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7 things you're dying to know about your vagina

Discussions on "7 things you're dying to know about your vagina" in "Gynaecology Problems" forum.

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    7 things you're dying to know about your vagina

    7 things you're dying to know about your vagina

    When it comes to our most intimate of body parts – the vagina – many women are embarrassed to ask questions. We can talk about how society has become much more casual, but the health of your vagina is still not exactly something you normally bring up around the water cooler or dinner table, the way you would ear infections or carpal tunnel syndrome. Even among our inner circles of friends, sheepishness can prevail. And up on the examining table at our health-care practitioner's office we seldom have time to discuss the gynecological issues we are more curious about than concerned with.

    With that in mind, here's an overview of the things you might not already know about your vagina.

    1. Is there a difference between a vulva and a vagina?
    Yes, there is a difference between these two connected body parts, even though the terms are sometimes erroneously used interchangeably. Simply put, a vulva is a woman's external genitalia, whereas the vagina is an internal, muscular tube that connects the uterus to the outside of the body.

    2. For genital health, is going without underwear ever a good idea for women?
    Actually, it is. "Wear 100 per cent cotton underwear to allow air in and moisture out, and go without underwear when possible, for instance when sleeping," says professor Caroline Pukall, director of Sex Therapy Service at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. She also recommends steering clear of thong underwear, full-length pantyhose, spandex or Lycra workout shorts and tight jeans that press on the genitals, especially for those who suffer from vulvodynia.

    3. What is vulvodynia?
    "Vulvodynia means chronic vulvar pain that exists in the absence of any disorder that can cause the pain, such as infections," says Pukall. Furthermore, vulvodynia is estimated to affect a surprisingly high number of women. "If affects approximately 16 per cent of women, yet it is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed and left untreated," she says. But how do you differentiate this pain from, say, a minor irritation? One of the most common types of vulvodynia is characterized by a highly localized pain at the vaginal entrance, Pukall says. "The pain occurs in response to pressure, such as during intercourse or gynecological exams, and is often described as sharp and burning."

    There is also a less common condition that occurs in six per cent of women, wherein the pain covers the entire vulva area, and can result in difficulty sitting for long periods, she adds. If you suspect either applies to you, bring it up with your physician or health-care practitione

    4. Do I need a pelvic exam if I'm not sexually active? And what age do I start?
    It depends. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommends you begin having pap tests within three years of becoming sexually active or by age 21. "You should have a Pap test once per year until you have had two normal test results in a row, and then you only need one every three years," it says. And you should continue getting tested until you are at least 70 years old.

    5. What is the most common general concern women have about their vaginas?
    The general concern Pukall hears most often relates to women finding their vulva unattractive. "Many women are uncomfortable with their genitals, thinking that they are ugly or gross, or even smelly, and they wonder why their partners love being 'down there'," says Pukall. And what's more, a majority of women have never looked at their vulva, because of that discomfort. But like everything else in life, when it comes to your vagina, knowledge is power. "It's essential to educate yourself and learn as much as you can about your genitals, since then you will notice if things change," she says. "This info is important for your health."

    6. Will your vagina be the same after you give birth?
    "Some women report issues with continence post-delivery, some report feeling looser in the vaginal region and some report pain," says Pukall. So, in a word: Maybe. "The physical and muscular trauma to the pelvic floor that is sustained through delivery, and with any form – c-section, vaginal assisted or unassisted – is significant and there are often permanent changes to the area," Pukall says. "Sometimes these changes are temporary or not noticeable, and other times they can be quite severe and chronic." A physiotherapist who specializes in the pelvic floor area can help, Pukall says, in both the prenatal and postnatal period.

    7. Does the clitoris have another function other than pleasure?
    Nope. The clitoris is sometimes called the female penis because it has erectile tissue and it is a sexual organ, but it doesn't serve the dual purpose of urination and sexual intercourse that the penis does. Its single-minded purpose is to provide pleasure when stimulated.

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