If there’s one thing we don’t talk about enough, it’s our vaginas. But you and your vag have been through a lot together – from your first period to your first sexual relationship. You kind of owe it to your body to know everything you can about it. So, if you’ve got queries and think they’re too embarrassing to ask or are tired of being shush-ed when you muster up the courage to bring them up, we’ve got you covered.
We sat down with Dr. Priti Vyas, a Mumbai based gynaecologist and got her to answer our top 10 vagina-related questions:
#1: Vagina vs. vulva – what’s the difference?
Our research on our special place down there made us realise that a lot of women aren’t aware of basic female anatomy and Dr.Vyas couldn’t agree more. She explained in detail that the vulva is the external genitalia made up the labia majora (the hairy part) and the labia minora (the soft skin folds that cover the vaginal opening). Sounds like Latin? It is. “The vagina is the soft, tubular organ that’s part of your internal genitalia – through which sexual activity occurs and through which the baby comes out.” It’s back to the basics, girls.
#2: Can I get pregnant on my period?
Here’s a question with an answer split right down the middle. Turns out, the answer is *wait for it* yes AND no. Dr.Vyas elaborates, “It depends on your cycle and how long you menstruate. Theoretically, women who ovulate at random during or early on in their cycle or have a shorter cycle can get pregnant. However, for those women with a regular menstrual cycle, the chances are extremely low.” Why take the chance, we say.
#3: Is it supposed to smell down there?
“There are a couple of smells - urine, normal vaginal smell and sweat - which mix together to create a certain smell that will be different for different women”, says Dr.Vyas. So, while it’s completely normal for there to be certain odors, it’s important to remember that none of these should be foul. “If you experience a fishy odour with itchiness or redness, it’s a sign of an infection”, she warns. Point taken, Doc.
#4: What is normal vaginal discharge?
Discharge changes through your cycle, says Dr.Vyas. “After your period, you’re dry for a few days, followed by discharge that’s slightly lumpy. This becomes creamy white, then thinner and transparent to lumpy once again, only to disappear right before you get your period. It’s cyclic.” However, if you ever experience curdy white, greenish, yellowish or foul-smelling discharge, you probably have an infection. It’s time to make a trip to your OBGYN.
#5: What’s the best way to clean your hoo-ha?
Our bodies are made in such a way that the internal genitalia are kept healthy on their own by means of naturally occurring flora. The intimate washes available in the market are meant for the external genitalia only, says Dr.Vyas. “People nowadays are obsessed with jet sprays and insist on washing all the time. The force of the jet sprays causes the water to enter the vagina, kill the normal bacteria and actually cause infections instead of cleaning it.” Turns out all you have to do is wash yourself from the outside twice a day and dab dry. Let your vag do all the cleaning.
#6: Will my vagina be the same after birth?
“If it is a vaginal birth, there will be some laxity of the vaginal tissue which depends on how big the baby was, the length of the tear and muscle tone of the vagina,” Dr.Vyas says. But your body tends to go back to normal on its own after a while and women only end up feeling a difference after three or more vaginal deliveries.
#7: What’s the importance of exercising?
Dr.Vyas is a strong supporter of doing Kegels, the exercises that strengthen your vaginal and urethral muscles. Every woman should do them all through her life irrespective of whether she’s had a vaginal delivery or C-section, she says. “When you become menopausal, the loss of control of urine is normal. And if you haven’t exercised in your youth, you can’t get back the muscle tone in your fifties.” And Kegels are so easy, you can do them literally anywhere.
#8: Is it safe to shave or wax pubic hair?
Whether you trim, shave, wax or laser your hair off, it’s a personal choice. All you need to do is keep the area clean. While shaving, epilators, and waxing can be too much for someone with a low tolerance for pain, shaving can cause thicker hair growth, in grown hair and razor burns. Hair removal creams can cause darkening of skin and rashes. Dr.Vyas’ advice? Listen to your body and decide.
#9: Why does it itch during my period?
Dr.Vyas told us the reason is two-fold: the first, the blood that comes out is alkaline which goes against the normal vaginal pH and second is the sanitary napkins we use. These have dry weave covers that make you feel dry by converting the collected blood into a gel and can react with your skin. If you wear a pad when you’re not bleeding too much, you can get a rash similar to that caused by diapers.
#10: Can a tampon get lost in there?
No, it can’t. As Dr.Vyas puts it, “Your vagina is not something that’s connected all the way to your stomach, intestines and mouth. It’s a pouch which has a dead end at about 8-9 cm away.” The only way a tampon can get stuck inside is if the string breaks and you can’t pull it out yourself. But these instances are rare. “Doctors have removed strange things, though. People like to experiment and put stones, lemons, peas and other weird things inside their vaginas”, she says. Umm, we don’t envy your job at all, Doc. Not. At. All.