What would happen if your vagina could talk? Well, you’d probably get some weird looks, and you’d be a shoo-in for Britain’s Got Talent. But aside from that, your bits have a few home truths they’d like to share. Women’s-health expert DR ADAM KAY speaks fluent Vaginese, and is here to translate…
«Check me for lost property»
Like a cheap club on a Saturday night, your vagina needs to operate a strict one-in, one-out policy. Whether it’s a condom, a tampon, a diaphragm or a love egg, you need to make certain it comes out when it’s done its job. If you’re worried something’s overstayed its welcome up there, wash your hands, sit on the loo and have a feel inside. If you can detect something but can’t remove it (no heroics with barbecue tongs, please), or can’t feel anything but think something’s there, see your GP right away. And if you develop a sudden discharge, a bad smell, pain, swelling or a temperature, you need to head to hospital at once.
«Please don’t vajazzle me»
It’s certainly not my place to say whether vajazzling looks nice.
And you definitely won’t be too keen on the look of it when your labia are fire-engine red and have swollen to five times their usual size. Besides, do you really want to have to go into work with a doctor’s note that says ‘infected vajazzle’? Thought not.
«1.8 litres of discharge is normal. Honest»
That’s the astonishing amount of discharge women lose on average a year. The secretion is from the neck of your womb, and is a healthy and clever self-cleaning mechanism. The quantity and colour vary from person to person, so ‘normal’ is whatever you usually have (within reason — if 1.8 litres is coming out in one day, or it looks like Fanta, there’s probably something up).
If you do notice a change in colour or quantity, if there’s pain or bleeding, or if it smells down there, pop along to your gynaecologist or GP. Abnormal discharge is most commonly caused by thrush or bacterial vaginosis, which aren’t sexually transmitted — but an STI can be the culprit. Either way, these can be treated easily. And please don’t be embarrassed — your doctor will have seen it all and would be out of a job if you didn’t make an appointment.
«I’m meant to look like that!»
You must believe your vagina is beautiful. The last thing you should do is take it to a plastic surgeon. Patients often ask if their labia are’normal, but the fact is everyone’s different. There is a place for surgery — if your labia hurt, or cause problems with underwear — but think very carefully before considering an op for cosmetic reasons. Some of my colleagues will gladly take a few grand off you for a nip/tuck, but I’d advise against it. Then again, they all drive brand-new Ferraris and I’m in a 2004 Ford Focus, so what do I know?
«Do some exercise!»
Every morning and night you should do a set of Kegel exercises — and probably say a quick prayer of thanks to Dr Arnold Kegel too. His pelvic-floor exercises won’t just improve your sex life by boosting your arousal and giving you stronger orgasms; they’ll also help you avoid stress incontinence when you have kids.
Lie on your back in bed and imagine you’re in a bath full of eels. Squeeze the muscles that would stop any eels getting into places you wouldn’t want them (the ones you also clench to stop the flow of wee). Aim for 10 reps of 10-second squeezes and you’ll thank me later. And Arnold, obviously.
«Take me for an MOT»
Even if your periods start at the same millisecond every month and are as light as the souffles in a MasterChef final, you still need to get yourself checked out. Doctors might bang on about the smear test, but there’s a very good reason: it saves lives — the number of UK women who develop cervical cancer has dropped by 50% as a direct result of the screening programme.
I won’t pretend a smear test is a pleasant experience, but it shouldn’t be painful; most women describe it as mildly uncomfortable. But it only comes around every three years, takes five minutes and might save your life. There’s nothing more important your vagina could tell you than that.