Last updated: August 2, 2019
Richard Honaker M.D.
Primary Care Physician
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We have the answers to all your burning questions about your vagina.
Many women have some burning questions about their vaginas, but often feel too shy to bring them up to their doctor. Whether it’s the stark and sterile environment, you are visiting your doctor with your children in tow, or you are just plain shy, we have the answers to the questions you are too afraid to ask.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the vagina. How it should look, smell, feel, and more are all common concerns. Beyond your vagina’s appearance, there is a host of other important topics that also carry their own causes for concern including your menstrual cycle, sex, and child birth just to name a few. So instead of feeling embarrassed about your concern, let us help out with 13 of the most common concerns that have to do with the vagina.
Need to speak to a doctor and too embarrassed for the waiting room? Connect with one of our physicians for free.
What Should my Vagina Look Like?
First of all, you have probably never actually seen your vagina since it is actually a stretchy tube inside of your body. When many people ask about their vagina’s appearance, they are often referring to their vulva, which is the area around your vaginal opening.
Just like faces, no to vulva are exactly alike, and that is perfectly normal. Your vulva consists of your inner labia and outer labia as well as your clitoris. Vulva vary widely in shape, size and color.
Your labia may be puffy, dangly or tucked away. Sometimes the inner labia is larger than the outer labia. Any of these variations are normal.
The clitoris size can also vary from woman to woman. Some are large and easily seen while others are tucked away under the clitoral hood.
What Should my Vagina Smell Like?
Many women worry that their vagina does not smell ‘normal.’ Well, just like the normal variation in the appearance of the vagina, the smell of the vagina is also unique to each person. Each vagina should have a mild scent which is as unique as the appearance of their vulva.
In fact a study was performed testing the smell of 10 different women’s vaginas and it was discovered that the vaginal odor is actually made up of several mini smells. Some of the smells are neutral, some pleasant and others unpleasant. Each woman has a different combination which makes up her ‘signature scent’.
While the smell of each woman is different, it is important to know your normal scent. A change in vaginal odor is often the first sign that something is wrong.
A strong fishy odor, often coupled with a change in your vaginal discharge could be a sign of an infection. This could be due to bacterial vaginosis, or a yeast infection. The odor can be stronger after sex or while you are on your period.
If you are concerned about the scent of your vagina, you can make sure to cleanse the vulva regularly using a mild soap and water. Wear loose fitting clothing and be sure to change out of wet bathing suits and sweaty workout gear right away as bacteria loves to grow in warm, wet environments.
What is Vaginal Discharge?
It’s a good idea to think of the vagina as a self cleaning oven. Soon after puberty the vagina will start producing discharge, which may be clear, whitish or yellowish with mild to no smell.
This discharge is your vagina’s way of cleansing itself. It is perfectly normal and does not mean your vagina is broken.
You may notice brown or light pink discharge before your period. This is normal and is known as ‘spotting’.
Your vagina is able to clean itself, so there is no reason to put any soaps or cleansers inside your vagina. In fact using scented or strong cleansers could actually cause an pH imbalance in your vagina and lead to a yeast infection.
While there is not a need to clean your vagina, you do need to cleanse your vulva. This can be done each time you should with water and a mild soap.
Can Certain Foods Make My Vagina Smell?
This can be tricky, since there is not a whole lot of research on this common vagina question. However, physicians and OBGYNs have agreed that certain foods can make your vagina smell.
Garlic and strong odor spices like curry may make your vagina smell. Think about the foods that make your breath smell or secrete through your skin. These are the foods that can be secreted in your vaginal area.
Why do I Get Acne Around my Vaginal Area?
Tight clothing, friction and hair removal can all cause damage to your hair follicles. When your hair follicles become damaged, they can be susceptible to infection and irritation. This is a condition called folliculitis. It is also often referred to as ‘razor burn’ or ‘razor bumps’.
Your bikini area can be especially susceptible to folliculitis as tight underwear, hanging out in wet bathing suits and sweat can create the warm, wet environment that bacteria thrives in. Also coarse, thick and curly can be prone to become ingrown, which is also a contributing factor in folliculitis.
For clearer skin after shaving, check out 11 Easy Ways to Finally Banish Razor Burn.
Do Brazilian Waxes Hurt My Vagina?
Bikini waxes, like the popular Brazilian can cause damage to your vaginal area. This is because the ripping away of hair follicles may cause infections and scarring. The actual act of waxing is not dangerous, but be aware of potential issues.
Many doctors recommend using trimmers and scissors as opposed to a Brazilian wax. But it is simply up to you. It is best to do what you feel comfortable with and not potentially hurt your vagina with a trend.
Why Does My Vagina Itch Sometimes?
An itchy vagina is common and can be caused by a number of factors. These include allergies or dermatological issues. It can also be related to your age.
Women who are nearing menopause or have already gone through menopause have more itching due to dry skin around the vagina. Younger women who experience itching discomfort may have a bacteria imbalance like a yeast infection.
Allergies are also a common cause of an itchy vagina. Scented tampons, laundry soap, and latex condoms can all be the culprit. You may even experience an allergic reaction to semen. The foods your partner eats that you are allergic to can be transferred via semen.
The most effective way to manage an itchy vagina is to avoid itching or rubbing. This can make it worse and cause a vicious itchy cycle. If itching persists, you should talk to a doctor to pinpoint the cause.
