The different myths about one of the most important parts of our body can make a huge difference in how we think about ourselves and our bodies.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 12, 2020. It has since been updated.
There are some unrealistic body standards that women are subjected to like smooth, hairless skin, perky breasts, and even "tight" private parts. These myths are harmful to women's self-worth and their relationships with their partners. We might hear of these myths in the media but they can be demeaning and affect women's relationships with their bodies. Dispelling these misconceptions go a long way in improving women's relationship with their bodies, their self-worth, and confidence. If we get the affirmation that our body is normal and perfect the way it is, instead of being told about the different flaws, we are likely to feel happier about ourselves too.
Since the benefits of getting rid of these myths are many, here is a list of them that we can do without:
Dr. Karen Elizabeth Boyle told Cosmopolitan it's normal for there to be a slight odor and that can change depending on your menstrual cycle, if you were sweating a lot, etc. "There are distinct causes of abnormal vaginal odors, the most common cause being bacterial vaginosis, which is when there is an overgrowth of normally occurring bacteria. Other causes are not having good hygiene, trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection, or a retained tampon," she said, adding that it shouldn't smell different from how it usually does. If it does, you should visit a gynecologist for an examination.
This too changes, like the rest of your body. Boyle added that it is small and tight pre-puberty as the labia minora are almost not present. After puberty, there would be lubrication and secretions and this body part grows just like the rest of our body does. When women start having intercourse regularly, our private parts can look different again as the hymen tissue becomes disrupted. She added that the vulva changes a lot during pregnancy and afterward, saying, "During pregnancy and after you’ve given birth, not everything is as it once was."
"Having a baby does cause the vaginal muscles to loosen, but they often naturally bounce back over time," Dr. Leena Nathan, ob-gyn at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center told Health.
People still believe that too much of intercourse or having multiple partners can stretch out the labia. According to the SUN UK, experts have said that physical intercourse doesn't have any long-lasting physical effect on the appearance, shape, size of labia. Pelvic health expert Eleanor Gardner said that "is designed to stretch for childbirth - even a larger partner won't have an effect on the size." When women feel aroused "the tissues of the vagina and vulva (including clitoris) will become engorged with blood and will start to swell and may appear darker. Inside the body the top of the vagina will expand. The increased blood flow will facilitate an increase in natural lubrication. These changes however are not long lasting. Other more permanent changes may be indicative of a disease."
Some women accept that they have gotten off from penetrative physical intercourse, but that's not the case for most women. Boyle says that while those women "are very fortunate and lucky, most women...need some clitoral stimulation via either hand, penis, or mouth to orgasm." This information can help many couples as a lot of them still believe that penetration alone should be enough for women to orgasm.
There is a common misconception that our private parts need to be cleaned to make it healthier and hygienic. "However, this is not the case. One of the worst pieces of advice that is often shared between women is to 'douche'. This is one of the worst things that women can do," Dr. Tania Adib, a gynecologist told the SUN UK. Eleanor Gardner also warned women against the practice. One of the common reasons people do this is because they are erroneously told that their lady parts aren't supposed to smell. So, they end up using scented products to "clean." But, these products can cause irritation to sensitive skin. The vagina is a self-cleaning organ. All you need to do is wash it with water and maintain basic hygiene.