6 totally not-dumb questions about your private parts you’re too afraid to ask

Are vagina’s self-cleaning? How does your vagina ‘speak’ to you? Three health experts answer your delicate questions about your lady parts.

We need to break the taboos around vaginal health for the sake of our general wellbeing, says naturopath Chloe Chivers.

And understanding the difference between your vagina and vulva is the first step.

“While most people use the word vagina for the whole of women’s genitalia, it’s actually the muscular canal that connects your uterus to the vulva,” Chloe explains.

“The vulva refers to the outside parts of the genital area that you can see, including the pubic mound, the labia and the clitoris.”

So here’s what you might want to know, but haven’t asked.

1. Do vagina’s need to be cleaned?

“Your vagina, that internal component, the one you can’t see, doesn’t need to be cleaned, it’s like a self-cleaning oven and cleans itself,” GP Dr Michela Sorensen says.

“Your vulva and labia can be cleaned, using a gentle body wash or cleansing product.”

It’s important you don’t disrupt the bacterial balance in your vagina, so make sure it’s PH balanced, adds Chloe.

“And remember it’s normal for your vagina and vulva to have a slight smell, often described as naturally mild and musky, and not unpleasant,” she says.

2. What causes vaginal itchiness (and what can you do about it)?

Vaginal itchiness can be accompanied by discharge and pain and is no fun at all.

Try using a gentle pH balanced soap-free wash that contain herbs like Horopito that won’t upset the skin’s protective acid shield, Chloe advises.

While itching can resolve itself, naturopath Belinda Kirkpatrick says it’s important to see a health professional if it persists.

“It may be that you have a yeast infection, a bacterial overgrowth or dermatitis,” Belinda says.

“Or that you’re not getting enough air down there.

“Try breathable cotton fabrics during the day and loose fitting boxer pants to sleep in.

3. What is vaginismus?

“Vaginismus is an uncontrolled, involuntary spasm of the vagina muscle and can cause significant pain during intercourse or when inserting tampons,” Dr Sorensen says.

Chloe says it can also affect your sex life and relationships with your partner, as well as leading to increased anxiety around anything being inserted into the vagina.

“It’s important to reach out and get support from your GP, pelvic floor physiotherapist or sex therapist,” she says.

4. Is having a Brazilian more hygienic when it comes to waxing?

Whether you prefer hairless or a full bush, how you choose to groom yourself below the waist is up to you with no one way more hygienic than another, Belinda says.

“Pubic hair is there to protect your vulva and vagina, a bit like your eye lashes do for your eyes —it can help block bacteria and infections and reduce sweat and friction during intercourse,” she says.

Our experts agree if you prefer a Brazilian, it’s a personal choice about you and your body.

5. What is the husband stitch?

An extra stitch given to “tighten” the vagina after childbirth, Dr Sorensen says she’d like to think this practice is a myth.

“It’s certainly not something I have seen or heard about being practiced,” she says.

Chloe says the goal should not be to tighten the vulva or vagina after birth.

“Intervention should only be used when necessary to facilitate the body’s natural healing process,” she says.

“Our bodies are precious and need to be treated as so!”

6. How does vagina talk to you?

“Your vagina speaks to you through discharge and mucus, how it smells, lubrication, aches and pains, pleasure and menstrual blood — feedback that can give you an indication of your health and wellbeing and areas that need attention,” Chloe says.

Dr Sorensen says like your boobs, vaginas come in all shapes, sizes and colours.

“Get to know your body so that you understand changes when they happen and never be afraid to see your doctor — they talk about vaginas all day, every day,” she says.

It’s a whole of body thing, Belinda says.

“Too much stress, not enough sleep, too much processed food and dehydration, those are all bad for your vagina.

“If you look after your whole body, that area should be good too.”

Written by Liz McGrath.