Is my Period Normal?
Once a woman enters her reproductive years her body goes through a menstrual cycle. This is the body’s way of preparing for a possible pregnancy each month.
An egg is released from the ovaries in a process called ovulation. Your uterus releases hormones to prepare and its lining will thicken for impregnation. If the is not fertilized and implanted the egg along with the lining will be shed through the vagina. This is known as a menstrual period.
While the process is the same for every woman there are many varying factors. A menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your period and can last anywhere from 21 to 35 days. Your period may last as few as two days to a full seven days and your flow may be light or very heavy.
Some women experience many symptoms along with their cycle such as cramps, lower back pain and moodiness. Others have no symptoms at all. Your period may be longer in the few years after your start menstruating and become shorter as you age.
Many women find their periods change after child birth and may become heavier and with more moderate symptoms.
What is important is to know what is normal for you. That way any changes in your cycle can be noted and concerns can be brought to your healthcare provider’s attention.
Many women find it helpful to track their cycle, either with a simple calendar or with an app on their phone. This can allow you to track any changes as well as predict when to expect your next period.
Why is my Period Irregular?
While some women experience very regular and predictable periods, others do not. While some women find taking birth control to be helpful to regulate their cycle, it is not always helpful or possible. For many women, treating the underlying cause of the irregularity is the best option.
If your period suddenly becomes irregular there are some issues that could be the cause:
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding: a missed period is often the first sign of pregnancy. After giving birth, exclusive breastfeeding can (but not always) delay the return of your period. It is important to know that breastfeeding is not a reliable source of birth control.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) This common hormonal disorder can cause prolonged menstrual flow. Often the ovaries will fill with small pockets of fluid and fail to release eggs.
- Premature ovarian failure refers to the loss of normal ovarian function prior to age 40. This can result in irregular periods for years.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) This infection of the reproductive organs may cause irregular menstrual bleeding.
- Eating disorders, extreme weight loss or excessive exercising. When a woman experiences extreme weight loss , increased physical activity or even an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa the menstrual cycle can be disrupted.
- Uterine fibroids. These noncancerous growths on the uterus may increase and prolong the menstrual period.
Can I get Pregnant on my Period?
It is possible to get pregnant on your period but the chances of it happening are slim. This is because ovulation (the release of the egg from your ovary) is typically a few days away. Some women may have a shorter cycle or ovulate at random times during their cycle. This will heighten their chances of becoming pregnant during their period.
How Can I Tell the Difference Between Vaginal Warts and Bumps?
This is one of the most common vagina questions doctors are asked. It can certainly be an embarrassing one, but important to understand. You may feel an unusual bump in your vaginal area and it can be easy to tell the difference.
A wart is wrinkled and has a rough feel. They are painless, don’t hurt or have discharge. A bump can be a skin fold or a number of other things. However, if you do have a bump, it may be best to talk to a doctor, since it can be a sign of a serious health issue, especially if it hurts when you touch it.
Why Does it Burn When I Pee?
A burning sensation or pain when you pee is an indication that something is not right. Also referred to as dysuria, this symptom is commonly associated with urinary tract infections (UTI), but it can be caused by a range of health concerns, including sexually transmitted diseases.
Common Health Concerns associated with painful urination include:
- Urinary tract infections (UTI). These infections include any part of the urinary tract including the bladder, urethra, kidneys and the ureters which carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. This type of infection usually occurs when bacteria enters the urinary tract through the urethra. This can happen after sexual contact or when a catheter is inserted.
- Vaginal Infection: A burning sensation when you pee can also be linked with a vaginal infection such as a yeast infection. These type of infections are also often accompanied with changes to the vaginal discharge color and odor.
- Vaginal irritation due to activities such as horseback riding or bicycling
- Irritation due to sexual activity
- Sensitivity or irritation due to the use of scented soaps or lotions in the vagina or vulva
- Urinary tract issues: these can include stones in the urinary tract, a tumor in the urinary tract or interstitial cystitis, a condition caused by bladder inflammation
- Vaginal changes related to menopause
- Side effects from certain medications, supplements, and treatments
- STD: Several sexually transmitted diseases can cause painful urination such as:
- Genital herpes
The symptoms of these STDs are often include:
- Itching or burning in the vaginal area
- Painful sores or blisters
- Abnormal discharge
Should I Pee After Sex?
While it isn’t compulsory, peeing after sex can dramatically reduce the chances of getting a UTI. On the female body the vaginal opening, anus and urethra are all in close proximity. Bacteria from your anus is able to travel to your urethra during sexual activity. There could also potentially be bacteria from your partner’s body as well. By peeing after sex you are cleansing the urethra of bacteria and lowering your chances of getting an UTI. Men do not have to pee after sex. In fact, men are much less likely to contract a UTI.
Here are some risk factors for contracting a urinary tract infection (other than refusing to pee after sex).
- Being female
- Advanced age
- Kidney Stones
- Enlarged prostate
Do You Have Pressing Vagina Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask Your Doctor?
For many women, asking vagina questions can be embarrassing. The good news is that you can ask them from the comfort of your home, and via chat. Our free Dr. Chat is available 24/7 with access to vetted doctors. YSimply click the button below to get started.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.
About Richard Honaker M.D.
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