5 Fast Facts About Your Vagina

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  • Female doctor talking to patient in medical room

    Did you know that the word vagina comes from the Latin word for sheath? There are lots of nicknames for the vagina, but no matter what you call yours, it’s important to know about vaginal health to help prevent or recognize medical issues that could arise.

    The visible part of the female genitals that people may call the vagina isn’t actually the vagina. What you see is the vulva, which is at the vaginal entrance. Here are more vagina facts you may not know.

  • 1
    Vaginal discharge is normal (within reason).
    Unidentified young Caucasian woman in gown on exam table with female doctor in background

    Girls begin producing vaginal discharge once they enter puberty. Its role is to help clear out dead cells from the vagina. While healthy discharge is generally clear or white, it can change in consistency throughout the menstrual cycle.

    Discharge that changes color or has a noticeable odor could be a sign of an infection or another health problem, especially if it is associated with itching or burning, pain during sex, pain during urination, and redness or swelling in or around the vagina.

  • 2
    Vaginal douching is not recommended.
    Young woman in bathrobe standing in bathroom

    One in five adult women in the United States use douches—but they shouldn’t. Douching uses fluid inserted into the vagina, supposedly to help clean it out. But a healthy vagina produces discharge to clean itself. Douching can affect the delicate vaginal pH balance and the microorganisms in the vagina, and cause irritation or infections.

    Douching is also associated with pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancies, and even preterm births. Douches can add to vaginal irritation and dryness, which may worsen with additional douching.

    Finally, douching will NOT prevent pregnancy and should not be used as a form of birth control.

  • 3
    Vaginal childbirth doesn’t ruin your vagina.
    Young African American heterosexual couple snuggling with baby on sidewalk

    Having a baby vaginally does stretch your vagina to its limits as the baby passes through. However, in most cases, changes to the vagina after birth are temporary. Overall, issues that can affect your sex life after having a baby include blood and discharge following childbirth; difficulty becoming aroused; fatigue; hormone changes that can lead to vaginal dryness; sore, tender breasts from breastfeeding; and stiches used to repair tears in the tissue or an episiotomy.

  • 4
    Vaginal inflammation and other disorders should be checked.
    Woman in examination room

    If you are experiencing any vaginal discomfort, like itching, burning and discolored or odorous vaginal discharge, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. You could have a condition that requires treatment to prevent complications. The most common conditions related to the vagina include vaginitis (an inflammation or infection of the vagina); vaginal prolapse (in which the upper part of the vagina drops); yeast infections; or a retained object, such as a tampon or birth control device, that becomes stuck inside the vagina.

  • 5
    The vagina changes after menopause.
    Middle aged African American woman laughing with friend in backyard

    Women who have gone through menopause may notice they don’t produce as much vaginal lubrication as they used to. This can make sex uncomfortable. The decrease in lubrication is usually the result of lower estrogen levels as the ovaries stop producing the hormone.

    If this is causing too much discomfort, you could try special vaginal moisturizers or lubricants, or you could speak with your doctor about hormone alternatives. Local estrogen therapy comes in creams, vaginal tablets and vaginal rings. You might also benefit from systemic hormone treatment. This provides you with constant levels of estrogen through oral tablets or topical patches, gels or ointments.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Apr 14
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Repair of Vaginal Wall Prolapse (Vaginal Vault Prolapse). Michigan Medicine; University of Michigan. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tv1559#:~:text=Surgery%20Overview,or%20small%20bowel%20(enterocele).
  2. Etymology of Abdominal Visceral Terms. Dartmouth University https://www.dartmouth.edu/~humananatomy/resources/etymology/Pelvis.htm#:~:text=Vagina%20%2D%20The%20basic%20meaning%20of,tender%20and%20the%20female%20organ
  3. Vulvovaginal Health. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/vulvovaginal-health
  4. Douching. Office on Women’s Health; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/douching
  5. Does method of childbirth affect sexual function later? International Society for Sexual Medicine. https://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/does-method-of-childbirth-affect-sexual-function-later/
  6. Vaginitis. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/vaginitis.html
  7. Female Genital Problems and Injuries. Kaiser Permanente. https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=vagts