7 Facts About Reproductive Health You May Not Know
If you have a vagina, there are some things you should know about vaginal health that aren't always talked about. For example, if you've been told that your vagina should never smell or that doing kegels is always good for you, you've been misinformed. If you've been wondering why you have pubic hair in the first place or what it means if your vagina is discharging fluids when you aren't aroused or on your period, some experts have answers.
Even if you haven't received a lot of education about your vagina, you're likely pretty well-equipped to know if something is wrong because you likely interact with your vagina on a regular basis. Many people know what their vaginas normally look like, feel like, and smell like, and are very aware if something suddenly changes, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, a practicing gynecologist at CareMount Medical, tells Bustle. For example, if you are bleeding when you aren't on your period, experience persistent or recurrent itching, notice burning irritation or a rash, or feel some unusual lumps or bumps down there, schedule a visit with your OB/GYN right away.
Here are some things that nobody probably ever told you about vaginal health, according to experts.
1. New Clothing Can Give You A Rash
The moment you bring home new underwear or a perfect summer swimsuit from the store (or just receive your online shopping in a package), you might be so excited to wear your new pieces that you decide to pass on washing them first. After all, the fabric is brand new, so it's already clean, right? It really is worth it to wait the extra couple of hours it might take to wash and dry your purchases, because it can save you some vulva discomfort. "If you purchase new underwear or a new bathing suit, always wash these items before you wear them," Dr. Savita Ginde, a medical doctor specializing in women's healthcare and vice president of medical affairs at Stride Community Health Center, tells Bustle. "You should really wash all new clothing before wearing any of it," she says. "Otherwise, you could end up with a rash from chemicals that are commonly applied to clothing."
2. Pubic Hair Is Pretty Powerful
Everyone has a preference for what they'd like their pubic hair to look like, and that preference can change over time. Maybe you like to leave it be completely, trim it into a shape, or get rid of it completely. What you choose is 100% up to you, but you might be interested to learn that it grows for a reason. "Public hair does have a purpose," Grinde says. "It serves as a protector (or barrier) for the sensitive skin around the vaginal opening. It also acts as a buffer against friction."
3. Your Vagina Might Vibrate (Without A Toy)
You know that fluttery feeling that you sometimes feel when your eye is twitching? You can actually experience a similar sensation in your vagina or on your vulva. "An occasional feeling of vibration in or near your vagina is more common than one would think," Ginde says. While many people might find this embarrassing to bring up with a gynecologist, it's nothing to be ashamed about at all. This could be totally harmless, but if you're experiencing other symptoms too, you should definitely get it checked out. "Talk to your doctor if you have unusual discharge, swelling, or inflammation," she says, "if the vibrations persistent or cause stress, or are accompanied by numbness or a lack of sensation."
4. Your Vagina Will Discharge Fluids Even When You Aren't Menstruating
You might think that the only time anything leaks out of your vagina is when you're sexually aroused or on your period. But it's actually common to produce liquid or viscous substances during other times as well. "Vaginal discharge changes throughout the month based on your cycle and hormonal changes," Dr. Kate Shkodzik, MD, OB/GYN, a gynecologist and medical consultant for Flo, tells Bustle. "For example, your body releases more vaginal discharge prior to ovulation, and after ovulation your body releases less," she says, "though it will likely appear cloudy and with a thicker consistency." Most of the time, if your discharge changes a bit in color or texture, that's normal, but if you are concerned, ask your gynecologist for advice.
5. Your Vagina Isn't Supposed To Be Odorless
You might have gotten the idea that to have any kind of scent emanating from your vagina is a bad thing. But that just isn't true. "A healthy vaginal odor is typically mild and smells slightly musky," Shkodzik says. So if you notice a light scent down there, don't assume that something is wrong. The only time you might have cause for concern is if the odor is powerful. "A strong or fishy odor may indicate bacterial vaginosis, some STIs, pelvic inflammatory disease, or a yeast infection," she says. In that case, it may be time to talk to a doctor.
6. Be Careful With Kegels
You might have heard that doing kegels — those exercises where you flex your pelvic floor muscles — can improve your vagina health. But this is something that you should probably only try with a doctor's guidance. "It is possible to do too many kegels," Elise Schuster, MPH, who has a public health degree in sexuality and health, is a sexuality educator, and is founder of okayso, tells Bustle. "Kegels are commonly recommended for lots of reasons, but if not done correctly, they can actually lead to problems," they say. If you don't relax properly between each set of kegels, you can cause tension, which can in turn make it difficult for you to relax your vagina. "Pushing out when relaxing during kegels can also lead to prolapse," Schuster says.
7. Your Vagina Cannot Be "Loose"
If you've been sexually active with penetration and you have a vagina, you might think that the activity has stretched your vagina. This is absolutely false, though. "There is no such thing as a loose vagina," Schuster says. "The vagina is erectile tissue — this means it changes as arousal happens and expands around whatever goes inside it." If you've had penetrative sex, this doesn't lead to a vagina that is looser than it was before, they say. Your vagina is the same as it was before you had sex.
If you're ever worried about something that's going on with your vagina, or you just have more questions about how it works, don't hesitate to reach out to a gynecologist. They'll be able to give you clear, accurate information.