you want the Ph.D. Will you be needing a psychologist or psychiatrist? 

Newbies to therapy might not be aware of the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, so it’s good to keep in mind the difference before starting your search. While a psychologist assesses, analyzes and observes your behavior in order to alleviate mental stress, a psychiatrist does all of the above and is also a licensed physician, meaning they can also prescribe medication, such as antidepressants. 

If you’re really struggling with depression, anxiety and/or psychosis and your mood makes it hard for you to function in day-to-day life, then your problems may be caused by a chemical imbalance. Medication might give you the extra help you need to get your mood back on track.

4. Do you want this time to be solo?

It may not come as a shock to you to know that many people consider relationships to be one of the most stressful aspects of life. Consider couples or family therapy as an option if you feel like you need help mediating inter-relational problems, or even if you’d just like an outside opinion on your relationships. Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) specialize in familial interactions and work on improving communication between family members. 

5. Identity matters.

Don’t feel guilty about preferring a therapist who understands first-hand the struggle that you go through on a daily basis. That means that if you prefer a therapist who identifies the same way as you do (gender, sexual orientation, race and/or ethnicity), it is completely within your rights to pick that therapist. If you’re more comfortable with therapist who specializes in LGBTQ+ issues or identifies as Latino, then that’s completely your choice.  

6. Utilize all of your resources. 

Remember, there have been so many people that have come before you that have been in your shoes. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals from open-minded friends and family members. Also, know that there are tons of resources available to you online. The internet is chock-full of lists, databases, directories, and networks, all created with the express purpose of providing mental health care to Latino and marginalized communities. Databases like this can point you in the right director. Or even ask your healthcare provider to connect you with therapists who identify the same way as you do.

7. Take your therapist for a test drive. 

If you’re worried about committing to a therapist straight of the bat, ask for a trial session first so you know if you have chemistry (or have the possibility of building a rapport) with your mental healthcare provider. Sometimes, everything about your potential therapist can look great on paper, but once you meet in person, the connection just isn’t there. 

Once you arrive, ask yourself a few questions: Do you like the environment? Does this person feel easy to talk to? Do you feel comfortable around this person? Can you imagine revealing some of your most painful feelings to this person? All of these questions can help bring clarity to what you’re feeling.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

It can be a little daunting the first time you step into a therapist’s office, especially when you expect your therapist to be the one asking you all of the thought-provoking questions. But, remember: this is your health, and you get to call the shots. Make sure you ask questions–what is the therapist’s approach? Psychotherapy? Cognitive behavioral therapy? Does your therapist use faith-based methods to supplement her practice? No question is too trivial, silly, or small to ask your potential therapist.

9. Make sure your therapist is licensed.

Last but not least, make sure your therapist is licensed by the state you live in. Becoming a licensed therapist is a strenuous process that involves a lot of schooling, clinical hours, and exams. So, although that man on the corner of the sidewalk giving out advice may have some interesting stuff to say, he’s probably not the best option for helping you get to your best self.