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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Vagina




We all know that the female anatomy is a mystery for most men. But can we really blame them when the vagina is kind of a mystery for us girls too? Probably more of a mystery than we’re willing to admit…

In this episode, I’m sharing 5 things I’m betting you didn’t know about your vagina.



HERE'S WHAT WE COVER:


● Why every vagina is different (and why that’s totally normal!)

● How your pelvic floor is helping (or hindering) your sex life

● What makes a healthy vagina. Hint: It’s probably not what you’re expecting.

● How your vagina will change throughout your life (even if you never give birth)

● Why there’s more to the clitoris than meets the eye – so much more!


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TRANSCRIPT:


Hello, and welcome to episode 7 of The Mana Women’s Wellness Podcast. I’m your host, Rachel and today I’m sharing with you 5 things I’m kinda willing to bet you did not know about your vagina.

We all know that the female anatomy is a mystery for most men. But can we really blame them when the vagina is kind of a mystery for us girls too? Probably more of a mystery than we’re willing to admit…

Now there is a hell of a lot that we don’t know about our vaginas. For starters, did you know that the whole area down there is actually called the vulva? The vagina is the hole, the ring of muscle that is the entrance to our uterus via our cervix. And there’s a whole lot more to this area than what you might be thinking.

Now in the 30 seconds or so that I’ve already been talking I have said the word vagina like 5 times. And be warned, I’m going to be saying it a whole lot more. Remember, vagina is an anatomical term. And yes, it’s not often something we talk about openly in public but it is a word that we should be comfortable saying. The more comfortable we are saying the word and actually talking about it, the more comfortable we’ll be asking questions, learning about our bodies and realising that it’s a huge area of our health and not something that can just be ignored.

With that said, let’s dive on in with 5 things you didn’t know about your vagina

#1 - Every vagina is different

Just like the male anatomy, vaginas come in all shapes and sizes. The length of a vagina can range anywhere from 4-10 cm – that is enormous variation. Now the shape of your vagina can vary too, and one study even went so far as to make internal moulds of vaginas and from this study they were able to group vaginas into 5 different shapes – so we had cone shaped, parallel sides, heart-shaped, slug shaped and pumpkin seed shaped. And then, another study came out a few years later and declared that the shape of the vagina is not symmetrical and is not actually similar to any known geometric shape. And so once again, research shows that every woman and her vagina is very different.

Now, pornography has a hell of a lot to answer for when it comes to the appearance of our vaginas and our vulvas, and it’s caused a lot of women to worry about whether their vagina is normal. What they don’t tell you is that most women in these kinds of adult films have probably had some surgical enhancement. Not just on their boobs, but labioplasty is now a thing where women are having the lips of their vagina – called the labia – removed or tucked in to make the vagina look more aesthetically pleasing. Can you hear the air quotes there? Let me be straight, if you’re having sex with someone who is super concerned about what your vagina does or doesn’t look like, you probably should be having sex with someone else. There is no such thing as a normal vagina – every single one is just as unique as the woman who owns it.

While we’re on the topic of sex, let’s move on to fact #2 –

#2 - Your pelvic floor plays a big role in your sex life.

The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles that supports your pelvic organs, your bowel, your bladder and your uterus, and work to squeeze close the openings to these organs – your urethra, your anus and your vagina. And so the pelvic floor muscles wrap around the opening of the vagina and play a huge role in your sexual function.

If you want to know more about the pelvic floor and how to improve its strength and function, then I highly recommend checking out episode #3. I’ll make sure I include a link to it in the shownotes.

So now that you can imagine where the pelvic floor muscles are located, you can image that they have a pretty big effect on sex. If these muscles are weak, have low tone and just aren’t working very well, you may actually experience reduced sensation during sex. You might notice that tampons or menstrual cups don’t stay in place or even fall out, and you might also notice a little leaking when you exercise, cough, sneeze or even during sex.

If these muscles are overactive, meaning they’re really tight, carry a lot of tension and have a lot of trouble relaxing – I promise this is not a good thing, despite what those adult movies will tell men about a tight vagina. If those muscles can’t relax, sex can be really painful and at times it can be impossible. You might also find that using tampons or cups is impossible due to pain and you may even have trouble emptying your bladder.

Let me be clear, pain during sex is never normal. It’s more common than you probably think, but it can be a really big deal and can have a huge affect on relationships. Sex is supposed to be enjoyable, not something where you grit your teeth, close your eyes and wait for it to be over. If it’s painful, seek help. Talk to your partner about ways to make the whole experience more enjoyable and relaxing for you, use lube and get checked out by a women’s health physio.

