This week on the blog we’re talking about vaginas. The vagina is a very sensitive, intimate part of the body’s anatomy but it’s also one of the most mysterious body parts.
I find most people don’t know a lot about the vagina, mostly because they’re nervous to ask. Fear not, because I’m going to give you the 411 on the different parts of the vagina so you feel better informed to answer all your tween or teen's questions.
First of all, technically using the term vagina is incorrect in terms of sexual anatomy. The vagina is the canal inside the body (aka where a tampon is inserted), meaning this is where period blood comes out of.
This is also the area involved in sexual intercourse and childbirth. All the outside stuff, including the labia minora, labia majora, clitoris, the vaginal opening and the urethra is the vulva.
Now that we’ve covered vagina vs. vulva, let’s get into some other important things to know below.
1. What does a normal vulva look like?
It’s important to remember there’s no ‘normal’ or ‘right’ way a vulva should look. Like everything else on the body, the vulva is unique to each person! Encourage your teen to embrace the idea that there's no one way a vulva should look, so they stop worrying about whether their vagina or labia are normal just because they look ‘different’ or ‘lopsided’ — that’s totally normal.
No two vulvas look the same. The vulva's labia (lips) and clitoris can vary in size. Some people have a very small clitoris tucked under the clitoral hood and very big labia - just depends! The color of the labia can also vary - some people have a pink-ish labia while others will have a red or purple tone to their labia.
In addition to how the vulva looks, the vagina also functions uniquely. As mentioned, the amount of discharge released varies from person-to-person and the smell and odor of a vagina will also never be the same as the next person's.
2. The vagina has pleated walls.
The inner walls of the vaginal canal are pleated, similar to the way an accordion looks. This is what allows the vagina to expand during sexual intercourse or birth, and this is how something like a baby has room to pass through.
3. Vaginas are self-cleaning.
Like a cat! In all seriousness though, if your teen has ever been concerned about clear or white-ish discharge coming from their vagina, they shouldn't be. This is simply the vagina releasing cells, water and bacteria that are up to no good. Depending on hormones, there will be more or less discharge throughout some weeks of the month. Some people also experience more discharge than others.
If their vaginal discharge ever suddenly changes color or is accompanied by an itching or burning sensation in or around the vagina, consult a doctor.
If you want to know more about personal hygiene, find out the best way to shave the bikini area.
4. Vagina exercises exist.
The vagina needs some exercise, just like the other parts of your body! The specific exercise for the vagina is known as a Kegel, a type of pelvic floor exercise. A Kegel is done by tightening the vagina muscles as if trying to stop the flow of pee. Hold for 10 seconds, then release - they can try to do five sets of this three times a day.
Kegels are great because they can be done literally anytime, anywhere. They can do them sitting at their desk, driving around or on the couch! They’re easy to do and so beneficial. Down the road, this prevents bladder leaks and makes childbirth easier by strengthening the vaginal walls and structure.
5. Take good care of the vagina.
The vagina has a sensitive pH balance and won’t respond well to overly perfumed body washes or lotions, so your teen should try to use natural, fragrance-free products to keep the area down there happy.
Is your child worried about their period being different or worse than other peoples? Find out more about extreme period symptoms here.
There you have it, the vagina 411. If your teen has any other burning questions about what goes on down there, consult a medical professional or start with reading our free period guide.
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