how vaginas are resilient and perfect
T O D A Y O N M Y S T I C A L M O N D A Y
By Jeannie Kim
Let’s take a moment to marvel at the amazing, incredible vagina. Just think about its incredible regenerative power, paired with the countless abilities it has. I mean, not to mention it's a portal where life is born out of. It also contains has an unbelievable self-rapair capacity, unlike most organs in our body. Here are just some of its fascinating qualities:
Vaginas are self-cleaning.
“You should not need to put anything in the vagina to clean the actual inside,” says Dr. Dweck. That means no douching, no scrubbing inside, and definitely no scented products inserted into your vagina. And forget all the sprays, perfumes, and other products designed to cleanse the vulva: “Our culture is obsessed with the gazillion products out there for the vaginal area, but you really don’t need anything other than soap and water,” Dr. Dweck says.
It’s not supposed to smell like flowers.
Some odor down there is perfectly normal. Your personal scent is unique and may vary according to your menstrual cycle, your diet, even how hydrated you are. That said, any foul odor or a smell that’s unusual for you is worth a visit to your ob/gyn to check for infection. And, says Dr. Dweck, “If you are having an odor you think can be noticed across the room, think long and hard about whether you may have left a tampon inside.”
It needs to breathe.
A moist, warm environment can breed yeast and bacteria, so stick to underwear and clothing that provides your vulva with a little airflow. Dr. Dweck recommends cotton panties, or at least ones with a cotton crotch. Thongs are fine as long as they aren’t causing chafing or irritation. “Don’t wear panty liners or pads 24/7 if you don’t need them—they don’t allow breathable conditions,” Dr. Dweck adds. “I often recommend sleeping without anything on your bottom, to give you plenty of aeration.”
It gives you information on when you’re fertile.
At the top of your vagina is your cervix, the lower end of your uterus. Secretions produced by the cervix (called cervical mucus) change in consistency throughout your cycle as your hormone levels rise and fall. “If you pay close attention to your cervical mucus, you can avoid or engage in sex at the right time to conceive,” Dr. Dweck says. (You can check by looking at the toilet paper after you wipe, or by inserting a clean finger into your vagina. You’re looking for what’s known as egg white cervical mucus, or EWCM, a stretchy, slippery consistency.) Along with taking your body temperature each day, checking your cervical mucus is one of the methods used in natural family planning.
Itching doesn’t always mean you have a yeast infection.
“There are a lot of things that can cause an itch that aren’t a yeast infection,” says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, professor of ob/gyn at Columbia University Medical Center. That could include chafing from your clothing, irritation from shaving, or a product (like laundry detergent or soap) that the sensitive skin on your vulva is reacting to. And discharge and discomfort can be caused by other types of vaginal infections, including bacterial vaginosis (which typically comes with a foul-smelling discharge plus irritation and burning) and sexually transmitted infections like trichomoniasis. Check in with your doctor before you use an over-the-counter medication—the wrong treatment can actually make things worse.
Sex helps it stay healthy.
Sure, getting busy burns calories, reduces stress, and boosts immunity, not to mention brings you closer to your partner. But here’s another health benefit of sex: “Sex keeps the vagina alive and lubricated, especially as women get older and estrogen goes down,” Dr. Hutcherson explains. “Sexual activity keeps blood flowing down there and decreases some of the changes that you get with menopause.” And in fact, all kinds of sexual activity can be helpful. “A lot of gynecologists right now are recommending vibrators to increase blood flow to the vagina,” Dr. Dweck notes.
You can tone it up!
You can strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which support the pelvic organs (including your bladder and uterus) and wrap around the vagina and rectum. Doing Kegel exercises to work your pelvic floor can increase blood flow to the vaginal area and help you have more powerful orgasms, as well as improve bladder control—crucial if you suffer from stress incontinence). If you’ve suffered damage to your pelvic floor due to pregnancy and/or childbirth, and Kegels alone aren’t cutting it, your ob/gyn may recommend pelvic floor physical therapy, which can include electrostimulation or biofeedback. In some cases surgery may be needed, Dr. Hutcherson says.
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Written by Jeannie Kimm
Yoni Painting by Amanda Sage
Vagina Collage by Unkown Artist