Do you know the difference between your vulva and your vagina?
Most women (and men) don’t. No one is to blame. After all, “vagina” has been the widely used catch-all term for a women’s intimate parts.
This fleshy package of highly misunderstood parts is the gatekeeper of your vagina. In fact, vulva is the Latin word for “wrapper”. The vulva encompasses all of the external female genital organs. Starting from the top, the vulva includes the mons pubis, the clitoral hood and clitoris, labia majora and labia minora, vaginal opening, urethra, and anus. All of these individual parts are important and we will touch on each of them in future posts.
Are all vulvas the same?
No two vulvas are the same. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and can change over time. Most commonly, the vulva will change during puberty, with pregnancy, or during other hormone-related changes like menopause. For some women, these changes have no consequence, while other women may not like the changes they see.
For example, it’s not uncommon for labia to grow and change color. Over time, those perky pink labia lips you once had may now be a little saggy, asymmetrical, or even dark and brooding. The labia minora or inner vaginal lips may be thickened, discolored, hang down just too far! Or, perhaps the clitoris has atrophied and/or is hiding beneath the wrinkled mound of the clitoral hood. Don’t worry, that all can be fixed!
Have these changes been drastic? Do they cause pain or discomfort during sex, when exercising, or while wearing certain clothing? Do you avoid wearing a bathing suit out of fear that one of your labia is going to sneak out from the side? These may be reasons to talk to your doctor about your options.
Taking care of your vulva is important! We suggest getting to know it intimately. Observing your body regularly will help you learn what is normal for you. It’s good for your health, so grab a mirror and take a look–feel around, you may learn to get to know your vulva better!
Vulvar Care Tips
- Keep your vulva clean, dry, and free from irritants.
- Avoid harsh soaps and perfumes when cleaning this area.
- Warm water and a clean dry towel tend to work just fine.
- 100 percent cotton and natural fibers tend to be the kindest, healthiest undergarments.
- Avoid trapping heat and moisture from nylons leggings or wet bathing suits, as these can cause bacterial growth.
Cosmetic gynecologist and surgeon Dr. Sue Kafali of FemSculpt Cosmetic Gynecology specializes in gynecological plastic surgery & intimate wellness, helping women from Chicago, Illinois and throughout the country improve their intimate function and confidence back. For a complimentary consultation with Dr. Sue Kafali, contact our office today!