4 common misconceptions about vaginas, according to a sex doctor
Douching is not helping anyone.
The vagina is truly a fascinating body part, albeit a little misunderstood.
Its the gateway to pushing a literal human out of our bodies, it’s pretty damn strong, and it can expel blood for multiple days without us bleeding out.
But for all its wonders, there are still a lot of misconceptions. In fact, a YouGov survey found nearly half of British women were unsure about the location of the vagina. (FYI, although we use the term colloquially to mean the full shebang, the vagina is technically the tube that runs from the vulva – the outside bit – to the cervix, which is the neck of the womb.)
Depressingly, the only female genital body part that Brits were able to identify was the clitoris (69% of men and 71% of women).
That’s good news for sexual pleasure, but Metro recruited Dr Danae Maragouthakis, from Yoxly, an Oxford-based sexual health start-up, to help us bust some myths and fill in the blanks that sex ed left behind.
Get your notebooks out, guys and gals.
Myth 1: Vaginas get looser with more sex
Wrong, but it’s a big misconception. Yoxly recently found 22% of their followers thought having lots of sex would change the shape of the vagina and make it looser, but that’s just not true.
Dr Danae tells Metro.co.uk: ‘The vagina is a really muscular and elastic organ, so it has the ability to stretch during sex but it returns to it’s original shape and size afterwards.
‘In the same way that everybody’s body is different — different heights and weights — their anatomy will be slightly different.’
But then why do some women (apparently) feel tighter or looser than others during penetrative sex?
‘There are lots of things that can contribute to a perceived feeling of tightness,’ Dr Danae adds. ‘If someone is tense or anxious in a sexual experience their muscles will be tense so they may feel tighter and if they’re not fully aroused or if there’s not enough lubrication, these can all contribute to that sensation.’
Myth 2: You always bleed when you lose your virginity
That would be false.
While Dr Danae says it is common, not everyone experiences this.
‘Whether someone’s bleeding during their first time is dependent upon a number of factors and the one most people think about is the hymen, that’s a thin piece of tissue that partially covers the vaginal opening,’ Dr Danae says.
‘There are some people that are born without them, some people have larger hymens, some people have smaller hymens. But the hymen can be quite flexible and doesn’t always tear with vaginal penetration.’
She adds that the hymen can stretch or tear during non-sexual activities like horseback riding or intense gymnastics, so ‘the misconception it remains intact until you have sex for the first time and it being “proof” of virginity, is just not true.’
You could also bleed because of insufficient lubrication. ‘Lubrication reduces friction during sex which can create vaginal tears which can cause bleeding,’ Dr Danae adds.
A note on virginity:
‘The presence or absence of bleeding does not, in any way, determine someone’s virginity,’ says Dr Danae.
‘Virginity is a social construct to describe people who’ve never had sex. Not everyone bleeds the first time they have penetrative vaginal sex.’
Myth 3: Healthy vaginas don’t smell
If there’s one women have often been made to feel self-conscious about, it’s the way our vagina smells.
But healthy vaginas do have a smell, according to Dr Danae. ‘The vagina isn’t a flower, it’s an organ, and all vaginas including healthy ones have a natural scent,’ she says.
‘That scent can change throughout their menstrual cycle, it can be affected by diet, hormones, hygiene — loads of different things. Not having any smell isn’t a marker of a healthy vagina.’
There are some stronger smells to be aware of though — like the ‘fishy’ smell that can be slightly more odorous.
‘This can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (a type of infection) where there’s an imbalance of the natural bacteria that lives in the vagina,’ Dr Danae explains.
‘If you have other symptoms like itching, burning, pain and unusual discharge they should speak with a healthcare provider.’
Can cure yeast infections with garlic?
This is a big no-no. Yes, there are rumours you can cure your yeast infections with yogurt or garlic, but there is no scientific evidence to support that.
‘You cannot cure yeast infections with garlic,’ says Dr Danae. ‘Using a clove of garlic to treat a yeast infection is not recommended and there is no reliable scientific evidence. Inserting a clove of garlic into your vagina, can cause irritation and burning and lead to other complications.
‘Vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus known as candida and there are specific medications like tablets and suppositories used to treat yeast infections.
‘So if someone thinks they have an infection, speak to a healthcare provider because they will recommend some anti-fungal medications or treatments that can help.’
Myth 4: Semen negatively affects the vagina’s PH balance
Semen can affect your vagina’s PH balance but this is not something to be worried about.
Dr Danae says: ‘The PH of your vagina can be temporarily affected by semen. The PH of the vagina is naturally acidic – usually between 3.8 and 4.5 – so the acidity works to balance the natural microbiome that exists in the vagina to keep it healthy, protecting against yeast, fungus and harmful bacteria.’
One the other hand sperm’s PH is naturally alkaline. ‘It’s usually between 7.1 and eight,’ says Dr Danae, ‘so that helps to neutralise the vaginal environment as sperm enters and travels through the female reproductive system.’
The doctor adds that the vagina will usually restore to its natural PH within a few hours after sex and it hardly ever causes lasting problems for women.
She adds: ‘Rarely this change can disrupt the vaginal environment just enough that there can be an imbalance in PH. But it’s worth noting that PH can vary from person to person and there are lots of other factors like hormones — before an after menopause — the menstrual cycle and then habits like douching, that can affect your vagina’s PH.’
We also busted the common misconceptions about penises too, if you were wondering.
What is douching?
Douching is washing or cleaning out the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids. Doctors recommend that you do not douche. Douching can lead to many health problems, including problems getting pregnant. Douching is also linked to vaginal infections and sexually transmitted infections
Source: Office on Women’s Health
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