The vagina files


Women's Health Australia - - CONTENT - By Clare Bax­ter

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 thin­gi­

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 pelvicex­er­ 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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.