Dummies' guide to the vagina
“To shave or not to shave?”
“Is it true (that) when a woman has sex for the first time, her vagina moulds to the shape of her first lover’s penis?” begins a question-answer thread on a popular online portal. The case of the shape-shifting vagina is neither the first nor the most ridiculous of misconceptions to orbit female genitalia.
While the feminine hygiene market in India is expected to grow at 4.2% annually, approximately USD 4,600 million. There are advertisements galore to help you get your vagina “aesthetic” right, but not nearly enough resources to refer to for actual information. And that has to change.
Here are answers to 11 FAQs about your lady bits.
Let’s start with the basics. What is the vagina?
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There is a lot more to female genitalia than meets the eye. A vagina, contrary to popular belief, is one specific part and does not refer to a woman’s collective privates. Most people refer to the visible part of female genitalia as the vagina, but that’s actually called the vulva. The vagina, on the other hand, refers to a muscular tube that connects your vulva to the cervix — the lower part of the uterus or what we commonly refer to as the womb.
How many openings does your vagina have down there?
A common misconception is that the reproductive tract and urinary tract are the same. No, we do not give birth, menstruate and urinate from the same opening. The vulva has two openings, one opening leads to the vagina and the other to the urethra.
A vagina is what is used by the body to expel menstrual fluid and is also the birthing canal. In the case of vaginal sex, the vagina facilitates penetration. While the urethra is connected to women’s bladders and used for urination.
Is checking for a hymen a reliable litmus test for virginity?
No. Vaginal sexual intercourse is not the only way to tear your hymen. Also, hymens vary in coverage and thickness, which is probably why some tear while playing a sport or riding a bicycle and others don’t. In rare cases, women might also be born without hymens.
Is getting sucked into the vortex of “vagina aesthetic” worth it?
Don’t get too caught up exploring the rows of pharmacy shelves lined with female hygiene products. Your vagina is self-cleansing, for the most part. Exposing it to foreign chemicals instead of helping might throw off the natural pH balance that is required to have a healthy vagina. However, in cases of recurring urinary tract infections or lack of access to clean water, while travelling, you may be prescribed a vaginal wash.
Does food affect how your vagina smells?
No two vaginas smell the same, however, the vaginal scent is known to change from time to time. This is mostly related to ovulation, but one study conducted by Oregon State University found that vaginal scent could also be affected by pungent foods such as garlic.
Can vaginal discharge indicate when you’re ovulating?
Though there is an abundance of ovulating kits for those looking to get pregnant, the vagina has its own way of letting you know when you’re approaching the optimal time. Clear, rubbery, and stretchy mucus usually means it’s a good time to make babies.
Is the G-spot just another urban myth?
An inch or two up the front wall of the vagina is said to be a woman’s most pleasure-giving erogenous zone popularly called the G-spot. But there is no scientific proof of this organ’s existence. “It’s not medically proven. I have never come across one while operating on the vagina. There is no medical evidence,” confirms Dr. Tripti Sharan, a Delhi-based gynaecologist and obstetrician, and author of Chronicles of a Gynaecologist.
How much discharge is too much discharge?
Amount of vaginal discharge fluctuates based on your menstrual cycle. Mid-cycle is when secretion might be more than usual. It is generally clear and stretchy (think egg whites). The secretion increases in quantity, wetness, transparency, and stretchiness as you approach ovulation.
How similar are the clitoris and penis?
Both, a clitoris and a penis have three distinct parts — the prepuce, the glans, and the frenulum. Though structurally similar, a clitoris is visibly much smaller but is known to have twice as many nerve endings as a penis.
To shave or not to shave?
The basic function of pubic hair is to protect genital tissue, especially the very sensitive vaginal opening. So, getting rid of all of it isn’t advised. Shaving and waxing can also lead to tiny wounds that temporarily increase the risk of infection. “As long as you are being hygienic and cautious, you can go ahead with waxing or shaving your pubic hair,” says Dr. Sharan.
Is going overboard with Kegels harmful?
Kegel exercises are a vaginal workout meant to strengthen your pelvic floor by toning the perineal muscles. However, the internet has recently been abuzz with disadvantages of overdoing the popular exercise. Dr. Sharan disagrees, she says “Over-exercising may cause stiffness in muscles as is the case when you exercise any other muscle of your body. Apart from soreness, there is no real disadvantage.”