Even after 3 kids. Even after menopause. Even if you didn’t know how awesome it is.
As a pelvic health therapist, it amazes and saddens me that in 2014, women are still ashamed, self-conscious, and confused by their lady bits.
I’d like to address a few of the myths and inaccuracies that I’ve heard, in and out of the clinic…
1) It can be a challenge to see your vagina. – The vagina is essentially a hallway from your uterus to the outside world. It’s a hallway that can stretch. A lot. If you can see your vagina without trying, you might want to see a physician… Vaginal prolapse can happen, and it would need to be addressed.
2) The parts you can see vary much from person to person. And I’ve never seen an ugly one. - The first thing most of us run into if we’re to take a peek at our genitals is the labia majora. If we separate those, we’ll be able to see the labia minora, clitoris, as well as the vaginal opening. These bits do change with arousal, childbearing, and age. If you’re curious about what ‘normal’ is, I recommend the documentary The Perfect Vagina.
3) The vagina is not the same as your pelvic floor. – The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that are located in the bottom of your pelvis, spanning from your pubic bone, to your tailbone, and out to each ‘sits bones’. The pelvic floor has 3 openings for us ladies: (starting from the front) An opening for our urethra to urinate, an opening for our vagina (for sex and childbirth), and finally our anus for defecation. The pelvic floor also plays a role in respiration and core stability. Bladder, bowel, and sexual function can all be impacted by pelvic floor muscles that are not functioning up to par, which brings us to my next point.
4) Having a baby can greatly impact the function of your pelvic floor muscles. There’s much to say about this…
- If you give birth vaginally, you’re pelvic floor muscles stretch more than any other muscle at any time in your life. It is one of the wonders of the world that a woman can pass a child through her pelvic floor, and more often than not, regain fairly good bowel and bladder control quickly, and resume sexual activity in as little as 6 weeks.
- If you give birth via C-Section, you did not get the ‘easy way out’. Studies show that pelvic floor dysfunction (bowel, bladder and/or sexual dysfunction) are just as high in women 12 months after a C-section as they are in women who have a vaginal delivery.
- Some women recover more quickly than others. Some women just think they’ve recovered. There are several common things that women experience after childbirth, such as incontinence or painful intercourse. These are certainly common, but should not be considered ‘normal’, and therefore ignored. There is much to be done to improve these symptoms, and I’d seek out a qualified pelvic health therapist to get an assessment as soon as possible.
5) Even if you haven’t had a baby, it’s ok to get help for pieces that don’t seem to be working as well as you’d like. - Sometimes things aren’t as good as you’d like. Yep. I’m talking about sex. Lack of enjoyment, lack of desire, lacking the ability to have orgasms… These can be more complicated, but not impossible to address. Identifying the different pieces that may be contributing to the situation is key. There are physical, medical, mental and emotional issues that can contribute in various ways to sexual dysfunction. Understanding what your bits are, and what they’re supposed to be doing can go a long way in decreasing fear and anxiety relating to sexual dysfunction/lack of enjoyment.
If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t love your vagina, get help. Don’t assume nothing can be done, and don’t suffer in silence. If you’ve not had a physical lately, I’d recommend you check in with your gynecologist. If you feel like you can’t talk to them, or feel like you’re not being heard, don’t give up. We’re happy to offer some suggestions on a starting point for you to start your journey to better sex.