I’m really lucky in that, when I was growing up, my mom was very open about all things “becoming a woman.” We talked about sex, she helped me figure out the whole pads and tampons thing, and I always felt like I could ask her anything about my body. It wasn’t until the other day, when I was talking about this article with a friend, that I realized just how lucky I was to have a mom that was, honestly, pretty enlightened and progressive about her body and wasn’t shy to pass that knowledge on to me (thanks, Mom!).
I felt like I got an early headstart on info that I think a lot of girls don’t get until they’re in college — or have read countless issues of Cosmo or sat through the “Vagina Monologues” and discussed with friends at length after. And the rest I learned, honestly, through my fertility issues.
And, really, vaginas are awesome for a lot of reasons. They’re pretty damn magical. But, even today, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, not to mention just, well, a lack of knowledge. Here are 10 things I wished I knew about my vagina when I was younger.
1. Discharge is normal and changes throughout your cycle.
This is a great read on what your discharge is trying to tell you. And while, definitely, if your discharge is, like, green or really dark and has an unusual odor for you, you may have something going on, having discharge in and of itself — and having it be different in consistency and amount throughout your cycle — is totally and absolutely normal. In fact, it can tell you A LOT about your cycle. (For more: check out these books.)
2. There are lots of options out there for dealing with your period.
Pads are easy to use. Tampons, once you get the hang of them (which, probably won’t happen on the first try), are awesome, too. And reusable menstrual cups? Another option once you conquer the tampon (and really convenient after you have kids). Basically, there’s a lot of different stuff out there for your period, and what you’ll need might differ quite a bit from what the other women you know needs — and, in fact, your needs might even change as you get older. Your period might be heavier or lighter at different stages of your life. (And, no, using a jumbo tampon won’t stretch you out.)
3. Same goes for birth control.
I took the pill for 10-plus years — and it was awesome in that it gave me control over my reproductive health. But? It did also affect me in some ways I wasn’t aware of until I was ready to have kids. Not saying I would have changed anything, but it would have been nice to have been aware this was a thing. And I wish I’d considered this more, too.
4. You’re not gonna smell like roses … and that’s fine.
It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. And it’s definitely not healthy to cover it up with fragrances or douche. One of Amy Schumer’s stand-up shows puts it hilariously perfectly (NSFW but see no. 3 and 4). Shower regularly; change your undies after workouts. It’s all good, girl.
5. You can call it whatever you want to call it.
The vagina has a lot of names — as long as what you call it (or your partner does) makes you feel good, use it. (And if it doesn’t, call it something else and request your partner does, too. It’s YOUR body after all.)
6. Do what you can to prevent UTIs and yeast infections.
Pee after sex and don’t stay in sweaty undies, running shorts or wet swimsuit bottoms for too long. And in case you do get a UTI, don’t delay in going to the doc and certainly don’t be embarrassed about it. They’re so common, but, holy hell, they hurt if you wait to get treatment.
7. It’s about more than just the vagina.
We’re focusing on the vagina in this article, but, really, it’s just one part of the whole awesome situation. And if you’re interested in having orgasms (which, um, you should be; they’re awesome), get acquainted with the whole area on your own so that you know what pleases you. (Here’s a cheat sheet.)
8. It changes all month long.
Just like discharge, the shape and angle of your cervix can change all cycle long due to hormones and how aroused you are. This can change everything from how putting a tampon in feels to sex. Amazing, right?!
9. What’s normal for one woman might not be normal for you.
Even if that woman is your mom or your sister! We’re all a little bit different — in a ton of ways. Vaginas look different, feel different, smell different — and it’s all okay That said, you know your body best, so when something feels offs, pay attention.
10. It deserves your love.
It’s amazing and does amazing things. Don’t let anybody tell you anything different.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself about your vagina? And if you’ve got a young girl in your life, don’t be shy in passing along some of the info in this post. We ladies gotta keep it real with each other! —Jenn