If you want to see a true treasure of human anatomy, then look no further than the vagina. First and foremost, vaginas are a lot of fun — sure, maybe not all the time, but a decent amount of the time. Vaginas are also pretty amazing and tough. Each one is special in its own way, and although it may be the source of occasional inconvenience, I, for one, love having a vagina.
Although they’re part of the rest of your body, vaginas tend to do their own thing. They know how to protect themselves, clean themselves, heal themselves, and most importantly, they let you know what’s up with the rest of your body. You may not realize it, but your vagina, in one way or another, likes to keep you in the loop as to what’s going on from head to toe. I mean, that's what best friends do after all.
Because your vagina has its own particular ways of alerting you to what’s happening in your body, you should probably take a listen to what it’s trying to tell you. Here are 11 things your vagina might be trying to tell you, if only you'd call her more often.
1. You're Pregnant
One of the biggest signs that you're pregnant is when your period is suddenly MIA and your boobs are sore as hell. But your vagina gives you more than just an absent period to let you know you're pregnant.
"The mucus membranes of the vulva, vagina, and cervix become congested due to increased blood flow and may appear bluish, called Chadwick’s sign," Dr. Sheila Loanzon, a board certified OB-GYN and author of Yes, I Have Herpes, tells Bustle. "The uterus and cervix may soften at approximately six weeks gestation, which allows anatomic changes in pregnancy."
It also produces a lot more leukorrhea (that vaginal discharge you sometimes notice in your undies), because your estrogen levels are increased during pregnancy. Not to mention you're more prone to yeast infections when you're pregnant because of all that estrogen. Fun!
2. You Ate Asparagus
If you can't recall what you had for dinner last night, one whiff of your vagina might tell you everything you need to know. What we eat has a big effect on how our body smells.
“Theoretically what you eat could reflect in your bodily fluids,” Dr. Loanzon says. “Similar to asparagus when broken down releases the distinct smell in urine."
Eating a lot of things like asparagus, onions, red meat, and broccoli, among others, can make your vagina smell different than usual. While your pee may go back to its usual smell after relieving yourself two or three times after eating asparagus, your vagina might take a bit longer. Which is totally normal!
3. You're Stressed
Not only does stress take a toll on your mental and emotional health, but because it also affects physical health, your vagina is affected too.
"Bacteria plays a vital role in vaginal health," Dr. Allison Hill, Los Angeles-based OB/GYN and Florajen chief medical correspondent, tells Bustle. "The predominant organism in the genital tract is Lactobacillus. This bacteria is crucial for maintaining vaginal pH balance and for creating a protective barrier against 'bad' bacteria."
But when we're stressed out, that balance is thrown out of the window. When our bodies suffer an imbalance, the lactobacillus bacteria fails to keep the Candida genus (yeast) from overgrowing, leaving you with that itchy, smelly, cottage cheese situation.
4. You Have An Infection
Your vagina is so focused on keeping itself (and you!) healthy that whenever you have an infection it gives you a great big sign through either pain or discharge.
"The skin of the premenopausal women’s vagina is rich in glycogen, which converts glucose to lactic acid which creates an acidic environment in the vagina," Dr. Loanzon says. "This helps to maintain normal vaginal balance and inhibits infections. STDs, antibiotics, foreign bodies, use of hygienic vaginal products, pregnancy, sexual activity, and contraceptives can disrupt this balance."
According to Dr. Loanzon, 90% of vagina infections are caused by bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and trichomoniasis — all of which are going to let your body know they're there.
For example, a fishy-smelling discharge that is yellow, green, or gray is usually a sure indication that you have vaginosis, which can easily be treated with antibiotics. A discharge that resembles cottage cheese and accompanies some vaginal itchiness, inside and out, means you probably have a yeast infection. A "frothy" vaginal discharge that smells of the ever so delightful scent of rotten eggs, is likely to be trichomoniasis. If you have any of these discharges, your vagina wants you to go to a doctor, stat.
5. You’re Ovulating
When a person is ovulating, they have 30 times more vaginal discharge than they have at any other point in the month.
