10 Things You Never Knew About Vaginas, From The New Book 'She-ology'
Ashley Batz for Bustle

You’d think having a vagina for decades would be enough to make you an expert on the topic, but a lot of us still make mistakes when dealing with our Vs. They don’t come with instruction manuals, and many of us have big gaps in our knowledge thanks to generations-old cultural taboos. Fortunately, the times they are a-changin’, and there are more resources than ever before to help us battle misinformation and educate ourselves.

One of those tools is She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. by Sherry A. Ross, MD. An OB-GYN for more than 25 years, Ross is working to empower those of us with vaginas. She does so by making sure we’re armed with necessary health information for every stage of life, as well as common situations that arise. There’s no reason we should be flying blind, after all.

Throughout She-ology, Ross provides vital knowledge in a very readable way. She answers questions you may have been afraid to ask, plus ones you never even knew to. Best of all, she does it while reminding us that there is no reason to be ashamed of our bodies.

Below are 10 things you may never have known about your vagina, courtesy of She-ology.

She-ology: The Definitive Guide To Women's Intimate Health. Period., by Sherry A. Ross, MD, $16.37, Amazon

1How It Can Reveal Other Health Issues

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When your feet are in the stirrups, your doctor can get information about your health that extends beyond just your reproductive system. Ross explains that sugar can increase the amount of yeast in your body, and therefore she can get a sense of how well her diabetic patients are managing their glucose levels by how often they have yeast infections. Who’d have thought your vag could tell on you?

2How To Keep It Clean

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There are a lot of crazy fads that people try out in the name of good hygiene, but our vaginas are mostly self-cleaning. You don’t have to douche, steam, or try any other fancy cleaning techniques; Ross highlights that regular washing is essential, but she recommends nothing more than unscented soap and water.

3What It Should Look Like

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If you don’t see a lot of vaginas or the only other ones you see are in porn, you might have misconceptions about what “normal” looks like. Rest assured that every single V is different, and that’s OK. “There is no one right way for a vagina to look,” Ross writes. After looking at them for three decades, she should know.

4How Certain Vices Can Cause Problems For It

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There are some substances that are not very V-friendly. Tobacco is one of them because it decreases sexual arousal by restricting blood flow to the vagina, according to Ross. Add that to the list of reasons to quit smoking.

5How To Deal With Dryness

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Insufficient natural lubrication can lead to vaginal tearing and thereby increase the risk of STI transmission, Ross warns. As such, it’s important to be prepared to deal with the problem, whether it is due to aging, child birth, or other causes. For one, you should protect yourself by practicing safe sex and discussing your sexual history with your partners. Secondly, you shouldn’t be afraid to use lubricants.

6How Creative You Can Get With Its Appearance

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Waxing and piercing are just the tip of the iceberg. As Ross details, some people really get serious about adding glamour to their vaj. There are people who tattoo and vajazzle their Vs, not to mention those who have them surgically altered to fit a certain aesthetic. Just make sure to always look into the health risks before doing anything extreme.

7How To Exercise It

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Yes, you’ve probably heard about Kegels, but what the actual routine should entail might remain a mystery. Ross recommends building up to being able to contract your pelvic floor muscles for 10 seconds at a time, and then doing at least three sets of 10 to 15 reps a day where you relax your muscles for 10 seconds in between. Get squeezing!

8How Sensitive The Region Is

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Penises are cool and all, but if you have a clitoris, you’ve got a reason to be smug. Actually, make that 8,000 reasons — that’s how many nerve endings are down there, compared to the penis’ 4,000.

9How To Decide When To Seek Help

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When something is off in the reproductive zone, don’t be shy about seeking medical help. Ross has seen too many patients delay going in for an appointment or attempt self-care. You don’t have to worry about shocking your doctor. She-ology makes it clear that the exam room sees stranger situations than you would think, and you don’t want to wait for a condition to get worse.

10How To Talk About It

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Your vagina should never be a source of shame or a taboo topic. “It’s part of the cycle of our lives, how we grow and mature into the many stages of our femininity,” Ross writes. She wants us to embrace that, which means not being too shy to talk about our Vs.