5 Things No One Was Really Straight with You About

Menstruation

Wait a second. Are you supposed to be deep cleaning and exercising your vagina? And what does it mean if it smells like, um, fish? Read on for the straight scoop on five things Mama never talked to you about. Pass it on.


1. Does my vagina look normal?

OK, you have the two outside "lips" (called labia majora), the two inside "lips" (called labium minor), plus the clitoris there in the center, right? That's all you need. You may totally have big outside lips and small inside lips or vice versa, lips of different lengths, a clitoris longer than all the lips, a hidden clitoris ... get the idea? Vaginas come in all different shapes, sizes and colors—just like the women they belong to. You're good.


2. What exactly is a douche, and do I need one?

Douches generally consist of a tube attached to a bottle or bag of water and vinegar, or a similar mixture. The idea is to squeeze its contents up into you, where they wash your inner lady parts before flowing right back out. But here's the catch: Your insides are self-cleaning. Plus, douching messes with your vagina's natural bacteria balance, which can cause an infection. Bottom line? Skip the douche.


3. Does an abnormal Pap smear mean I'm dying?

Whoa, take a deep breath, and consider this: Most women who have abnormal Pap smears end up just fine. "Abnormal" signals changes in your cervical cells, which could simply mean you have a very treatable infection or that your doctor needs to take a closer look. Your doctor should explain what your particular "abnormal" diagnosis means and answer all your questions. In the meantime, know that, thanks to regular annual Pap smears, cervical cancer is actually pretty rare.


4. Why does it stink, like really stink, down there?

Vaginas smell. [link to "Your Period Stinks" article] Each has its own signature scent, which often has a slight fishiness to it. If we're talking minnow strength, don't worry. If it’s closer to the whale end of the spectrum, and accompanied by itching, burning, irritation or funny-looking discharge, you likely have some type of infection. See your gyno to get to the bottom of things.


5. Should I be exercising … my vagina?

Maybe. Women typically vagercise to tone up the pelvic floor muscles after having a baby; if they pee a little when they sneeze, laugh or cough; or to develop a stronger grip during sex. These famous exercises are called Kegels. To do them, flex the muscle you use when you're trying to keep from peeing. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Release. Work up to 10 Kegels, three times a day.

Sources:

https://www.ubykotex.com.au/healthy-vagina/pictures/
http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/douching.html
http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/cervical-cancer/diagnosis-tests/how-to-interpret-abnormal-pap-smear-results.html
http://www.cmdrc.com/womens-health/gynecologic-health/pap-smears/
http://youngwomenshealth.org/2014/03/12/my-vagina-has-a-funny-fishy-smell-what-is-it/
http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/vaginal-odor/basics/definition/sym-20050664
http://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/kegel-exercises/art-20045283
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