Now, studies have shown that doing your pelvic floor exercises regularly helps to increase blood flow to the area and leads to increased pleasure during penetrative sex and more intense orgasms. I’ve always said we should be doing our pelvic floor exercises every single day – what other reason do we need? For those women who don’t think they need to do their exercises because they’re not leaking – this is your reason!

And if you want to know how to do your pelvic floor exercises correctly, check out episode #3.

And now onto Thing #3 of 5 things you didn’t know about your vagina

#3 – A healthy vagina is an acidic vagina

I love this, I think acidic is just the perfect way to describe the vagina. Acidic makes me think of a particular type of woman – she’s tough, she’s cold as ice and she’ll give you one chance then destroy you. And that’s how I think of the vagina because it’s that acidic environment that means that sperm only lives for a couple of hours after ejaculation. But, if a woman is fertile and pregnancy is possible, then the vagina will completely change its environment and the cervix produces mucus to nourish sperm cells, keep them alive and even guide them on their way to meet the egg in the fallopian tube. And the two sides to the vagina – acidic and deadly or warm and nourishing depending on the time of the month – I just love it!

So the vagina is acidic, and its this acidic environment that is super important for maintaining a healthy vagina. It’s the acidity that protects your vagina from infection which is really important to avoid, because any infection around the vagina is at risk of passing through the cervix and into the uterus. And a uterine infection can be really serious and can even affect our fertility. So it’s really important to maintain that acidic environment. This also helps to control the growth of bad bacteria and yeast. Just like yoghurt, your vagina is home to a lot of good bacteria. If the vagina becomes too alkaline, if you remember from your high school chemistry days – acids and bases, alkaline is the opposite of acidic – if the vagina becomes too alkaline, then an unhealthy amount of this bad bacteria or yeast can grow and this increases the risk of bacterial infections, thrush, all sorts of delicious things that we squirm in our seats thinking about. The vagina naturally becomes a little more alkaline after menopause, which makes it more prone to bacterial infections.

And while we’re on the subject of yeast infections, I also want to add that birth control pills can also cause yeast infections. Any synthetic hormones, which we see in all forms of hormonal contraception, including the pill, will disrupt your body’s natural balance of oestrogen and progesterone and can cause an overgrowth of yeast. Now the common form of yeast in the vagina is Candida, and it actually attaches itself to oestrogen. This stops your body from using oestrogen and eventually reduces your oestrogen levels. Low oestrogen levels, just like in menopause, create the perfect environment for yeast to flourish. Which is why if you’ve ever stopped or started taking the pill, you might have developed thrush.

Now you can maintain this ideal, healthy, acidic environment by avoiding anything that could disrupt the good bacteria and flora (what a word to use here) in your vagina. So avoid using soaps and perfumes or douching the area. Your vulva only needs to be washed with warm water when you’re in the shower and your vagina is self-cleaning so the best thing to do is to just let it do its thing.

Other habits that may increase your risk of bacterial or yeast infection include things that will either change the environment or disrupt the balance of your sex hormones which in turn will change the environment. So, some common things are a lack of sleep, eating excessive sugar, not changing pads or tampons often enough, wearing tight, non-breathable undies or clothes or wearing wet clothes for too long, particular bath or shower products, laundry detergents, lubes and spermicides.

Some medications and conditions that can have the same effect are stress (surprise surprise), antibiotics (which you’ve probably heard before – take probiotics and eat yoghurt to restore your good bacteria), a weak immune system, high blood sugar, hormonal imbalance in your menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

Now I know I told you to use lube earlier to avoid painful sex, and my recommendation is to find as natural a lubricant as possible and to shower after sex so that the lube isn’t hanging around and creating an environment that bacteria will enjoy. While we’re on the subject, if anyone has any recommendations for a natural or close-to natural lube that actually works, hit me up in the DMs and let me know. I’m asking for a friend…

Now, #4 on the list of things you didn’t know about your vagina:

#4 - Your vagina will change throughout your life.

If you’ve ever given birth, you’re probably rolling your eyes at me right now and saying “Well, duh”. And you’d be right, childbirth will change your vagina. Pregnancy will change your vagina, even if you had a Caesarean delivery you still had a bowling ball sitting on your pelvic floor for 9 months. And so, just like every other body part and tissue, the vagina and vulva will change as we get older and as we go through those milestones such as pregnancy and menopause. As we get older and our oestrogen levels decrease, there is often thinning of the skin of the vulva and during pregnancy the skin might become darker due to increased blood flow to the area. The most important takeaway here is that if you’re not sure and something doesn’t seem right, ask your doctor. And if you’re not comfortable asking your doctor, I would seriously recommend hunting around for a doctor that you are comfortable asking these questions to. Because the doctor’s office should be a completely safe space for asking every single question under the sun, especially about important but. Sensitive topics like your vagina. Please don’t rely on Google and stay away from Google images.

