One would think that the modern woman with access to so much information would know everything about her lady parts. Unfortunately, misconceptions are just as easy to propagate as the truth. Our generation may be able to say the word vagina without flinching, unlike previous generations of women but many of us are still pretty ignorant about some fairly basic facts.
Research done by Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion found that only 26% of women had ever properly examined their lady parts. One of the biggest misconceptions is about the vagina itself. Women often refer to their vagina (inside) when they are actually talking about their vulva (outside).
They also tend to think about the vagina as a really, long stretchy tube where items such as a tampon may easily go missing. Some other misconceptions are that the vagina needs cleaning and that all discharges are bad. Various ways of washing inside the vagina are still being used that are likely to cause problems because this alters the natural balance inside.
Women need to understand more about their bodies to be able to separate fact from fiction. The vagina contains a delicate balance of micro-organisms that needs to be maintained. If the balance is maintained, there is less likelihood of irritation or infection. Periods, contraception, sex, pelvic exams and more can give women plenty of cause for anxiety. A little understanding can go a long way towards keeping your lady parts in good health. Here is some advice that will help to bring clarity.
1. Know your body
A good first step in taking care of your lady parts is to have a basic understanding of them and how they work. Outside of the body are the genitals and inside are the reproductive organs. The word vagina is often used to describe the female genitals but it is the vulva that we see on the outside, not the vagina. The vagina is the canal that leads from the womb (uterus) to the outside and it’s the way a baby comes into the world and a penis enters the body.
If you take a small mirror and look at your genitals, you will see the inner and outer labia which are folds of skin, sometimes called ‘lips’, that protect the vagina. The inner folds do not have hair and are soft and sensitive with many nerve endings, blood vessels, and glands. The clitoris is found between these lips and is a small bud that has about 8,000 nerve endings and is very sensitive to stimulation.
You will be able to see your urinary opening which is the small hole situated between the clitoris and the vaginal opening. It leads to a short tube (urethra) through which urine exits the body. The anus is the other opening you will be able to see.
The reproductive parts are inside the body in what is called the pelvic area. Two ovaries, about the size of grapes, sit on either side of the womb. An egg is released every month by the ovary and goes into a fallopian tube, moving through the tube to the womb (uterus) where it can be fertilized.