The vagina files
TAKE OUR POP QUIZ TO DISCOVER YOUR VIQ...
Misinfo and myths still abound, so we shine a light on this unique body part. All will be revealed!
It’s been a while since we were in awks-inducing sex ed’ classes labelling fallopian tubes. But even as adults in 2018, we could all stand to learn more about our vaginas. Luckily, it seems they’re quite the hot topic on Insta right now. Athletes such as Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui and fitness guru Kayla Itsines are candid about how periods affect their performance, while celebs share everything from vagina-steaming pics (Chrissy Teigen, we’re looking at you – doctors advise against it, BTW) to stories of endometriosis. Heck, singer Janelle Monae even wears vulva-shaped trousers in her music vid for Pynk. And we’re 100 per cent here for it. So, in the spirit of myth-busting, behold the trivia you never knew you needed to know about your vagina et al. Class is officially in session. What actually counts as the vagina?
A The stretchy, muscular passageway from the vulva to the cervix B Everything going on down there C The lips outside the genitals
ANSWER: A. High-10 if you got this one right: a British survey by Eve Appeal found 44 per cent of women couldn’t point out the vagina on a diagram of the reproductive tract. “People often get mixed up with their vagina and their vulva,” says Dr Deborah Bateson, medical director at Family Planning NSW. So, how can you tell them apart? Think of the vagina as the stretchy, muscular internal passageway from the opening of the vagina to the cervix at the top, which leads to the uterus. Whereas the vulva is the outside part of your genitals, including the inner and outer lips (labia), the clitoris, urethral opening (for pee) and vaginal opening. V enlightening.
How long is the average clitoris?
A 1–2cm B 5–6cm C 9–11cm
ANSWER: C. Yep, you’re packing down there. The sultana-sized part you can see – named the head or glans – is just the tip of the iceberg (a tip that contains 8000 nerve-endings, FYI, double the amount in the entire penis. Winning!). “The clitoris is a large
organ hidden beneath the surface, with four legs and a long neck. It can be up to 11cm on the inside, surrounding your whole genitals,” says Dr Nina Brochmann, sex ed’ expert and co-author of The Wonder Down Under: A User’s Guide to
the Vagina. Whoa! Can’t imagine it? The tech sector has come to the rescue. After noticing a gap in education between male and female anatomies, French researcher Odile Fillod designed an anatomically correct, printable 3D clitoris so that schools across France could teach kids about the organ. Download the file for free and 3D-print your own at thingiverse.com/thing:1876288
It’ll be the Christmas pressie your mates never ever saw coming.
You’ve been on the pill for years, so it’s time to give your body a break.
A True B False
ANSWER: B. A US survey of almost 900 young women published in
Women’s Health Issues found 47 per cent thought they should hit pause on their contraception to stay healthy. But unless you’re trying to get pregnant, there’s no need, says Bateson. “If you’ve found a pill that works for you and feel comfortable on it, there are absolutely no health benefits in stopping.” If you’re on hormonal contraception, she says stopping and starting may have an impact on the side effects you experience. Bateson has also noticed a rising number of women here concerned about staying on hormones for a long time. “Women do say they’d rather have something more natural – either lower doses of hormones or no hormones at all, so it’s important to be aware of all the options,” she says. “If you do want to switch contraceptives, make sure you are aware of needing to take other precautions if [you] don’t want to have a pregnancy now.”
Lady boners: the real deal?
A Real AF B Totally not a thing
ANSWER: A. Your clitoris is made of the same erectile tissue as the penis so, yep, we also get stiffies when we’re turned on. Get ready for some eye-opening trivia: “women
have up to eight boners a night,” says Brochmann. The chick version of morning wood has the supercatchy name “nocturnal clitoral tumescence” (try saying that 10 times fast). “There’s little anatomical and physiological difference between female and male sexual arousal – we also have a sexual organ that is erect and responds in the same way as the penis,” says Brochmann. “That might be why a lot of women like having sex in the morning.” Talk about a hard fact.
How many of us will get thrush at some point?
A 75 per cent B 80 per cent C 90 per cent
ANSWER: A. Three-quarters of Aussie women will experience the fungal infection, according to the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, along with the not-so-nice symptoms (itching, burning and general discomfort) that it can trigger. Thrush is mostly harmless, but this doesn’t mean you should swerve the GP visit. “It’s common for women to self-diagnose thrush and other problems down there when it may be something else. So it’s important to go to your doctor and get checked out, even if there are good over-the-counter products,” says Brochmann. As for those home remedies you found on an online forum? Yeah … nah. “Most are a waste of time and resources,
but aren’t dangerous,” she advises, citing yoghurt and cranberry juice in the useless-but-safe list. Ditch douching at all costs, though. The vagina is self-cleaning and putting anything else up there to wash it
“can potentially change the delicate balance of healthy bacteria and that can lead to all sorts of problems, such as bacterial vaginosis”, says Bateson. If you do have recurring thrush, opt for loose clothing to keep the area dry, wear cotton undies and avoid panty liners to ease the itch.
Sometimes pee a little when you sneeze or run? You’re in the company of this many women...
A 15 per cent B 70 per cent C About 50 per cent
ANSWER: C. Urinary incontinence is incredibly common. A study published in The Journal of Urology collected data on more than 17,800 adults and found 51.1 per cent of women experienced leakage. There are two types: stress (that’s the sneezing one) and urge (when you feel like you suddenly need to pee). It’s more common after childbirth and menopause, both of which weaken your pelvic floor muscles. Gynaecologist Dr Sally Lyttleton, co-founder of The Jade Room (a clinic specialising in vaginal laser treatment), says weight-lifting can also increase your risk of stress incontinence. “People who go to the gym and do a lot of weights need to know how to protect their pelvic floor,” she says. Get a grip on your kegel exercises: imagine your pelvic floor muscles as a hammock from your pubic bone to the base of your spine, stretching out at both sides to your sit bones. You want to squeeze these muscles as if you’re tightening the hammock, says Lyttleton. Hold for up to 10 seconds, then relax. “The key to good kegels is doing a long enough contraction to really strengthen it, but then to let go completely in between,” explains Lyttleton.
“The first few times you’ve got to do it with concentration, but once you’ve got the knack you can do it any time.” You can also head to pelvicexercises.com.au for videos on how to protect yourself while doing weight-bearing workouts. Or consider Elvie, a training device that goes inside your vagina and sends signals to an app to show how well you do your kegels. Easy squeezy.
What’s the function of the female orgasm?
A It promotes both loyalty and bonding between sexual partners B We don’t actually know, but probably nothing to be honest C The muscle contractions help suck sperm up to the ovaries
ANSWER: B. Orgasms are still a mystery, and although all of the above have been theorised at some point, the general consensus among experts is that the big O doesn’t do all that much. According to Brochmann, female orgasms are just a (really) fun bonus of male and female anatomy starting from the same point as foetuses develop in the uterus. Essentially, while men’s orgasms function to deliver sperm and fertilise eggs, we have orgasms simply because men do. “It’s just a great evolutionary by-product,” she says. We couldn’t agree more.