A lot of sex can temporarily change your labia, Hollywood waxes increase your risk of contracting genital warts and your downstairs needs exercise just like the rest of your body

But silence can breed ignorance and there are some questions you may not want to ask your friends.

For instance, does a Hollywood wax mean you are cleaner?

And does a longer labia mean you have had a lot of sexual partners (as some people really do believe?)

Here reveal the most widely believed myths that could actually be affecting your vaginal health and the real facts behind them.

1. Having lots of sex stretches the labia

Although shocking, people really do think that multiple sexual partners or lots of sex can affect the way your downstairs looks.

Experts confirm that sex should never have a long lasting physical effect on the appearance of your vagina and the shape and size of your labia are not affected by sex.

Pelvic health expert Eleanor Gardner, medical sales manager for the YES Company, wants to remind everyone that "the vagina is designed to stretch for childbirth – even a larger partner won't have an effect on the size of your vagina.

"When you are aroused the tissues of the vagina and vulva (including clitoris) will become engorged with blood and will start to swell and may appear darker.

"Inside the body the top of the vagina will expand.

"The increased blood flow will facilitate an increase in natural lubrication.

"These changes however are not long lasting.

"Other more permanent changes may be indicative of a disease."

2. Pubic hair is dirty

Although the popularity of the 'Hollywood' may be dwindling, there is still a fairly common belief that pubic hair is dirty and off-putting for your partner.

Dr Vanessa Mackay warns that pubic hair is actually beneficial to your vaginal and sexual health, and going hairless can increase your risk of infection and STIs.

“Pubic hair offers a natural barrier to keep things clean, to decrease contact with viruses and bacteria, and to protect the tender skin of the area," she said.

"If women shave their pubic hair, they are putting themselves at a higher risk of contracting venereal disease, like genital warts.

"Pubic hair doesn’t completely prevent STIs, but it helps to avoid skin on skin contact with someone who may already be infected.

"Pubic hair also prevents foreign particles like dust and pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria from entering the body, and helps to control the moisture of the area which decreases the chances of yeast infections.

"Removing pubic hair irritates and inflames the hair follicles left behind, leaving microscopic open wounds. When that irritation is combined with the warm moist environment of the genitals, it becomes a happy culture medium for bacterial pathogens.”

So next time you think about booking in for that wax, remember that your bush might be protecting you from genital warts.

3. The vagina is the whole package

Although it may seem obvious that your downstairs is actually made up of several parts – the common misuse of the word "vagina" to describe the whole shebang (actually known as the 'vulva') leads to what Eleanor Gardner, describes as a "general lack of understanding about the female anatomy."

She explained: "The vagina itself is a tube around 8cm long which leads from the cervix down to the vulva, which are the external sex organs."

The vulva also includes the clitoris, a small lump of nerve endings located under the clitoral hood and above the urethra, which is where you pee from (NOT your vagina, as some believe!)

You also have the labia minora and majora, the inner and outer 'lips' of the vagina – these can differ in size and appearance.

Moving down you've got your perineum, a sensitive stretch of skin between your vagina and your anus.

Eleanor Gardener thinks women should get to know themselves.
She said: "The important thing is to understand your own anatomy so that if something changes that you are worried about you can go and discuss this with your GP."

4.You need to 'douche' your vagina regularly

Tania Adib, a gynaecologist for Canesten told us: "There are common misconceptions that the more women clean their vagina, the healthier and more hygienic it will become.

"However, this is not the case.

"One of the worst pieces of advice that is often shared between women is to 'douche'.

"This is one of the worst things that women can do."

Eleanor Gardner also warns women against douching.

She said: "A big no-no for me is a vaginal douche.

"Many women wrongly believe their vaginas smell so use products to ‘clean’ inside themselves.

"The vagina supports an incredible microbiome of over 200 good bacteria which serve to keep your vagina healthy."

'Douching', according to the NHS website "flushes water up into the vagina, clearing out vaginal secretions.

"Some women use a douche to 'clean' the vagina, but using a douche can disrupt the normal vaginal bacteria, so it isn't recommended that you use one."

Despite the NHS advice, douches are widely available to buy on eBay and in some chemists.

Tania explained: "Douching can wash away all the good bacteria within the vagina and remove healthy secretions."

"Many women worry that they have a dirty vagina.

"It’s important for all women to remember that there is no such thing as a dirty vagina.

"You can have an infected vagina, but this does not mean that you have a dirty vagina”.

5.Your labia should be tucked in

Many women worry about whether their vulva, in particular their labia majora and minora, look normal.

But vaginas all vary in shape, size and colour.

Dr Vanessa Mackay, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “Every woman’s vagina is different.

"Different colour, different size, different shape.

"Labias are as individual as women themselves and vary in appearance and colour.

"Women must know that every vagina is unique and that variation in appearance is normal in the vast majority of cases.”

You can check out the 5 different 'types' of vagina, and how much they can differ here.

6. Pelvic floor exercises can 'tighten' your vagina

While it's widely and incorrectly believed that your vagina will stretch over time, or from lots of sex, it's also believed that this can be rectified through 'kegels' or pelvic floor exercises.

In fact, the 'stretchiness' of your vagina during penetration is much more psychological and depends on how turned on you are.

Eleanor Gardener explained: "Vaginas are extremely elastic and designed to stretch for childbirth or sex.

"Natural lubrication is normal as it serves as a self-cleaning mechanism, lubrication usually naturally increases during arousal to aid intercourse."

Foreplay and ensuring you and your partner are both comfortable is key to the enjoyment, here.

However, as Dr Vanessa Mackay explains, pelvic floor exercises are still useful and key to a happy, healthy downstairs.

"The vagina needs exercising too, the pelvic floor muscles hold the uterus (womb), vagina, bowel and bladder in place.

"As women age, their pelvic floor muscles weaken.

"This can also be exasperated by pregnancy, childbirth, obesity, chronic constipation, or any other activity that causes high impact on the pelvic floor muscles.

“Doing regular pelvic floor exercises can help improve muscle tone, bladder and bowel control and sensitivity during sex.

“To exercise the pelvic floor muscles, women should sit or stand comfortably with knees slightly apart and then draw up the pelvic floor muscles as if trying to avoid passing urine or wind.

"It is important not to tighten the stomach, buttock or thigh muscles during the exercises. Women should do ten slow contractions, holding them for about 10 seconds.

"The whole process should be carried out three or four times a day.”

 

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