It cleans itself. That’s what vaginal discharge is for, after all. Having a clear or white-ish discharge is perfectly healthy, and it flushes out bacteria and old cells to prevent any unwanted pathogens from entering the uterus. So there’s no need for you to come at your vagina with scented soaps—only baby shampoo, please—as you don’t want to upset its pH balance. And for the love of all things healthy, don’t douche. You’ll only regret it.
It can change color. Everyone knows that va-jay-jays come in all shapes and sizes, thanks to genetics, but just because it starts as one color doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way. “During sexual arousal or pregnancy, blood flow to the genitals changes and that can result in a color change,” usually making it a deeper, darker color, says Michael Krychman, M.D., gynecologist and executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health. Then there’s menopause to consider—Dr. Krychman says the loss of estrogen during this stage of a woman’s life can also cause the vagina to change color, usually a lighter or more dull shade than before. While we applaud its chameleon-like capabilities, the color versatility is normal and nothing to be concerned about.
It can get bigger. When you’re ready to get busy with your man, there’s a lot of blood flowing down to the nether regions, and blood vessels in the vagina become dilated. “This causes the vagina and genitopelvic area to become enlarged, which is known as vaginal tenting,” says Dr. Krychman. So basically, the more turned on you are, the larger your vagina could potentially grow.
It can get stronger. No, we’re not here to tell you to do more Kegels (you already know they can give you a better orgasm). What we want to discuss is your pelvic floor—about 1 in 3 women experience some form of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction (PFMD), and those who do deal with bladder control issues, urine leakage, and pain. And it’s not just a problem for older women or those who’ve had children—Leslie Rickey, M.D., fellowship director of female pelvic medicine at Yale University, says she sees it in patients across every age, including young women in their early 20s who haven’t had kids yet.
The good news is that you can do something about it. “Pelvic floor exercises have been shown to be extremely effective as a first-line therapy for bladder control issues,” says Dr. Rickey. You can either visit a pelvic floor physical therapist, or do them on your own—there’s even an FDA-certified app, PeriCoach, to guide you. “It’s like going to the gym for your vagina,” explains Dr. Rickey. “There’s a small device you can buy that goes in the vagina, and it measures the contraction of your pelvic floor muscles. It’ll provide suggestions for how to both strengthen the contraction and the release, which is equally as important—you want to be at a baseline level where your pelvic floor can be completely relaxed.”
Otherwise, she suggests cutting down on caffeine, not over-saturating your body with too much water (the Institute of Medicine recommends women drink nine cups per day), and even training your bladder to wait longer between bathroom breaks. And no, it won’t cause an infection if you wait about three hours—the average amount of time Dr. Rickey says you should be able to wait when drinking the recommended amount of water—between visits, she says.
It can talk to you. From whether you’re in baby-making mode or about to get your period, to if there’s a serious health risk like cancer potentially going on, your vagina has a lot of important things it’s ready to tell you. You just have to listen. If you notice something different-than-usual is going on, it’s usually best to head to the doc to get it checked out.
It could save lives. There’s currently a clinical trial testing the safety of endometrial regenerative cells (ERC), or “stem cells,” to treat congestive heart failure patients. These stem cells are extracted from menstrual blood and grown to generate different types of cells in the body. In this case, the stem cells are made into muscle cells of the heart. Right now it’s just an experimental foreign study, and not something that is being done with any regularity, but you never know—someday it could help patients suffering from heart failure.
It protects itself. In case you were wondering, “the vagina isn’t endless,” says Dr. Rickey. So there’s no chance something—a tampon, condom, menstrual cup, whatever—is going to get lost. “The vagina connects to the uterus, but the cervix acts like a barrier between the two. It would be very difficult for anything to get through the small opening that is there (that’s how sperm get through, FYI).”
It can trap a penis. We’re not kidding. It’s known as penis captivus—a fitting name, if you ask us, as it literally holds a penis captive when it occurs. Dr. Krychman notes that it’s an extremely rare phenomena, but it has been reported in several case studies. Basically, what happens is that during intercourse, “the pelvic muscles of the vagina clamp down on the penis much more firmly than usual, which can make it difficult or impossible to remove the penis from the vagina.” It might make an extremely awkward (not to mention difficult to navigate) trip to the doctor, but Dr. Krychman says if this happens to call 911 right away, stay calm, and lie very still until help arrives.
It can have four different kinds of orgasm. Last time we checked, guys could only have one. That’s not the case for women, as we experience orgasms differently. For us, orgasms can be divided into four categories: clitoral, vaginal, blended, and multiple. A breakdown, according to Dr. Krychman:
- Clitoral: When you orgasm simply through the stimulation of the clitoris, without vaginal penetration.
- Vaginal: An orgasm that’s a result of vaginal penetration, primarily, with little or no clitoral stimulation.
- Blended: When you have clitoral, vaginal, and cervical stimulation (cervical stimulation can be painful for some women and pleasurable for others).
- Multiple: What we consider the holy grail, or when a woman slightly relaxes after one orgasm—but not completely—and is then aroused again, resulting in “multiple experiences of orgasmic pleasure in rapid succession.”
You can live with two of them. It’s rare, but it’s possible to be born with uterus didelphys—a condition that essentially causes the vagina to split into two separate cavities. Along with it comes two uteruses and two cervixes, but a “normal” amount of fallopian tubes and eggs. It also means having two periods every month if the egg in one uterus is released before an egg in the other. This is how one woman lives with the condition.
Um, hello, it can get big enough to push out a baby. Enough said.