And so, we’ve arrived at #5 on the list of 5 things you didn’t know about your vagina. And I couldn’t possibly wrap this up without talking about the most mysterious of all female anatomy – the clitoris.


And just like a Transformer, there is more to the clitoris than meets the eye...


That was a very poor attempt at a joke, so we’ll move right along.

#5 - There is more to the clitoris than meets the eye.

Now the sole purpose of the clitoris is sexual pleasure. How amazing that we women actually have an organ for this? Men can’t say the same thing about the penis, which has a few important functions, so women in all of their glorious feminine power have an organ just for sexual pleasure. Now the clitoris has a really rich blood supply and is full of nerve endings, and some studies say that it actually has twice as many nerve endings as a penis. And so even though we think of the clitoris as small, and in some cases for some people impossible to find…the clitoris is actually a lot bigger than you think.

It’s a little like an iceberg. We can see the tip but there is a whole lot more going on underneath the surface. Did you know that the clitoris has arms? Seriously, there’s the very small tip that is visible, and then underneath the skin of the vulva, running in the same direction as the labia are two arms of the clitoris called crura. And these arms can be as long as 5-9 cm in length and they become engorged when there’s increased blood flow to the area and increase firmness around the entry to the vagina. Now I told you not to rely on Google images before, but I would encourage you to have a look at the actual size and shape of the clitoris. The first time I saw a picture of it, it blew my mind a little so I would definitely invite you to Google this one, find an anatomical drawing and let me know if you knew that the clitoris was actually that big.

Ok so I really hope you learnt something new today, I’ve had an absolute ball talking about some different stuff today and I’d love to hear from you what you learnt about your vagina in this episode. The key takeaway is here that there is so much more going on down there than we ever realise and it’s so important to get comfortable talking about this stuff. Because we want to be comfortable asking questions and raising concerns if something doesn’t seem right. If you’re comfortable doing so, grab a mirror and have a look for yourself. I’m betting this is something you haven’t done in a long time or maybe you’ve never really had a look, but I really think it’s important to get familiar with your own vulva – notice I said vulva here because that’s the external stuff that we can actually see – and the more familiar you become with how your vulva looks and even feels, the easier it will be to pick up on changes in colour, texture, discharge, sensation…all those things that could be a sign of something else going on. Remember every vulva and vagina is different and not symmetrical. And they certainly don’t look like what we’re seeing online and in certain films.

Ok, so let’s wrap up and recap those 5 things you didn’t know about your vagina:

#1 - Every vagina is different – ok so you probably already knew that one already, but did you really know there was that much of a difference in length – 4-10cm is a huge variation of normal. And yes, they are all normal!

#2 - Your pelvic floor plays a big role in your sex life. The healthier and stronger your pelvic floor is, the better your sex life, the better your sensation and the better your orgasms. And there’s the reason for doing your pelvic floor exercises every single day.

#3 – A healthy vagina is an acidic vagina. We have to look after the environment and maintain our natural flora as best we can to avoid bacterial infection and yeast overgrowth.

#4 - Your vagina will change throughout your life. Menopause, pregnancy, and everything in between. The hormone changes that occur with these life milestones influence our body tissues, skin colour, blood flow and so much more.

And finally #5 - There is more to the clitoris than meets the eye. How could we forget this one, seriously ladies, Google images. It’s incredible.

Ok let’s wrap up now and please, if you learnt something new in today’s episode, and I really hope you did - I’d love to hear from you! Or if you want to blow my mind with your own fun facts, let me know, send me an Instagram DM, share it on your stories and let me know. If you’ve got a question, please ask away because this podcast is for you and so I want to talk about the things that are most important to you!

Don’t forget if you want to learn more about your pelvic floor I’ve got heaps of free resources available on my website and I’ll link to them in the shownotes. You can head on over to www.manawomenswellness.com/post/7 for all of the links.

I will see you in next week’s episode, where I’ll be answering a listener question all about exercise and pregnancy.

Ok, bye for now and don’t forget that knowledge is power!

When you truly understand your body, you are empowered to make informed decisions and take control of your health!

Until next time.

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