The Internet has widely expanded our general knowledge and yet, we’re still quite reluctant to discuss the female nether region, let alone say the word: vagina. The vagina (derived from the Latin word vagina, which literally means “sheath”) is a natural and important part of the female anatomy; so, give it the attention it deserves.
The more you know about the vagina, the more you will appreciate how fascinating and amazing that region under your belly button really is. Let’s open up the conversation on our lady parts with some awe-inspiring facts about your hoo-hahs.
1 Daily discharge is normal for premenopausal women
The vagina produces an average of one teaspoon of discharge every day, and you will have noticed that it is usually white or transparent, and odourless. Before the ovulation phase of your menstrual cycle, the amount increases and it becomes more watery and elastic. If the wetness bothers you, try using a panty liner or sanitary pad. But, if anything seems unusual – bad odour, discomfort, etc – you should consult your doctor.
2 Menstrual blood is not just dirt from your body; it has stem cells
Although it signals the time of the month that most women dread, scientists have been trying to conduct experiments using menstrual blood, which is rich in self-regenerating stem cells. Currently, this easily-available blood is being tested in research to help patients with heart failure. Vaginal fluids and shark liver oil both contain squalene, which can be found in beauty products like skin
3 Sharks and vaginas are not so different
Vaginal fluids and oil from shark liver contain a similar organic compound known as squalene, which is sometimes used in beauty products like skin creams. Locals on the Japanese island of Izu have used squalene from sharks as a cure-all serum.
4 You do not need to douche and cleanse the vagina
The vagina is swarming with bacteria, but you want to keep it that way – lactobacilli, the same bacteria used in yoghurt, can prevent nasty microorganisms from giving you an infection. All you need to do is take care of the outer part of your lady bits by washing with scent-free soap, but the vagina regulates and cleans itself through discharge – secretions that expel excess water, cells and bacteria.
5 Sweating is normal
The two main types of sweat glands are eccrine glands, which produce more moisture, and apocrine glands, which are more responsible for smell due to their oily secretions. Your crotch contains a higher density of both, so it is quite normal to perspire a lot down there. The sweat and oil help protect against friction and overheating, but tight and/or synthetic underwear tends to trap moisture, creating an ideal environment for bacterial infection. It is best to wear cotton, or even go commando.
6 You cannot lose anything in your vagina
Your uterus opening is too small for anything to go through – unless you’re giving birth, of course. Occasionally, a tampon that goes a little too far in will require a visit to the gynaecologist to have it removed, but the cervix acts as a barrier, preventing access to the uterus.
7 Tighter isn’t always better
Vaginismus is a condition that causes involuntary contractions in the vaginal muscles. This closes the vagina, preventing you from having sex, using a tampon, and even having a gynaecological exam. Often, the condition gets progressively worse as women who have it get increasingly stressed and worsen the condition, but fail to check with their gynaecologist. Fortunately, it can be treated via counselling, combined with physical therapy.
8 Vagina power!
In 2009, Tatyana Kozhevnikova, a 42-year-old Russian mother, reportedly set a record by lifting over 15kg of weight… with her vagina. She attached the weight to a wooden egg, which she then inserted into her vagina. Kozhevnikova told reporters she “just tightened the vaginal muscles to hold the egg inside”. This gives Kegel exercises a whole new meaning. Another occurrence that indicates the strength of vaginas is known as penis captivus. Although rare, it happens during intercourse when the muscles in the vagina clamp down with intensity on the penis, making it impossible for the penis to withdraw from the vagina.
9 You won’t stretch out by accommodating large sizes
Vaginal walls are pleated and compressed, unfolding like an umbrella when it needs to accommodate a tampon or penis. Regardless of the length or size of the penis, you can count on your vagina returning to its usual tightness after intercourse. Women who have experienced childbirth, however, tend to feel loosened up in there. Doing Kegel exercises may help tighten you up.
10 Designer vaginas
Vaginal surgery, or labiaplasty, can increase pleasure and improve appearance, according to some doctors. However, these procedures are rarely necessary and can cause pain or nerve damage. They are also almost never covered by insurance. Consider vaginal rejuvenation instead. This is a non-reconstructive surgery that tightens the structure of the vagina using Erbium Yag laser treatment. Popular amongst women after childbirth, it is virtually painless and requires no downtime for recovery.
11 Is something causing you pain in your lady parts?
These conditions can cause serious discomfort:
Aging and menopause cause a reduction in oestrogen and can lead to atrophic vaginitis. Symptoms include thinning and dryness of the vagina, inflammation and urinary incontinence. Sex might be painful, and vaginal and urinary tract infections can occur more frequently, due to the loss of natural secretions and acidity of the vagina, which protects against harmful bacterial or fungal infections.
This condition is characterised by a stinging around your vulva – the skin surrounding the opening of your vagina. The pain can be so intense that direct contact is hard to bear. There is no known cause for vulvodynia, and it’s often diagnosed after gynaecologists rule out other conditions, such as a bad yeast infection. Treatment with bioidentical hormone therapy may help in both atrophic vaginitis and vulvodynia. Like any other body part, our vagina is just another part of us, so it seems logical and sensible that we should be well-acquainted with it and take good care of it. As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice before starting any treatment programmes.
The Star Malaysia 5 October 2015
By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar