If you’ve found yourself here, reading this article, you’re probably wondering, is my vagina normal?
And it’s important that I highlight, you are not alone in that.
According to Bespoke Surgical, “Nearly 50% of women are worried that their vagina is abnormal in some way, and feel insecure about their vaginal discharge. 41.18% of women are worried that their labia is abnormal in some way, and 18.35% of women have considered procedures such as labiaplasty or vaginal bleaching.”
You are certainly not the only person wondering, and it’s normal to feel insecure about your vagina, but let me tell you why you should learn to love and embrace your genitals!
Table of Contents
There is no such thing as a normal vulva, because every single vulva is normal, so the correct phrase would be a natural vulva.
The true definition of normal is “conforming to a standard: usual, typical or expected.” For me, this isn’t an adjective that should even be considered when discussing our vulvas. Instead, we should celebrate and appreciate how vulvas differ in appearance, as no vulva is the same.
There is, however, such a thing as a healthy vagina and vulva, and it’s important to learn what a healthy vulva should look like, and what are the signs to look out for to see if you should book an appointment with a gynecologist; a doctor who specializes in the reproductive system.
Sex education isn’t usually the priority when it comes to the educational system, and for this reason we are often left confused, uneducated, and insecure about our genitals (both men and women).
We’re not taught much beyond the menstrual cycle, the basics of reproduction and the basics of sexually transmitted infections. We’re simply encouraged to go on birth control and to use condoms to protect us against STIs and that’s about it.
First of all, I should highlight that the vagina and the vulva are actually two different parts of the female genitalia.
The vagina is the interior passageway to the cervix and uterus. For example, during penetrative sex you will insert the penis into the vagina. It also serves as the birth canal during childbirth.
We often label our vaginas as our entire genitalia, but actually the outside of a woman’s genitals is what we should be calling the vulva.
The vulva is the part of your genitals that is on the outside of your body; essentially, everything that you can visually see down there.
The components of the vulva according to John D. Nguyen, author of Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Female External Genitalia are:
Common insecurities that arise in relation to our vulva are due to the size, color, texture, asymmetrical inner lips, size of outer lips or inner lips, or pubic hair. These are all factors that make our vulvas unique and all the more beautiful.
As we don’t tend to see many vulvas in our lifetime, we’re usually left comparing our vulvas to those that we see in porn; this usually sets an unrealistic image.
I think it’s fair to say that insecurities surrounding vaginas still massively exist, so how can we learn to love our vaginas and feel sexy?
Well, you’re already taking the right step, by researching and reading into the anatomy of the vagina. Educating yourself on the science behind the vagina will help you to understand the visual components to the vulva, and in turn help you to realize that all vulvas are different.
If you have genuine concerns about your vulva, visiting a gynecologist will help in assuring you that visually your vagina is perfectly unique, and if there are any problems, a gynecologist will issue the necessary advice or treatment.
Another great way to learn how to appreciate and love your vagina is by looking at other vulvas. You’ll find that not one is the same. You might be thinking, I can’t just ask somebody to see their vagina, and that’s right, you definitely can’t be doing that.
But, you can find pretty much anything online. Even typing ‘different types of vaginas’ in Google will come up with all sorts of images of vulvas, all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Some have asymmetrical inner lips, some have prominent inner lips, some have prominent outer lips.
I can guarantee you that you won’t look at a single image and think ‘that’s disgusting’, so why should you think about your own? It’s easy to be self-critical, but I learned some good advice recently that is certainly worth sharing.
Imagine, however many years from now, you have a daughter, and you watch her grow up, and naturally you think she is the most beautiful creature that walked the earth.
Imagine your 15-year-old daughter telling you that she doesn’t like the way her vagina looks, or she doesn’t like her hair, or her nose, or her legs. What would you say to her? What would you say to your beautiful daughter when she tells you that she doesn’t love her body?
Loving yourself is hard work, there is no denying that, and we’re always bound to have good days and bad days, but it’s so important if you want to be truly happy within yourself.
Loving yourself is also massively infectious. Have you ever found that when you’re out with a girlfriend, and they’re simply feeling themselves, you find that you start to think positively about yourself too? Positivity spreads, self-love spreads, and this is why it’s so important that as women we are supportive of each other.
You have to stop comparing yourself to others, be more forgiving of yourself, trust yourself and take the time to appreciate your inner and outer beauty (and labia). Remind yourself daily of what you love about yourself, and remind yourself that you and your vagina are sexy!
Spend 5 minutes each day looking in the mirror and admiring your reflection.
