Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to vaginas. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there.
So much of what we hear about vaginas growing up — they shouldn’t smell, they get stretched out — isn’t only inaccurate, but it can also make us feel all sorts of unnecessary shame and stress.
So we put together a bunch of totally true facts about vaginas and vulvas to help you navigate the labyrinth of lies and appreciate your body in all its glory.
1. Vaginas are supposed to have a smell
This should be common knowledge by now but it’s not. The bottom line? The vagina contains a highly specialized army of bacteria that work ‘round the clock to keep your vaginal pH healthy and balanced.
And like other bacteria, these do have a smell.
So that oh-so-special tanginess you occasionally get a whiff of is totally normal and nothing that needs to be covered up by scented body washes or perfumes. Of course, if you’re noticing a new scent that’s odd or pungent, see a doctor.
2. The vagina is self-cleaning. Let it do its thing
The aforementioned army of specialized bacteria exist for the sole purpose of keeping your vaginal pH at an optimal level to ward off other hostile bacteria.
It’s totally normally to see discharge — which may be thin or thick, clear or whiteish — in your undies at the end of the day. This is the result of your vagina’s cleaning efforts.
Cleaning techniques like douching are a bad idea because they can throw off this natural balance, leading to problems like bacterial vaginosis and infection.
3. You can get ‘wet’ without being sexually aroused
When a vagina is wet, the person must want to have sex right? Wrong. Vaginas can get wet for a bunch of reasons.
Hormones cause cervical mucus to be excreted daily. The vulva has a high concentration of sweat glands. Also, vaginas can automatically produce lubrication when they’re touched, regardless of arousal. (A phenomenon called arousal non-concordance, that’s more common in womenTrusted Source.)
Remember: Vaginal wetness should never be considered a signal of consent. Consent has to be verbalized. Period.
Oh, and pee often finds its way onto the vulva.
4. Childbirth doesn’t permanently stretch out the vagina, but expect some changes
In the days directly after giving birth vaginally, your vagina and vulva will likely feel bruised and swollen. It’s also common for your vagina to feel more open than normal on account of the human that recently passed through.
But don’t worry, the swollenness and openness subsides within a few days.
Then there’s the dryness. The postpartum body makes less estrogen, which is partially responsible for vaginal lubrication. So you’ll feel drier overall after giving birth, and especially when breastfeeding because this further suppresses estrogen production.
Although your vagina will likely remain a little wider than it was pre-birth, you can keep your vaginal muscles toned and healthy by practicing regular pelvic floor exercises.
5.When you’re pregnant, your underwear becomes a mini slip ‘n slide
In order to protect you and the little human growing inside you from infection, your vagina goes on a cleaning spree resulting in a semi-constant stream of discharge. Expect the amount of discharge to keep increasing as your pregnancy gets further and further along.
You can expect the discharge to be thin and clear to milky colored up until the final week of pregnancy when it’ll take on a pinkish hue.
It shouldn’t ever smell pungent or fishy, or have a chunky texture, so if it does it’s best to see a doctor.