Although you might think you know your vagina inside and out, it’s a pretty ~*mYsTeRiOuS~* place. So you could probably stand to read up on how the vagina functions, how to keep it healthy, and how to increase the amount of bliss it brings you.
1. It’s just one part of your down-there region. Most of us use the word “vagina” to refer to our private parts. But technically, the term describes only the narrow canal that runs inside your body from the vulva (the visible area that includes the inner and outer labia, clitoris, and perineum) to the cervix (the lower portion of the uterus).
2. Vaginas generally look alike… On the inside, that is. What does vary is the vulva. Dr. Karen E. Boyle of Chesapeake Urology Associates says, “Clitoral width is generally anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5 millimeters. I’ve examined women with a clitoral length of 0.5 inches all the way to over 2 inches, and studies confirm this variability. There is not just one size that’s normal.” The outer labia can also vary in terms of being barely there or a few inches long, and the inner labia (which are reminiscent of butterfly wings) might be hidden or hang past the outer lips. Most women’s labia aren’t perfectly symmetrical — one side is usually bigger than the other.
3. The surrounding area often can be different colors. The shade of your southern region isn’t necessarily related to the tone of the rest of your skin. Many light-skinned women have brown or purplish labia, while a darker-skinned woman can have a lighter vulva. You also can have different colors in different areas — for example, your labia could be on the darker side yet your perineum could be pale pink.
4. Its walls are pleated. Usually, the walls of the vagina lie compressed against each other. But when they need to open — to accommodate a tampon or penis — the sides separate and widen, kind of like the way an umbrella opens or a pleated skirt unfolds. The vagina typically swells from half an inch wide to 2 inches wide. And it can get even bigger — after all, a baby might have to pass through it.
5. Relax — a well-hung guy won’t stretch it out. As explained above, the vagina is incredibly elastic and can fit a supersize penis — yet it always returns to its usual tightness after sex. But it might be a different story once you pop out a baby, according to some moms. You can tighten up by doing certain exercises (see no. 7).
6. Nor will it “revirginize” if you go through a long dry spell. There’s a rumor out there that if you find yourself in a no-booty bout, your vagina will become so tight that getting back in the saddle will hurt. While your vaginal muscles may be tense at first, penetration shouldn’t be painful.
7. It benefits from regular exercise. Just as working your biceps firms up your arms, working your pubococcygeus muscle — a main muscle of your pubic region — can tone up your vag. Besides giving you a tighter grip during sex, it also may make it easier to climax. Here’s how to exercise your V: Clamp down as if you’re stopping your urine flow, hold for 10 seconds, then release. Do two sets of 10 to 20 reps a day; you’ll notice a difference in about a month.
8. It’s teeming with bacteria. Don’t get grossed out — they’re the kind that keep bad microorganisms in check so you don’t get an infection. One of the good bacteria is lactobacilli, also found in yogurt, so it’s nothing to be scared of.
9. It’s self-cleaning. No need to douche or wash the inside — it cleans itself with discharge (yep, that stuff has a function). The secretions flush out cells from the vaginal wall, excess water, and bacteria. The only washing it needs is on the outside between the labial folds and along the perineum (use a mild, scent-free soap).
10. If your vagina is in pain, these are two major causes. Vaginismus, which causes the vaginal muscles to contract involuntarily, can make it difficult or impossible to have sex, use a tampon, even undergo a gyno exam. It can be treated via physical therapy or counseling, but often gets worse before it gets better because women who have it stress out so much wondering what’s going on before checking in with their gyno. The other possibility is vulvodynia, which is characterized by vulva pain, stinging, or sensitivity so intense that direct touch is hard to bear. There are no visible signs and it’s often diagnosed after gynos rule out other conditions, such as a bad yeast infection. Antidepressants can often help lessen the pain. Either way, see your doctor to find out what’s really going on.
11. Its smell gets stronger during your cycle. Speaking of scent, every vagina has one. It tends to be acidic before your period and pungent afterward. Your scent also may be more noticeable post-workout, because of sweat glands, and during sex, thanks to the natural lubrication you produce. Dr. Boyle says that “having a slight scent to your vagina is normal, but when the odor becomes strong or unpleasant, or is accompanied with a discharge, it’s time to see the doctor.”
12. Getting it on does it good. Dr. Boyle says that having regular sex and orgasms can actually help reduce your stress and anxiety. She explains: “Having an orgasm increases estrogen, which increases oxytocin release, which in turn reduces cortisol production (which is the main stress hormone).” So relax and have an orgasm, or have an orgasm and relax. Either one.
13. But too much sex can throw it out of whack. While regular action can relax you, too much in a short period of time may leave you chafed or with a urinary tract infection. Fortunately, peeing post-sex can keep a UTI at bay.
14. Discharge changes throughout your cycle. Your vag produces more discharge — up to 2 teaspoons a day — during ovulation, and it tends to be thinner and clearer at this time. Before your flow, it’s creamier and thicker. Dr. Boyle says, “The change in your discharge during ovulation is designed to create a hospitable environment for the sperm to travel up to the egg.” If it ever itches, burns, stinks, or looks like cottage cheese, see your gyno.
15. Things can’t get lost up there. Your vagina is not a black hole. It’s impossible for anything (like a tampon) to escape into your uterus — the cervix blocks off access. But a tampon can slip out of reach. If one does, fish it out while squatting and bearing down. If that doesn’t work, make an appointment with your gyno, who will pluck out the tampon quickly and painlessly. Note: Leave the food products near your vagina to the sex scenes in rom-coms. The sugar can lead to an infection.
16. Your clitoris can actually get a boner when you’re turned on. According to Laurence Orbuch, director of Gyn Laparoscopic Associates and the co-director of gynecologic robotic surgery at the Beth Israel Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, when you’re turned on, your clitoris becomes engorged with blood. The size obviously varies person to person, and it’s probably not super noticeable, but it happens!
17. Your vagina can actually double in size when you’re turned on. Dr. Orbuch says women’s vaginas can vary in size and shape when they’re aroused, but it’s totally possible for it to double in size due to something called tenting, which causes expansion of the upper two-thirds of thevagina. Basically, tenting is thought to help the movement of sperm up into the cervix for conception.
18. There are way more nerve-endings on your clitoris than there are on a penis.Dr. Orbuch says there are 8,000 sensory nerve endings in the clitoris, while the penis only has 4,000. That would also explain why a clitoral orgasm is generally far more intense than male orgasm.
19. Your vagina is like a fine wine. No, really. Orbuch says the normal vaginal pH for vaginas is 3.8 to 4.5 and most wines’ pH fall around 3.0 or 4.0; about 3.0 to 3.4 is desirable for white wines, while about 3.3 to 3.6 is best for reds. Feel free to relay this to the next guy who doesn’t want to go down on you (before showing him the door because nope!)
20. Vagina surgery is crazy-expensive and you probably don’t need it. Variousvagina surgeries range from the G-shot (a collagen or filler injection designed to increase the size of the much-debated G-spot area) at around $1,500 to vaginal rejuvenation at around $7,000. These surgeries are hardly ever covered by insurance and are largely unnecessary unless you have an actual medical condition causing you actual medical problems.