Your hoo-ha, your lady bits, your va-jay-jay, your vadge—the vagina seems to have more nicknames than any other body part, which may be an indicator of how uncomfortable we are as a society to have an open discussion about the vagina. The vagina is a complex and incredible part of the female body. It brings us pleasure and new life, but for some reason the average woman knows relatively little about their own.
When it comes to how it functions, proper hygiene and what is considered “normal,” there are a lot of questions about our nether regions that many of us have always been too embarrassed to ask. We think all women should feel knowledgeable and empowered when it comes to their lady parts, so we reached out to Dr. Corinne D. Menn, a board certified gynecologist from New York, and Dr. Iram Qidwai, a certified urogynecologist from Kaiser Permanente, to help us get to the bottom of some of our “down-there” curiosities.
What does a “normal” vagina look like? How do I know if I look normal?
This may be the most common question women wonder about when it comes to their vagina, but as Dr. Qidwai explains, “A ‘normal’ vagina looks like your vagina.” Just like any other body part, vaginas vary in appearance. “Women have different patterns of hair, different colors of skin and varied sizes of labia. It is all normal,” says Dr. Menn.
Should I be douching or using feminine hygiene products?
While most of us have seen commercials advertising cleansing wipes and refreshing mists, Dr. Menn says that we shouldn’t buy into the hype. “If you are healthy, all you need to do is to shower or bathe, rinsing your genital area with just plain water,” says Dr. Menn. Since the vagina is a self-cleaning organ, “douching can cause problems by changing the pH and interfering with the normal bacteria flora in the vagina, which helps to keep things balanced and healthy.” Dr. Quidwai recommends women should never use these products, as they can cause yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
During sex, I quickly become dry and it becomes uncomfortable. What is going on?
This is a very common concern among patients, explains Dr. Menn.
“Some medications can cause vaginal dryness, especially the birth control pill. Another common reason would be a lack of sexually stimulation and foreplay. A woman needs to be aroused prior to sexual intercourse, so foreplay and talking to your partner about what feels good is important.” Dr. Qidwai suggests, “Foreplay is critical here and can help with dryness. So can lubricants, but be sure to choose one that is silicone or water based.”
You heard it here, ladies. More foreplay, doctor’s orders!
I’ve had sex plenty of times but I’ve never had an orgasm. Is there something wrong with me?
Not at all!
“About 10 to 20 percent of women have never had an orgasm or have difficulty doing so,” says Dr. Qidwai. The most common reason women may not experience an orgasm is due to a lack of clitoral stimulation, explains Dr. Menn. “It is really important for women to understand that vaginal penetration alone is often not enough to arouse a woman to climax. Talking to your partner about what feels good, spending time on foreplay and exploring with masturbation will all help.”
However, there can also be other factors that contribute to this problem.
“Sometimes it is medications, antidepressants can cause an inability to have an orgasm,” says Dr. Qidwai. “Sometimes it is psychological and therapy can help. But often, it is about increasing tension in the pelvis by engaging your kegel muscles and relaxing the brain to just focusing on pleasurable sensations while keeping distracting thoughts out of mind. Also remember, every woman has different erogenous zones that can bring pleasure or induce organsm: the breasts, the clitoris, labia or even feet.”
If I have a lot of sex, especially with a well-endowed partner, will this stretch out my vagina?
Don’t worry ladies, this question was answered with a resounding no.
“Your vagina is made up of muscle and connective tissue and can accommodate different size penises,” says Dr. Menn. “The normal elasticity of the muscle will contract back to its normal size after being stretched.”
However, childbirth, especially if you have multiple pregnancies, can cause the vaginal walls to become more relaxed for various reasons.
“Sometimes after vaginal childbirth, nerve injury can occur and this can stretch out the opening of the vagina long-term,” says Dr. Qidwai, but this is not a problem associated with sexual intercourse.
Check back next week for the second installment, including even more questions you’ve always wondered about your vagina!