When you masturbate, take the time to appreciate your vulva and its natural beauty.
Another great tip to love your vagina and to feel sexy is to masturbate in the mirror, or record yourself (for your eyes, or a partner too, it’s entirely up to you). Masturbating is essentially having sex with yourself, so you may as well embrace your imperfections and enjoy it.
Although every vagina is unique and beautiful, that’s not to say that every vagina is healthy. If you’re concerned, and have been showing some symptoms down there then it might be worth booking an appointment with a doctor.
Some common signs that you should get checked are:
Our vaginas have a smell, and typically we’re aware of our regular vaginal scent. If you notice a change in smell, or a strong vaginal odor, it’s possible that you could have bacterial vaginosis.
According to Mayo Clinic, “Bacterial vaginosis is an overgrowth of bacteria typically present in the vagina. It's a common vaginal condition that can cause vaginal odor. Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection, also can lead to vaginal odor. A yeast infection usually doesn't cause vaginal odor.”
A common cause, contrary to popular belief, is not poor hygiene. It can actually be caused by over-washing the vagina, using specific vaginal washes, and even by the bodily fluids of a sexual partner.
Antibiotics are used to treat BV so a doctor's appointment will be necessary if this is the case.
The best way to tell if you actually have a strong vaginal odor is to thoroughly wash your vagina with warm water (not soap). If you can still smell a strong odor after washing, it’s likely that you could have BV.
There are lots of things that could cause us to have increased discharge, like when you’re on your period for example. But if you’re noticing a persistent increase in discharge, it’s probably a sign that you should get your vagina looked at.
Typically, increased discharge can indicate infection when paired with other symptoms.
Again, just before or just after your period you can expect a change in your vaginal discharge.
Typically, healthy vaginal discharge will be clear, milky or off-white. Other colors may indicate infection, however, there are lots of things that could change the color or texture of your vaginal discharge, such as a change in hormones. If unsure, it’s always best to get checked over.
Vulvar and vaginal itching is common, but it tends to only last for a couple of days.
Many things can irritate your vulva, especially depending on your sensitivity, such as different materials, soaps, fragrances, shaving and unclean sex toys.
Vaginal burning, especially during sex can certainly indicate infection, or you may even be reacting to lube or even a lack of it.
If the itching or burning persists, it’s definitely a sign to get checked.
Bumps, warts and sores usually indicate genital warts, HPV and even some other types of STIs. This is something that you should definitely get checked, especially if you have had unprotected sex with somebody who has an STI.
Until you get this checked, I would also advise against having sexual intercourse, especially unprotected.
The signs that you should get your vagina looked at are not always visible.
Pain during intercourse can be very serious and should definitely be looked at by a health professional.
A common cause of pain during sex is thrush, BV, or a sexually transmitted infection.
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Pain during intercourse is very common—nearly 3 out of 4 women have pain during intercourse at some time during their lives. For some women, the pain is only a temporary problem; for others, it is a long-term problem.”
Pain during urination typically indicates a UTI; a urinary tract infection. For this, there are plenty of over-the-counter treatments that are effective, and even drinking plenty of fluids is advised.
One, in particular, is cranberry juice. Cranberry juice contains a substance that helps to prevent bacteria from sticking on to the bladder, meaning that it quite literally can flush you out.
Usually, you can treat UTIs at home, however, problems persist if the UTIs keep on coming back. That is when you should probably visit a doctor.
Of course, pain during urination can also indicate other infections, so if ever in doubt you should probably get it checked straight away.
Redness is typically a sign of irritation and you will usually have other symptoms such as itching or pain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, redness can be a sign of vaginitis; “an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain. The cause is usually a change in the balance of vaginal bacteria or an infection. Reduced estrogen levels after menopause and some skin disorders also can cause vaginitis.”
There are many things that can cause bleeding in between periods, especially if your periods are typically irregular.
A common cause of irregular bleeding is usually due to contraception, especially if you’re new to said contraception.
The contraceptive implant can cause spotting for up to 12 months. There are many factors to consider when deciding to go on contraception so it’s important to seek good advice from a professional and to research different types of contraception before you make your choice.
Other causes of bleeding in between periods can indicate growths in your uterus or cervix, or even endometriosis.
There are many causes of cramps when not on your period, ranging from birth control, hormones, pregnancy, stress, constipation, cysts… the list really does go on.
If this is something that is causing you concern, then without a doubt it would be best to book an appointment with a specialist. It’s usually easier to tell if your vagina is healthy in relation to the visual components but when you’re dealing with symptoms that cannot be seen it’s pretty much impossible to self-diagnose.