"Ovulation impacts every woman’s body differently, and not all women experience the same symptoms," Dr. Peter Rizk, women’s health expert for Fairhaven Health, told Bustle for a previous article. "[Cervical mucus] should be abundant, thin (even watery to some degree) and very stretchy. It should be able to stretch between your fingers without breaking and will not hold its form."
So, yes, all that extra discharge in your undies is supposed to be there when you're ovulating. It also means if you're planning to have a child, this is a good time to work on that.
6. You Should Have Used A Condom
Funky smells? Discharge like you've never seen? Unexplained pain or burning? Vaginal blisters, sores, and something that looks like it's a cross between a cauliflower and barnacle? Yeah, your vagina really, really wants you to go to a gynecologist immediately.
"Normal vaginal discharge is white or transparent, thick or thin, and mostly odorless and can vary based on time of the month, pregnancy, or various contraceptives," Dr. Loanzon says. "Vaginal discharge that causes itching, ulcerations or cuts, burning sensation, vaginal bleeding, swelling or pain should be evaluated by a health care professional."
In these cases, it's best not to dawdle and address the issue sooner rather than later.
7. You're Getting Your Period
Although the vaginal discharge that appears right before your period isn't quite as much as what you get when you are ovulating, it's still more than the rest of the month. It's also during this time that vaginas tend to ache and be more sensitive.
While not every person with a uterus experiences the same pre-menstrual symptoms, there's a good chance that if you've been getting your period for awhile now, you know exactly what those symptoms are — symptoms that your vagina was kind enough to throw your way to give you a heads up. Such a peach your vagina is!
8. You’re Turned On
When you're aroused, your vagina usually knows it even before your brain does. The stimulation of the vagina lets your brain know it's time to increase blood flow to the genitals, so as to reach and maintain arousal. At this time, you can feel a tingling in your vagina as the vulva and other parts of your genitals get sort of puffed up and engorged with that blood.
If you don't deal with vaginal dryness, a sopping wet crotch full of vaginal secretion will become very apparent. This is the vagina's way of either preparing for intercourse or getting ready for further stimulation.
9. You Have A Vaginal Disorder
Although the majority of people with vaginas (75%) experience pain during intercourse at some point, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the reasons can vary. But you don't know what that reason can possibly be until you listen to your vagina and get yourself to the doctor.
"Vaginal pain, also known as vulvodynia, vestibulodynia, or vestibulitis, refers to spontaneous or induced pain on penetration at the vaginal opening or tenderness with pressure," Dr. Loanzon says. "Evaluation by a gynecologist can exclude other causes before giving this diagnosis."
Endometriosis, which affects five million people with uteruses in the U.S., can also be another possibility. Again, you can't know for sure what's going on until you see your health care provider.
10. You've Cleaned Something that Cleans On Its Own
One of the many superpowers of the vagina is that it's self-cleaning. Meaning all those companies that are trying to get you to buy their douching products are pretty much trying to sell you snake oil.
"Washing with water is all that is needed to clean the vaginal skin," Dr. Loanzon says. "Over indulgence to 'cleanse' the vagina may be worsening your symptoms, best to avoid the offending agent."
It can't be said enough that a vagina is supposed to smell like a vagina and not some freshly-picked floral bouquet. Trying to make it smell un-vagina with feminine washes, soaps, and/or perfumes can result in chronic hypersensitivity reactions known as 'contact dermatitis,' according to Dr. Loanzon.
11. You're Having an Orgasm
When you're about to have an orgasm, things start moving inside. It's not just the walls of your uterus that start fluttering, but your vagina and anus, too. You can feel the pressure building in your vagina as your pelvic floor gets ready to do its thing. Once you hit that climax, all that fluttering inside transitions to straight up contractions as your vaginal muscles contract then release.
If you experience that, along with a full body rush and vaginal tingling, then there's a good chance you've just had an orgasm! Wasn't it so nice of your vagina to let you know?
Although your vagina may not have a Ph.D. in human biology, there's still a pretty good chance it knows more than most people who do. So it's best if you listen to it, because your vagina has a lot to say.
Dr. Sheila Loanzon, board certified OB-GYN and author
Dr. Peter Rizk, women’s health expert for Fairhaven Health
Dr. Allison Hill, OB/GYN and Florajen chief medical correspondent
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