Feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed? Don’t be. Easier said than done, I know, but vaginal health is one of the most important parts of a woman’s overall well-being, physically and mentally. Being able to talk freely and openly about such a vital part of our bodies is our right and shouldn’t be a shameful topic of conversation.
So here I am shouting from the rooftops: what is a healthy vagina?
Is my vagina normal?
No two vaginas are the same. We’re talking different shapes, sizes, colours – each one is unique. That’s what makes them so wonderful. So, what is normal when each one is unique?
Let’s start with the basics.
The vagina is actually the closed muscular canal inside the body, not the part we see, the vulva. The vulva is commonly the area that women look at and worry about. Should it be that shape? Should my labia be that long? Should it be that colour? The simple answer to these questions is, yes.
Why not go and grab yourself a mirror and take a look? If you’ve never done it before, I highly recommend giving yourself some time each week to conduct a self-examination and get to know the most intimate parts of you. In time, you’ll start to become more comfortable with yourself and how you look. Move bits around, get your torch up on your phone if you need to, and really get to know yourself. It’s no different to checking your breasts, it’s just this subject is still a little taboo.
The best thing about getting into the habit of checking yourself frequently is you’ll notice if there are any changes and be able to seek advice on them sooner.
Tell me more about the vaginal muscles
The vaginal muscles are made of a similar tissue to the inside of your mouth, designed with elasticity in order to stretch to accommodate penises, sex toys and childbirth.
Is my vagina is too tight?
Some women experience pain during sex, and often worry about their vaginas being too tight. It’s important not to ignore it. A happy and healthy vagina should not be in any discomfort. Pain can happen because of forceful penetration, pelvic treatments or conditions such as endometriosis or vaginismus, or even anxiety and depression. Our mental health plays a huge part, and associating sex with pain can be a vicious cycle. These factors can cause a low level of arousal, resulting in vaginal dryness or tension in your pelvic floor muscles which in turn can cause pain. I would definitely recommend speaking to your doctor if this is the case for you.
Is my vagina too loose?
As we age or have children, the vagina muscles can loosen. Often this can lead to issues with urinary incontinence, where we need to pee more often or do a little pee when we laugh, cough, sneeze or exercise.
It’s a common problem – over 50% of women in the UK over 40 experience it. As we get older, our estrogen levels begin to drop and our vaginal tissue becomes thinner, and after childbirth of course our vaginas will be a different shape. Although this is a common physical problem, it can have an affect on your mental health as well. If you feel embarrassed by it, there are ways to help.
This brings us nicely onto pelvic floor muscles…
What are the pelvic floor muscles?
If you’re not sure what your pelvic floor muscles are, next time you’re peeing, stop midstream; these are your pelvic floor muscles. It’s like a hammock that tightens automatically, and exercising them is an easy and simple way for you to work on tightening. Here’s an easy one you can try right now.
- The kegel exercise: simply hold that same contraction you use to stop yourself peeing for 5 seconds, then release for 5 seconds. Repeat.
How easy is that? You can do this lying down, sat on the sofa, or even waiting in line at the coffee shop!
Like with a lot of exercise, it’s all about doing it regularly and consistently, and I am certainly guilty of not exercising my pelvic floor. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’m sure many of you can relate. The first time you do it you feel empowered and think ‘yes, I can do this!’ Three minutes later, your mind wanders and you start thinking about other things. Hey, it happens.
The trouble is knowing whether you’re doing the exercises regularly enough to have a long lasting effect. Thank goodness we found a solution.
The EMSELLA chair
Now, if you’re looking for a vaginal tightening treatment that’s quicker, easier and doesn’t involve going under the knife, this treatment is perfect.
The FDA approved EMSELLA chair, or The Happy Chair as we like to call it, is an incredible non-surgical aesthetic treatment that we offer at the Dr Rita Rakus clinic that puts a stop to those embarrassing moments. It’s quick, painless and performed while you remain fully clothed in a simple 30 minute treatment.
Using the same technology as our EMSculpt machines, all you have to do is take a seat in the EMSELLA chair and High-Intensity Focused Electromagnetic Technology contracts your entire pelvic floor region whilst you relax, doing the equivalent of approximately 12,000 kegel exercises in just half an hour. You’re then able to continue with your day as normal straight afterwards.
Does the EMSELLA chair hurt?
Some patients feel nothing at all, while others feel a little tingle. Some even say it can feel just like an orgasm – there are worse ways to spend 30 minutes of your day!
Here’s an amazing patient testimonial for you to check out.
When will I see results from the EMSELLA treatment?
You’ll start to see results after your very first treatment and will continue to feel improvements over the following weeks. You may also notice a difference in your abs as well, as it’s all connected. At the clinic, we recommend doing a 30 minute treatment twice a week for 3 weeks, but as with all my treatments, each plan is tailored to your specific needs.
Can diet improve a person’s vaginal health?
There is very little research out there linking diets to vaginal health, but there are certain foods and drinks that contain probiotics and prebiotics that some say may improve it. The most common food recommended is yoghurt, full of the good bacteria found in our vaginas known as Lactobacillus. Another common suppository some women take for yeast infections is tea tree oil. It’s been used for hundreds of years to treat wounds and infections due to its antibacterial properties, but there are mixed results in the scientific research out there today.
Like I say, there are few studies out there and none that prove the link between diet and a healthy vagina, but as with the rest of our body, a balanced, healthy diet and drinking plenty of water can go a long way in terms of our overall wellbeing.
Some extra tips for a healthy vagina
Keeping it clean
Whilst our vaginas are able to clean themselves, when washing the vulva it’s always a good idea to avoid perfumed soaps and gels as this can affect the healthy bacteria balance. Some women don’t notice any affects from these, but if you do start experiencing any irritation, this is the first step to take to try and ease the problem.
The NHS recommends washing your vagina gently once a day, and during your period it may be helpful to do this more than once. Make sure you also change your chosen sanitary products during the day, not just with tampons. Wearing a pad for too long can trap moisture which then becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, infections or rashes, a discomfort that is easily rectified.
Another great tip is to think about what you’re wearing. Tight fitting clothes and certain materials can create heat and moisture around the vagina, so if you start to experience any discomfort, spend a few days wearing looser fitting clothes and 100% cotton underwear to give your vagina room to breathe.
What about vaginal douches?
A douche is an instrument that flushes water into the vagina, clearing out any secretions, which some women use to ‘clean’ their vaginas. Whilst they certainly do exactly that, the douching process also gets rid of all the healthy bacteria as well. This increases your risk of infection, so it’s not something I would recommend.
I cannot stress enough; book your smear test. If you’re aged between 25 and 64 you should receive a letter inviting you to book your free cervical screening. So many women put it off because they’re too busy, forget about it, or most commonly, are too embarrassed. If it saves your life by recognising potential health risks sooner rather than later, it’s worth the 5 minutes of awkward conversation with the nurse.
How can I keep my vagina happy and healthy?
So, the conclude my ‘what is a healthy vagina’ article, here are my top tips for keeping your vagina happy and healthy:
- Check yourself regularly
- Do your pelvic floor exercises
- Have sex responsibly
- Attend your smear tests
- Keep it clean
Most importantly, if you notice any unusual changes, particularly in your discharge, consult your doctor or local pharmacist. It may feel embarrassing, but if 5 minutes of awkward conversation puts you on the right path to a healthy vagina, it’ll be worth it.
If you’d like to find out more about the EMSELLA chair, get in touch today for your free consultation.