Ten things you should know about your vagina and/or vulva. OK, some of them might not be essential knowledge, but they are very funny. And for the record: you know better of course, but many people say ‘vagina’ when they mean ‘vulva’. Your vulva is the part on the outside of your body (includig your labia, clitoris and the vaginal opening). Your vagina is the tube that connects your vulva with your cervix and uterus.
1. You don’t pee with it
Although some people think so, you do not pee out of your vagina. Instead, women urinate from their urethra, a tiny hole located above the vulva that leads to the bladder. Next time, pay attention during biology class!
2. It cleans itself
A healthy vagina is self-cleaning. That’s why it isn’t necessary to use soap when washing. Just water will do the trick. And forget about those special vaginal douches, feminine washes and intimate wet wipes; they often do more harm than good.
3. There’s a link between vaginas and yogurt
The most common good bacteria that’s found in vaginas, Lactobacillus, have also been found in yogurt. And yes, you could actually use your own vaginal bacteria to make yogurt, which Cecilia Westbrook, an MD/PhD student at the University of Wisconsin (USA), did back in 2015. (Don’t try this at home though, as your vagina might also contain other bacteria that you don’t want to put into your mouth).
4. Itching? You’re not the only one
Vaginal complaints are very common: four out of every five women have experienced itching, irritation, rashes or abnormal vaginal discharge. Think something is wrong down there? See your gyneacologist or GP and get it checked.
5. Say what?
Until 1230 there wasn’t a word for ‘vagina’. The first recorded appearance was ‘cunt’, which back then didn’t have the derogatory meaning it has now. Want to know what people called their vaginas or vulva’s throughout the years? Check out this article about Jonathon Green’s vagina chart, which includes gems like ‘cock-trap’ (popular in the 1880s) and ‘coffee-grinder’ (which came into fashion in the 1940s). Some more historic slang for female genitalia? How about ‘blind alley’, ‘front window’, ‘bumshop’ or ‘mossey doughnut’.
6. Yes, a penis should fit (if you’re aroused enough)
The average vagina is 8cm (a bit more than 3 inches) deep. However, if you’re sexually aroused, the cervix recedes back closer to the uterus, causing the vagina to lengthen until around 11.5cm (4.5 inches). Also, its elastic quality enables the vagina to expand and elongate to fit penises of almost all sizes. Plus: if you’re turned on, the vagina self-lubricates, making intercourse even easier.
7. It’s a one-way-street
Your vagina is basically a dead-end-street, leading to the uterus. Nowhere else. And it’s a one-way-street. So no, your tampon can’t end up in your uterus, but menstrual blood and babies can find their way from the uterus towards, and out of, the vagina.
8. It’s super flexible
Your vagina is enormously flexible. It can stretch to three times its original size in girth in order to let a baby through. That’s why it shouldn’t be a problem to insert or remove a (sponge) tampon or menstrual cup. Struggling with this? Check out these tampon lessons for beginners or read how to use a menstrual cup.
9. Smells like… sex?
Normally, your vaginal pH level is between 3.8 and 4.5. During sex, it temporarily rises to allow the sperm to make their way to the egg. Because your vaginal pH level needs about four days to get back to its original state, having sex often can lead to a different smell down under. Also your menstrual cycle can influence the way you smell; the scent is usually a bit stronger and maybe even a bit iron-like during menstruation. Every vagina has its own natural scent. And no, a healthy vagina does not smell like roses.
10. You can do a vaginal work-out
No need to visit the gym for this though. Kegel exercises can be done in the comfort of your own home: just squeeze like you would when stopping peeing midstream, hold tight for 8-10 seconds and relax. Repeat three times. This vaginal work-out strengthens the pelvic floor muscles and is especially recommended after giving birth.