Ever wonder if a vagina ever really goes back to “normal” after a vaginal birth? It doesn’t. No matter how many kegels you do….
This summer 15 of some of my nearest and dearest women friends spent a week together in the south of France. It was an amazing week for many reasons but one of my favorite moments happened after a dinner cooked by the chefs among us. What they say about too many cooks in the kitchen…. it’s true and it’s hilarious. As we were lingering around the table drinking wine and passing around the Nutella jar the discussion turned to bikini waxes. The women of my generation (40 years and over) have what we like to call “Vintage bushes”. Aside from the “Owwwww!” factor associated with having our pubic hair ripped from our outer labias it turns out NONE of us have what we think of as a “pretty” Vulva. The most common worry was that many of our minoras are larger than and stick out further than our majoras.
So we asked the resident expert. Zoe is the OB/GYN who delivered both my children and it is to her that we turned for answers to our most intimate questions. She reassured us that 50% of women have vulvas that aren’t porn pretty. Phew!
What followed was one of the funniest and most honest conversations any of us had ever had about the nitty gritty of being born with breasts, ovaries, a uterus and a vagina. We asked Zoe about smells and discharge, vaginal dryness, lack of libido, masturbation, menstruation, anal and oral sex, yeast infections, pregnancy, post partum, abortion, scary breast lump moments, fertility issues and female ejaculation. It was a beautiful thing.
Here’s what we learned. If you can’t smell your vagina when your head is above your hips and your discharge is see throughable you are normal. Vaginal dryness can make sex painful and is the reason many women in the run up to menopause do not enjoy and/or avoid intercourse. Lubricants and estrogen (patches or creams) will solve this. If you aren’t dying to rip your partners clothes off, join the club. There are a thousand reasons for lack of libido, life being one of them. Stress and fatigue don’t make us feel sexy. If you are a mother the last thing you want at the end of the day is one more person wanting/needing our comfort and our bodies. Anger is not a turn on…. Especially if it’s your partner you are angry with.
Masturbating is normal. So is not masturbating. Menstruation is a messy business. Those clumps are normal. A lot of women enjoy anal sex and a lot don’t. Two things that make anal sex dangerous are vaginal penetration after anal penetration and the relative lack of elasticity of the anus. Frequent anal sex can lead to a “relaxed” sphincter and can cause the occasional “accident”. Some women enjoy oral sex and some don’t. The 2 common denominators amongst those who are not mad on cunniligus are a belief that our vulvas are gross, smelly and dirty and/or that our partners are not very skilled at performing it. Yeast infections affect some women more than others. If you’re PH causes yeast infections try yogurt (for years I thought this meant applying yogurt to my itching burning vulva not eating it….)
We concluded that even a wanted pregnancy and childbirth is as terrifying as it is exciting That feeling overwhelmed, ambivalent, scared and scarred is normal. Crying everyday, not wanting to hold your baby or look it in the eye is not. Wanting to hurt yourself and/or your baby is when it is time to shout for help. A third of us have had abortions - some pre parenthood, others post, as well as those of us who have never borne children. A few remain in their own words “traumatized”. A few feel a guilt they can’t quite shake. Not one of us regret the choice we felt we had to make at the time. The anguish of wanting a child and not being able to conceive can literally drive you crazy. If the longing, desperation, frustration and sadness don’t push you over the edge the onslaught of hormones and fertility treatments will. And finally there is no clinical evidence to support the theory of female ejaculation.
These were questions and concerns that most of us had never had the nerve to ask our doctors because we’ve been raised to think that having a vagina and all that goes with it is embarrassing. We could not decide who to blame for the stigma attached to female reproduction and function. Was it our mothers, our fathers? Jokes men and boys make about vaginas smelling like fish (if you haven’t noticed testicles and penis’s do too…). Society? Media? Porn? What we all agreed on though was that we need to stop thinking that what goes on “down there” isn’t normal.
Article by Anna Quick-Palmer