1. What you’ve been calling a vagina, probably isn’t a vagina
A lot of people mistake their vulva for their vagina. The vulva is basically everything on the outside, including inner lips (labia minora), outer lips (labia majora) and pubis mons (the small bump of flesh on the pubic bone). The vagina is inside the body - it’s the tube which goes from the vulva to the cervix.
2. You might be cleaning it too much
The vagina is a wonderful thing and part of its awesomeness is that it cleans itself. You should be washing your vulva (the outside parts) every day with water, but only the vulva. If you start to wash inside you can disrupt your vagina’s natural bacteria (which can result in infection and inflammation).
3. There is no normal when it comes to how your vulva looks
Colour, labia size, clitoris size, the size of your pubis mons, these are all individual to every woman. There is no standard way a vulva ‘should’ look. The Great Wall of Vagina - an art project featuring plaster casts of 400 women’s private parts is a great way to see the impressive vulva variety in the world!
4. If it burns when you pee, you probably have an infection
Burning when you pee is a common sign of chlamydia (the UK’s most common STI) but is also common symptom of a urinary tract infection (UTI). If it does burn when you pee, your best bet is to go and speak to someone at a sexual health clinic. If you suspect you may have chlamydia and you’re aged 16-24, you can order an at-home test here. Oh, and by the way, being a lesbian, or a woman who has only slept with women doesn't mean you won't get an STI.
5. A vagina doesn’t lose elasticity or become ‘loose’ after lots of sex
Lots of people still (wrongly) think that if someone has a lot of sex, the vagina becomes ‘loose’ - this is not the case though. The vagina is elastic so after sexual encounters, it retracts itself back into its previous form, as the vagina is elastic! (A vagina does, however, lose some elasticity during childbirth because you are pretty much pushing something the size of a watermelon out of there!)
6. Discharge is totally normal
And not only is it, normal - a clear, white discharge is sign your vagina is happy and healthy! The amount of vaginal discharge varies throughout your menstrual cycle and healthy discharge doesn’t have a strong smell or colour.
If notice a change in colour or consistency, a sudden bad smell or an unusually large amount of discharge, you should visit your GP or sexual health clinic, as this may be a sign of a bacterial infection or a sexually transmitted infection.
7. You should keep an eye out for bumps, lumps and growths
Genital warts are the second most common STI in England, and small bumps, lumps and growths are a telltale sign of them. If you notice any changes, visit our sexual health clinic. They’ve literally seen thousands of vaginas, so don’t be embarrassed, just check it checked out to make sure it’s nothing to worry about. It can take months, or even years, for warts to develop after infection, so even if you’re in a relationship, you should still keep an eye out.
8. There are quite a few causes of vaginal dryness
Not getting wet during sex? Allergy medicines (including hayfever tablets), breastfeeding and even diabetes can cause dryness down there. A super easy solution to this is to use water-based lube, which you can pick up for free from our sexual health team when you see them out and about! Make sure you’re spending enough time warming up too, women take around 10-12 minutes to become fully aroused, so be sure to focus on foreplay.
9. You really need to attend your smear tests religiously
Recent research has shown that cervical cancer screening (smear tests) prevents 70% of cervical cancer deaths. Seventy per cent! We do get a lot of lesbians asking us if they need a smear test because they've never had sex with a guy. Yes, you do! If you have a vagina you need be attending your smear tests. Don’t miss an appointment.
10. Your vagina has something in common with a shark
Okay, so you might not need to know this one, but it's pretty cool. Vaginas and sharks both contain a substance called squalene. The vagina produces it as a natural lubricant but it’s also present in a shark’s liver. So there you have it, your vagina and the greatest underwater predatory have something in common, who knew?!