5 Fast Facts About Your Vagina
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.
1Vaginal discharge is normal (within reason).
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.
2Vaginal douching is not recommended.
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.
3Vaginal childbirth doesn’t ruin your vagina.
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.
4Vaginal inflammation and other disorders should be checked.
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.
5The vagina changes after menopause.
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.