We’ve covered infections, STIs, birth control, pains, vaginal discharge, itching… But what about something as simple as sexual function?
Lots of things can cause sexual dysfunction in women. Of course, any of the issues previously listed can play a part in sexual dysfunction, but so can blood flow disorders, endometriosis, medications, vaginismus, loss of sensation, decreased libido and much more.
There are vaginal rejuvenation treatments that can help, also known as vaginal corrective procedures. There are lots of reasons why you might consider this as a treatment, mostly issues surrounding your health, however you can also undergo these procedures if you’re struggling with low self-esteem in regard to your vulva.
If this is something that you’ve considered due to low self-esteem, I urge you to take the steps first on learning how to love your vagina. It can certainly take time, but vaginal rejuvenation isn’t something to rush into. Take the time to speak to a doctor and see if this is something that can actually help you going forward.
If you are ever in doubt surrounding your health, it’s always a good idea to speak to a professional. In most cases your symptoms will require quick fixes, but you never know, booking an appointment might just save you in the long run as a lot of problems will worsen if left untreated.
So, what can you do to maintain a healthy vagina?
Well, step one would be to stop using harsh soaps, and if possible avoid using soap altogether. Our vaginas are self-cleaning, so when in the shower just wash with water and avoid getting unwanted infections.
If you’ve noticed that a particular material is irritating your vulva, then stay clear and through trial and error find a material that works for you.
It’s super important to be responsible sexually. Condoms are never a bad idea, especially when having sex with a new sexual partner.
Things like smoking and drinking can also have an effect on your vagina, taking care of your vagina is essentially taking care of your body too.
If you have good hygiene, drink a lot of water, avoid lots of drinking and smoking, do regular kegel exercises and make sure that you wash your sex toys after use (with a specific toy cleanser is best), then you’re good to go.
Remember though, vaginal infections are very common, so you should never feel embarrassed if you do have a problem down there. Just book an appointment with your doctor and find a solution together.
Not necessarily. It’s typical that your labia will be a shade or two colors darker than the rest of your skin on your vulva.
This darkening is called hyperpigmentation. Fun fact, it is the same reason that our anus is typically darker too.
Not one person is the same. Some women have no discharge at all, whilst others have a lot.
Typically, vaginal discharge will change throughout your menstrual cycle, arousal will impact your discharge and, of course, so will infections.
According to K-Health, “A normal amount of vaginal discharge in a 24-hour period ranges from 1-4 ML. This is just under a teaspoon at the most. You may notice more discharge before or during ovulation. Otherwise, consistently seeing a lot more discharge is considered excessive and you should investigate it further.”
If you have a lot of discharge, but you’re not necessarily concerned enough to book a doctor's appointment, then I would recommend using unfragranced daily panty-liners, these will be a lot more comfortable and help you to feel cleaner.
The vagina (vulva) is not supposed to look any kind of way, as they all look beautifully different. A vagina should have the components that make up a vagina, and other than that, it should look exactly as it does, because it’s yours and you should love it!
Delivering a baby can take a huge toll on your body, and of course your vagina too. Naturally, your vagina will go through some changes.
You will notice heavy bleeding after childbirth, this is called lochia and should last for a few weeks, and of course if you tear and have to have stitches visually your vagina will look different at first.
Vaginal swelling is very common during pregnancy, but typically the vagina will go back to normal after a couple of weeks after childbirth.
It’s so important that we learn to love our vulvas, they are a big part of our womanhood and have such a strong impact on our sex lives in relation toconfidence and even sexual function.
Feeling comfortable enough to talk openly about our vaginas is super necessary, especially if this lack of confidence is contributing to women avoiding doctors appointments because they feel embarrassed.
Not one vulva is the same, and remember, you’re not alone if you feel insecure about your private parts. The first step to helping women learn to love their vaginas is by encouraging women to talk openly about their vaginas.
There is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about; they’re beautiful, powerful, and most importantly your vagina is exactly that; yours! You should feel proud, confident, sexy and most importantly you should feel comfortable in your body. Regardless of your labia.
We shouldn’t be asking the question “is my vagina normal?” Instead, we should be asking “is my vagina healthy?” Being able to talk openly about vaginal health is what we need in order to help eradicate women feeling embarrassed of their vaginas.
Women should be supporting of each other, encouraging their girlfriends to feel sexy, listening to their girlfriends health concerns, and normalizing the fact that every single vagina is beautiful, no matter the visual components.
If you have any self-love advice, health advice, or any stories surrounding your vagina, then please comment! As always, share with a friend in need.