This month is well known for that happy love day for couples also known as Valentine’s Day.
Millions will be spent on flowers, chocolate, cards, stuffed animals, dinner and jewelry in an attempt to celebrate a relationship and for many, the night will end (or start) with sex.
Therefore, it is important to understand the ins and outs of the vagina. Here are five facts you may not have known.
First (and not very sexy), the vagina is its own little ecosystem and has a particular pH that is easily influenced by outside sources.
A healthy pH is on the acidic side, as normal is between 3.5 and 4.5. If the pH of the vagina changes then adverse symptoms often occur.
For example, blood, semen, most lubricants, spermicides, douching, and bacterial vaginosis (BV) increase the pH making it more basic (less acidic).
The pH also becomes more basic around ovulation in order to NOT kill any incoming sperm in hopes of becoming pregnant (remember, it is the way the body is designed, not necessarily what you want).
This can cause women to have itching, burning and abnormal discharge this time of the month. Yeast/candida often causes the pH to drop back into a more acidic level. However this drop may not be enough to avoid symptoms of an infection.
Second, the ecosystem relies heavily on good bacteria much like the intestines do, to help things run smoothly.
Lactobacillus is the predominant resident bacteria, which is why women can help control any negative symptoms by eating yogurt with live active cultures, or taking the supplement probiotics with lactobacillus in it.
This also helps when an infection occurs after a round of antibiotics as they kill all bacteria, including the good kind in the intestines and vagina.
Third, the vagina is made up of very strong muscles, obviously, as it needs to withstand different types of penetration and be able to birth a baby. Abdominal surgeries, hysterectomies, child births, hormone decline, age and certain medical conditions can all lead to lax muscles.
Kegel exercises and muscle training with weighted balls or cones, and/or biofeedback with a pelvic floor physical therapist, are therefore very important. These treatments can help enhance the sensations of sex and decrease symptoms of incontinence as well.
Fourth, just as the pH can change through the cycle, mucus can change too. Women often confuse normal mucus with abnormal infections.
Near ovulation, which is usually mid-cycle, vaginal mucus becomes more abundant and stretchy, awaiting the potential for sperm. As a result, the excess mucus concerns many who assume they have developed an infection when in fact it is normal.
If you are uncertain though, definitely talk with your health care provider to rule out an infection.
Fifth, yours looks normal. This is something many women worry about, and as a result of the concern a booming business in surgical options for gynecological aesthetic medicine has evolved.
Many believe their labia are too long, too short, or abnormally shaped, which is just not true. The vagina comes in all shapes and sizes and again it is normal.