There are lot of misconceptions around how the vagina works and how you should be caring for it. Some people think vaginas are a never-ending open space (not true) or that it only smells when something is wrong (also not true).
Not sure what’s fact or fiction? Keep reading for a list of myths debunked.1. How long is the vaginal canal?
Not that long. On average, the vaginal canal is three to six inches long. If you need a visual aid, that’s roughly the length of your hand. But your vaginal canal can change shape in certain situations, like during sex or childbirth.2. Does it get longer when you’re aroused?
When you’re having sex, your vaginal canal can get longer to accommodate penetration. Sexual arousal forces your cervix and uterus to lift up and out of the way, which causes the upper two-thirds of your vagina to lengthen.
But if you feel a penis or sex toy hitting your cervix, that could mean your body isn’t turned on enough to allow for full penetration. Of course, that’s not the only reason your cervix could be touched when thrusting is too deep, or if a penis or toy is larger than the average penis size. That’s about five inches when erect.3. How does it stretch for childbirth?
Your vaginal canal and the opening of your vagina will stretch a great deal to allow a baby to pass through. Some women who give birth may notice a change in their vagina, such as it is feeling loose or dry, or looking wider than before. You may also feel pain and soreness. This is completely normal.
Your vagina should become tighter within a few days after childbirth and will return somewhat to its pre-birth shape about six months after delivery. Although your vagina’s appearance won’t be exactly the same, it’ll be pretty close.4. So the vagina can’t get permanently stretched out?
No, not at all. That’s one major misconception about vaginas — it isn’t possible to permanently stretch them out. Vaginas are elastic, so they’re able to expand and snap back much like a rubber band.
If you do feel your vagina becoming loose over time, it may be the result of one of two scenarios. If your vagina’s elasticity weakens, it may not be able to retract completely. This can happen to women who’ve had multiple births. Aging can also weaken the vaginal muscles, regardless of childbirth.5. Should I be doing Kegels?
Over time, your pelvic floor muscles may weaken as a result of:
- straining from constipation or coughing
- weight gain
Kegel exercises can help you strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support your bladder, uterus, rectum, and small intestine. They may also help you prevent or control urinary or fecal incontinence.
Yes! When you’re aroused, your clitoris will swell and retract, meaning that it hides under its hood. Your clitoris won’t change in size as drastically as a penis does when sexually stimulated, but there’s definitely an increase in size.
7. Do all lady parts look the same?
Nope, not at all. Your vagina, labia, clitoris, and all other parts of your genitalia are unique. Your labia may be asymmetrical, or your clitoris may be small. The skin in this area may even be lighter or darker than your overall skin color. Although there may be average sizes and shapes, everyone’s genitals really are different!
It’s completely normal for the skin of your genitals to be a different color than the rest of you. For example, some women have brown or reddish labia, while others may have pink or purplish labia.
Your genitals may also become darker when you’re aroused. The blood flow to the area can cause swelling and the color of your clitoris and inner lips (labia minora) to change.
But, keep in mind, if your vagina is a chronic purple color, you may be dealing with a yeast infection or chronic irritation of the vulva known as a lichen simplex. If you’re worried about the color of your vagina, it’s worth making an appointment with your doctor.9. Is pubic hair really necessary?
Whether you have pubic hair comes down to personal preference. It’s not actually necessary to the health of your vagina.
But there are certain risks from removing pubic hair, depending on the method. For example, you may experience symptoms like razor burn, cuts, or itching if the hair isn’t removed properly.10. Should I douche to keep things clean?
Although douching remains a common practice doctors recommend that you don’t douche. Your vagina cleans itself naturally, so there’s no need to go the extra mile.
Douching can actually strip your vagina of the natural, healthy microbes, as well as temporarily change the natural acidity and cause buildup of harmful bacteria. That means your vagina is left susceptible to vaginal infections and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).11. Does it smell differently at different times of the month?
It’s totally understandable why you might freak out if there’s an odor coming from your vagina. But the truth is, it’s actually normal for a vagina to have some odor.
For example, you may notice a smell after changing your diet; garlic, tuna, and dietary supplements can have that effect. It’s also natural for vaginal odor to change in intensity and smell throughout menstruation.
But if there’s a persistent and foul odor, or if there’s also a thick or greenish discharge, see your doctor right away. You may have an infection or a bacterial imbalance. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help treat the smell and underlying condition.
The vagina’s depth, smell, and color of the skin, among other things, aren’t the same for everyone. But if you’re concerned about your vagina, such as discoloration or a foul odor, speak with your doctor. They’ll be able to assure you if everything is normal or start you on a treatment plan if there are any medical issues.
Either way, it’s important to remember that everyone’s vagina is different — and that’s OK!
Written by Annamarya Scaccia — Updated on September 18, 2018
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Photo Credit: Deon Black