It sure is informative.
If the thought of lying back on the bed with your legs spread before the eyes of a total stranger fills you with dread, you're not alone.
A trip to the gynaecologist is hardly at the top of a woman's bucket list but it's a necessary procedure for anyone who is sexually active. Now that we are well into the lockdown period and all non-essential medical appointments have been cancelled, we might be paying closer attention to what's going on *whispers* down below.
Rather than turning to the dark depths of Google before your next (and no doubt dreaded) trip to the gynaecologist when life gets back to normal, we've enlisted Tania Adib, a Harley Street gynaecologist, to answer some common vagina-related questions - and what's going on down there is probably much more normal than you realise.
Tania isn’t the least bit shy about sharing her wealth of knowledge so read on for the answers to all your vagina-related quandaries.
1. Yes, that discharge is normal
Discharge is absolutely normal because it provides an important function. Glands in the vagina produce normal secretion, including discharge, which helps to cleanse the vagina, get rid of natural bacteria and any dead cells; it provides natural lubrication. Discharge keeps the vagina clean and helps prevent infection.
2. That slight smell is totally normal
There can be a slight odour, but this shouldn't be unpleasant. If it smells off-putting, you should book an appointment with a doctor, or consider using Canestest Self-Test for Vaginal Infections, which can help you find out if you're suffering from Thrush or Bacterial Vaginosis.
3. Normal vaginas should smell like vinegar
Typically, there could be a slightly acidic aroma (think vinegar). Your own vagina's smell could be dependent on your body chemistry and your diet can influence it too - you might notice a change after eating strong foods, such as spices, onions or asparagus.
4. Sticky discharge is completely normal
Discharge can vary between thin and sticky to thicker with an elastic texture. However, if you find yourself feeling itchy and there is a curd-like consistency to the discharge, it could indicate there is a yeast infection, so you'll need to get tested.
5. Discharge is thicker during your period
Discharge varies depending on your monthly cycle. It's usually thicker during your fertile times, when you're ovulating.
6. Your vagina is normal, whatever shape and size it is
There is a huge variety in the way vaginas and labias appear. Unless it's uncomfortable or hurts, it's normal. The labia minora (the inner lips of the vagina) can be asymmetrical, enclosed within the vulva, or hanging outside of the vulva. It's all absolutely normal. If you're still not sure, ask your doctor to check.
7. Your vagina isn't too loose
Despite various myths, sexual intercourse will not loosen the vagina. As for childbirth, for young women (late teens and twenties) who give birth, there may be some looseness in the first few months straight after delivery, but things should return normal within six months.
However, giving birth many times can make the elastic less likely to snap back. Likewise, ageing causes the elastic quality of the vagina to become less efficient. Kegel exercises can improve tone in many cases. If you feel looseness is still an issue, you should discuss options with your gynaecologist - there are treatments which can help firm and tone the vaginal walls.
8. The real reason sex is hurting
Sex shouldn't hurt - but it may hurt for a variety of reasons, including dryness caused by the menopause or oral contraceptives, or infection, such as thrush or STIs.
A condition called vaginismus, which is caused by a negative association with sex, can make women close up, triggering pain when penetration is attempted. This can be treated with specialist counselling. However, there are other physical causes for pain during sex. These can include over-sensitive nerves at the base of the vagina, surgery such as an episiotomy during childbirth, abrasions to the vagina.
Lack of arousal is another reason sex may hurt, and spending time on foreplay and discovering what is enjoyable is important. It's important to seek medical advice if sex consistently hurts. There are treatments which can help, and it's important certain medical conditions are ruled out.
9. This is why your vagina has changed colour
If you've noticed the inner mucosa of the vagina has changed colour, you may have gone through the menopause. Pre-menopause, the vagina within should be pink and moist. When oestrogen decreases, the skin becomes paler. Lack of oestrogen also causes the vagina to become less plump.
There may be other reasons for the skin around the vagina to alter in appearance. For example, white patches accompanied by itchiness indicate you might have developed the auto-immune disorder, lichen sclerosis. Discuss treatment options with your doctor.
If there are other changes, such as spots or markings that have developed, you should definitely get a doctor to take a look. Although these are likely to be nothing to worry about, in certain cases, change in appearance may indicate cell changes linked to cancer so discuss any concerns with your GP.
10. How to tell if you've got thrush or Bacterial Vaginosis
Thrush manifests itself as thick, white curd-like discharge, which causes itching and discomfort. There may be a yeasty, sweet smell to the discharge.
Bacterial Vaginosis, on the other hand, smells distinctly unpleasant, with a fishy odour. The discharge is thin and watery and sometimes grey and there'll be itching and burning when you go to the toilet.
Is your mind at ease now?
This article was originally published on GLAMOUR UK