The vagina - dare we talk about what's normal? An unpleasant odour from your vaginal discharge (we'll get to that later).
There are times throughout life that us girls / females wonder what's really normal. And as a nurse, having seen many women naked, and having to view their vaginas for abnormalities, I'd just like to say, everyone is so different. Yet this is one subject we fail to discuss with our girlfriends (unless we're drunk, which kind of buffers the conversation, and hey the next day we can deny talking about it because we conveniently don't remember).
The sad thing about many females is that we feel we cannot talk openly about our genitals. But, hey look at the guys, they love their penis's, and never fail to remind us that they exist, no matter how big or how small - basically men are proud of their genitals, and you know what? So should we. Girls should feel empowered by being a female and the beauty of having a vagina.
What is it really?
It is around a three-inch canal, which is lined with a mucous membrane that lines from the vulva (the outside) to the cervix (which is basically the base of the uterus). The uterus as most of us know is where if a female is to become pregnant is where the baby will grow. It is also a canal for menstrual blood to flow where it will wash away all of the wasted cells from menstruation.
When the vagina is relaxed, it is about ½ to ¾ of an inch around, with the walls of it touching.
An adult vagina slopes backwards and upwards. It's made up of muscle and fibrous tissue, which forms the walls of it.
So what's normal?
Really, anything goes. What you where born with, I'm sure is just fine. Just as men are very different to each other, so are we. That is unless you have found a change in your lower abdomen such as:
A different kind of vaginal discharge than what you are used to.
Pain during sex.
Pain during urination.
Any lumps or bumps around your vagina that weren't there before.
If anything changes, make sure you your doctor; see a female doctor if it makes you more comfortable. These doctors see this kind of thing all the time, so although you may hate a 'pelvic check-up' they couldn't care less, along with knowing something that most females don't know- we are built all so differently, and that is normal.
Now I'd like to discuss this myth about females smelling bad. This is only the case if there's something wrong (e.g. a STD). The vaginal discharge that girls begin to experience when they start to menstruate is normal. Depending on the time of month, or if you've eaten garlic, or onion (it comes out in your pores-literally everywhere), what your vaginal discharge smells like is normal. If there is an unusual unpleasant odour, go to your doctor immediately.
This discharge is there for a reason. It is your body's way of cleaning itself.
It's also there to aid conception, so at certain times of the menstrual cycle, this discharge changes to suit the appropriate environment to fertilise a sperm. If you are not on the pill you will find that in the middle of your cycle, you will find that you have a clear, watery discharge. This is to enable the sperm to travel more easily to the ovum (the female egg). Yet towards the end of your cycle, and at the beginning of it, your secretions will become thick and sticky.
Basically what I want you girls to know, is that we should not feel uncomfortable about our genitals. Just like the colour of our eyes, our hair, our facial features, we are all unique. Unless there is a change from the norm (if there is visit your doctor) remember you are perfect. Just don't ever forget it!
Louise Ganey (RN)