Just think about the resiliency of the vagina in general, the self-repair mechanisms that go on of healing this area after childbirth alone are just mind-boggling.
In mammals, the vagina is the elastic, muscular part of the female genital tract, but in humans, it extends from the vulva to the cervix. The outer vaginal opening is normally partly covered by a membrane called the hymen, and at the deep end, the cervix bulges into the vagina.
The vagina allows for sexual intercourse and birth, and also channels menstrual flow (menses), which occurs in humans as part of the monthly menstrual cycle.
The Vagina (Facts)
While many people use “vagina” to refer to the whole below-the-belt area, the term refers specifically to the muscular canal connecting the cervix to the outside of the body.
All the external parts of your reproductive system are properly called the vulva and include:
- Labia majora: The fleshy, hair-covered outer folds.
- Labia minora: The inner lips, which cover the vaginal opening.
- Clitoris: The nerve-rich nub at the top of the vulva, key to orgasm and sexual pleasure.
The vagina and vulva have evoked strong reactions in societies throughout history. That includes negative perceptions and language, cultural taboos, and their use as symbols for female sexuality, spirituality, or regeneration of life.
In common speech, the word vagina is often used to refer to the vulva or to the female genitals in general, but by its dictionary and anatomical definitions, it refers exclusively to the specific internal structure. Understanding the distinction can improve knowledge of the female genitalia and aid in healthcare communication.
The ancient Greek physician Aretaeus believed that the uterus wandered about the female body causing illness as it banged into the spleen or liver. He also believed that the uterus was drawn to fragrant smells, such that a physician could tempt it back into place by presenting the vagina with pleasant scents (Interesting).
It’s Not Just A Hole In the Body
The vagina is what experts call a “potential space”. This means that it’s not open all the time, and the walls are collapsed on each other. You’re not walking around with a hole in your body, but it can also stretch and widen during sex or childbirth to accommodate fingers, toys, a penis, or a baby.
It’s Full Of Good Bacteria
There’s a very delicate balance (ecosystem) of yeast and bacteria that are supposed to live there and stay in balance.
Douching disturbs the balance of microbes in your vagina along with its natural acidity. This can potentially lead to the growth of harmful bacteria and has been linked to infections (such as bacterial vaginosis, yeast, and even pelvic inflammatory disease) as well as vaginal irritation.
The Vagina is Self-Cleaning
You don’t need to put anything in the vagina to clean the actual inside, and definitely, no need for scented products, inserted into your vagina. Also, forget all the sprays, perfumes, and other products designed to cleanse the vulva, because, you really don’t need anything other than soap and water.
It’s Not Supposed to Smell So Great or Flavored
Some scent down there is perfectly normal, and your personal scent is unique and may vary according to your menstrual cycle, your diet, even how hydrated you are.
However, any foul odor or a smell that’s unusual for you is worth a visit to your gynecologist to check for infection. If you are having an odor you think can be noticed by others, think long and hard about whether you may have left a tampon inside.
The Vagina Needs Air
A moist and warm environment can breed yeast and bacteria in the vaginal area. So, stick to underwear and clothing that provides your vulva with a little airflow, and experts recommend cotton panties or at least ones with a cotton crotch.
Thongs are fine as long as they aren’t causing chafing or irritation, and don’t wear panty liners or pads 24/7 if you don’t need them. They don’t allow breathable conditions.
It is often recommended that you sleep without anything on your bottom, to give you plenty of aeration.
Itching Doesn’t Always Mean You Have An Infection
There are a lot of things that can cause an itch that isn’t a yeast infection, and 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.
Furthermore, 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 (STIs) like trichomoniasis.