There’s a lot of confusion about what the vagina ‘should’ look, feel or smell like. So, here are some simple facts (vagina 101) to clear the rumours.
The vagina is mostly an internal organ, and what we see externally are the parts of the body that make up the vulva. The vulva includes the labia majora (outer ‘lips’) and labia minora (inner ‘lips’), the clitoris, opening of the urethra (the hole where urine comes out), and the entrance of the vagina.
The labia come in many shapes, sizes, and colours – which is very normal!
The labia majora, or outer lips, are covered in skin and grow pubic hair. There has been a fashion for a while to remove pubic hair, but not that long ago, the bushier your vulva the more sensual it was believed to be! The outer labia can be affected by the same sorts of skin conditions as other parts of the body.
The labia minora, or 2 inner lips, are hairless and full of glands that keep them moist and soft. They can be different in size and shape, asymmetrical (unequal in size), and can hang outside the outer lips. Meaning, it’s not unusual for labia minora to be longer than the labia majora.
The vagina is a strong muscular tube that connects the uterus (womb) to the outside world. Its walls are stretchy and produce fluid for lubrication and to clean itself. The vagina has its own healthy bacteria that may prevent infections and bacterial overgrowths, like thrush.
A healthy vagina will have a mild smell that can vary across the menstrual cycle – from sweet and tangy to musty to metallic. If it smells offensive, it’s usually a sign of a bacterial overgrowth or an infection.
A check-up is recommended if an itch, rash, broken skin, lump, or pain is present. If you have any worries or questions about your vulva or vagina, a GP or sexual health nurse can help and reassure you.
Or you can ring 1800 451 624 between 9:00am and 5:30pm Monday to Friday to talk with a sexual health nurse. It’s confidential and free if you call from a landline.