10 Things every woman should know about keeping their vulva happy
We give a lot of love to our hair, nails and trying to get our butts looking peachy, but we really should be paying more attention to another very important part of the female body. Vital to the reproductive system and literally the thing keeping the human species going – a woman's genitals are super important but also a kind of taboo topic - something we rarely speak about for fear of being shamed or embarrassed.
So let's go over some of the basics here, and begin with a proper introduction to the vulva. I bet a lot of you have heard of it, but couldn't actually say exactly where it is, right? Okay, so on with our little anatomy lesson and hopefully you'll know your lady parts much better by the end.
1. You might think your vulva is your vagina
It's a common confusion, but the vulva is the exterior part of your genital region – basically everything that's visible. The vagina is on the inside, and it's actually just the muscular passageway connecting the vulva to the cervix.
2. The vulva has a lot of different bits
Yup, it's the whole female genital package including your labia, clitoris, and openings to the vagina and urethra.
3. There's no such thing as a "normal" looking vulva
You shouldn't go by anything depicted in a textbook or on the internet – everyone's vulva looks different and there's no such thing as a "standard" one.
4. It can be different colours
Some people's vulvas are a different skin tone to the rest of their body – usually a bit darker or lighter. It's completely normal, and it can continue to change as you get older.
5. You should love your labia
The labia, the "lip" parts of your vulva, include the labia majora (the outer lips) and the labia minora (the ones tucked inside). They vary in length and apparently, most people have one side longer than the other. Some people who feel self-conscious about their labia not looking "normal" may consider getting a labiaplasty (cosmetic surgery). But really, they're overthinking it and should see point 3.
6. Be thankful for your mons pubis
It's the fleshy mound above your vulva, which is the bit that gets covered with pubic hair. The squidginess (yes, it's a term) is normal and is there to protect and cushion your pubic bone. Pubic hair also serves a similar purpose – to stop friction (caused by activities like, you know...) that could lead to skin abrasion.
7. Speaking of hair...
As you get older, the hair around your vulva might turn grey (á la Samantha Jones disastrously trying to dye hers in Sex and the City). And another thing that happens as you age, according to research, is that you're far less likely to remove your pubic hair.
8. It's very sensitive, but it shouldn't cause you pain
There are a lot of nerves down there that make touch and other sensations feel really intense. But normal touching shouldn't cause you pain, and sex shouldn't cause severe discomfort either. If that's the case, speak to your doctor.
9. Pay attention, because your vulva can get sick sometimes too
You already know what STIs to look out for, but you should also know that the vulva can get other special "visitors" like cysts. Cysts aren't painful unless they're infected, and can usually be treated with a warm bath or compress. Vulvodynia is also pretty common. It usually lasts for 3-4 months and is characterised by generalised pain in the area, like burning, stinging, rawness or soreness. Vulvodynia is not caused by infections, and there are just as many treatments as there are causes.
10. It can basically look after itself
All it really needs is a regular wash with some fragrance-free soap, but really, trying to "tend" to your lady parts too much could make the area irritated, so leave it be and your vulva will be left happy.
Think you know yourself a little better now? Excellent, 'cause that's the way it ought to be.