The vagina is one of the most important female organs, mainly due to its sexual functions and its role in childbirth. But many people do not know much about the vagina, and it remains a mystery that fascinates women as well as men equally.
The word ‘vagina’ comes from the Latin root meaning ‘sheath for a sword’. Most of us use the word to refer to the area ‘down there’.
But technically, the term vagina describes only the narrow canal that runs inside the female body from the vulva to the cervix. The vulva is the visible female private part that includes the inner and outer labia, clitoris and perineum. The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus.
The vagina is intriguing and there are many crucial facts about your vagina that you may not even be aware of.
Here are the top 10 things you probably didn’t know about your vagina.
1. IT CAN EXPAND GREATLY
On average, a woman’s vagina is about 3 inches wide and 3.5 inches deep. However, it is not rigid. In fact, it can expand by up to 200 percent in size. Inside the vagina is a series of ridges produced by folds of the vagina that allow it to extend and stretch.
This expansion is what allows a 10-plus pound baby to come out, and healthy too!
After childbirth, the vagina returns to nearly its original shape. However, it may take about six months after delivery for the vagina to heal completely.
Also, during intercourse, the vagina expands two to three times its size.
2. IT NEEDS EXERCISE
All women should do pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the pubococcygeus muscles of the pelvic floor.
This type of exercise can help a woman cope during childbirth, prevent urinary infections, and even increase orgasmic pleasure.
To do pelvic floor exercises, you must first recognize the muscles you need to exercise by stopping urination in mid-stream. Make a mental note of the muscles that contract when you do this. Then, finish emptying your bladder.
Lie down on your back.
Slowly tense and relax these muscles, keeping 5-second intervals, and gradually increase the duration to 10 seconds.
Repeat 3 times a day.
3. IT’S SELF-CLEANING
The vagina is basically a self-cleaning organ. It is lined by a variety of glands that produce fluids needed to both lubricate and cleanse the vaginal area. The fluids help flush out bad bacteria and maintain a healthy pH level.
This is one reason that doctors advise against douching and using soap, scented wipes, harsh cleansers or gels to clean the vagina. Such products can irritate the vagina and wash away the beneficial lubricants and flora. This in turn can lead to excessive discharge, a bad odor and itching.
You will be amazed to know that several cases of vaginal infections are self-induced by women who regularly douche and wash their vagina with soap to keep it clean.
4. ITS PH LEVEL IS SIMILAR TO WINE
Just like your skin and scalp, your vagina also has a pH level. In normal circumstances, the vagina is acidic in nature, with a pH around 3.8 to 4.5. Wine and tomatoes have a similar pH level.
On the other hand, semen is basic, with a pH between 7.2 and 8. They work together to neutralize the environment in the vagina.
However, too much intercourse can upset the pH level in the vagina, which can lead to infections like bacterial vaginosis.
5. ITS MUCUS CHANGES DURING OVULATION
The vagina is a self-lubricating organ and the lubrication level is highly influenced by the monthly cycle.
The slippery fluid inside the vagina is nothing but cervical mucus that is secreted throughout the monthly cycle. However, during the time of ovulation, women are more likely to have a clear, rubbery and stretchy cervical mucus.
Women who do not use contraceptives must watch out for this pretty cool sign to know when it is the best time to conceive a child or abstain from intercourse, depending on your goal.
6. AGE AFFECTS THE VAGINA
Age can affect the appearance of your vagina, just like it does to your face, breasts and bottom.
With advancing age, breasts can get saggy. Somewhat similarly, pregnancy, childbirth, hormonal changes, genetics and years of gravity can weaken the supports of the female genital tract, which in turn causes sagging.
Also, the skin of the vulva may darken or lighten and the clitoris may shrink. These changes are mainly due to decreasing levels of estrogen after menopause.
To avoid sagging, you can try pelvic floor exercises, maintain a healthy body weight, avoid constipation and say no to smoking.
7. IT HAS A UNIQUE ODOR
Just like your body, your vagina has a particular smell. It is normal for your vagina to have a slight odor.
The type of odor depends on many factors, including the combination of good and bad bacteria that live in the vagina, your diet, types of fabric you wear, level of hygiene, how much you sweat, and gland secretions.
Certain foods, such as coffee, asparagus, beets, alcohol, broccoli, onions, garlic and curry, can affect the smell of your vagina.
However, when there is a strong “fishy” smell along with other vaginal symptoms like itching, burning, irritation or discharge, it means something is wrong and you must consult your gynecologist.
To prevent a fishy vaginal odor, get rid of pubic hair, wipe with baby wipes instead of toilet paper after using the washroom, regularly drink cranberry juice, opt for cotton underwear, change your underwear twice daily, go panty-free occasionally to keep the vagina aired out, include probiotics in your diet and avoid panty hose and tight jeans.
8. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO LOSE SOMETHING IN THE VAGINA
Many women are afraid that hygienic products, such as a tampon, can get lost in their vagina. There is no truth to it, as you simply can’t lose something in your vagina.
At the inner end, the vagina is bound by the cervix as well as its own tissue. In simple terms, this female body part is not connected to another area of your body.
Only tiny, microscopic sperm can swim through the opening of the cervix, and nothing bigger than that. Hence, there is no need to worry about anything getting lost in there.
However, if anything like a tampon or condom gets lodged deep inside the vagina, it can be easily removed by your gynecologist with the help of a speculum or forceps.
9. SOME FEMALES MAY NOT HAVE A VAGINA
Approximately one in 5,000 to 7,000 female babies are born without a vagina. This happens as a female child’s reproductive system may not have developed fully in the mother’s uterus.
Medically known as vaginal agenesis, the condition is sometimes recognized at birth, but most often it is diagnosed after puberty.
Females suffering from vaginal agenesis have ovaries, but they do not have a womb, cervix or vaginal opening. In the place of the vagina, there is an indent or dimple, making it appear normal.
Women with this condition do not menstruate and cannot have intercourse or conceive a child.
10. VAGINAL FARTS HAPPEN
Vaginal farts are much more common than you may think.
A vaginal fart refers to an emission or expulsion of air from the vagina. The sound is comparable to flatulence from the anus, but it does not involve passing waste gases and does not have a specific odor.
This type of fart occurs due to the expansion of the vaginal walls, which pulls in lots of air. When the vaginal walls collapse down, the air gets expelled and creates a fart-like sound.
This embarrassing problem mostly occurs during or after intercourse. It can also occur during other sexual acts as well as stretching or exercise.