Updated: Feb 3, 2019
Getting to know your body is the topic of our second episode. It kinda gets your attention because you could be thinking, “I know my body. I live in it.” But what we discovered doing a bit of research for this episode is that 30% of women have never taken an exploratory look at their bodies- specifically their genitalia. And 75% of women have some kind of misinformation about what is actually going on for them anatomically. For example, they could think something is wrong with the way their labia look or where fluids actually come from, etc.
Some women have so much misinformation about their bodies that it prevents them from taking care of basic hygiene needs, handling their periods with ease, or enjoying their sex lives.
It’s useful to know about your body to meet some of the practical challenges with confidence but it’s also important to have a positive relationship with your body- understanding what is normal and what is abnormal, knowing where things are and how they work- it all helps us to know and appreciate the way our bodies work and how to keep them on track. When we are in-tune with our bodies, we can read what it needs, and read the signals it shares with us about how to take care of it. This is an incredible thing!
Kelly takes the listeners on a little talk-through of where to find what and where. We asked our listeners to get a mirror and wash their hands so they could freely explore and see what landmarks we would be pointing out while they listen.
Comfort with your body helps you to enjoy it better. Enjoying the sexual and nonsexual aspects of your body is important! Something about our culture says that vaginas are weird, that they look weird, smell weird, taste weird- whatever it may be. Is it possible that all women have not been created weird but our ideas and standards of our genitals are the actual weird things?? We think so.
There’s some important parts of checking out your body that we want to be sensitive to. Women who have had some kind of trauma in their past might find this especially difficult. If you had some kind of physical issue with your genitals, an injury or abuse event for example- this might not be easy to just “take a look”- you could have really strong feelings about that area and need more time or professional help in getting to a comfortable place in exploring. This ok to not be ok with this exercise.
This body-mapping journey begins at the mons pubis, or the pubic mound where you’ll find pubic hair and your hard pubic bone under a little fat pad and skin. This is the part you see when you look straight down. Next you find the prominent parts of your vulva- the labia majora that is the larger folds of skin that partially or completely cover the labia minora, the thinner or smaller folds of skin. It’s important to note that some labia are smaller or larger, darker colored or non-uniform, hanging or tight, unsymmetrical, rough or smooth looking and all the varieties in between. Some women have a very prominent majora, some women have a very prominent minora, and none of these variations are wrong or disfigured or abnormal.
The clitoris is a notable feature of the vagina and most women are pretty familiar with this part of their anatomy. This is a pea sized and shaped nub under the skin at the top of the vulva “point” where the labia tissue converges under the pubis. This is where all the nerve endings in your genitals are housed and where the majority of women experience orgasm from. The clitoral body actually forms into a wishbone shape under the skin and curves down behind the anterior wall of the vagina where some women experience an orgasm from the “g-spot”.
The urethral opening is directly below the clitoris but above the vaginal opening. This is the place urine is released when you pee. This can be a little tricky to find depending on where it is located- even midwives have a hard time finding it sometimes. If you are unsure about where it is located on you, urinate in the shower and feel where the flow is streaming from. It usually looks like a little puckering of membranous skin that reveals a small slit when it is slightly spread. Make sure this is done with clean fingers, especially if you are prone to UTIs. You will notice the proximity to your vaginal opening and see why we sometimes advise women to urinate after sex- just to clear out any bacterial that may have travelled there with penetration.
The vaginal opening leads into the vagina. Some women call their vulva their vagina, but that is actually reserved anatomically just for the inside canal where penetration, childbirth and menstrual flow happens. Inside your vagina you will find some smooth membranous tissue and some rougher gathered tissue. Both of these are normal. The gathered tissue is called vaginal rugae and it responsible for dilating and stretching to accommodate a penis or baby’s head. You can feel your own cervix at or near the back of the vagina and that is the opening to your uterus. This is where sperm travels to the uterus for conception and where menstrual fluid flows from the uterus during the period. The cervix changes shape and direction during your monthly cycle and can be tracked for fertility or just for curiosity. It feels like the end of your nose and looks like a tiny pink donut. A disposable speculum can be purchased online or by contacting us and you can actually see your own cervix with a little bit of helpful instruction.
The skin in between your vagina and your anus is called the perineum. This area keeps waste separate from your vagina and stretches to accommodate childbirth. This is the most likely place to lacerate or tear during childbirth and some moms might find scar tissue or tougher feeling skin around here.
The anus is easily identified, but sometimes to get a good look you have to turn around and bend over in front of a mirror and look backwards. It’s common to see even darker pigmentation on the skin here, pubic hair grows here, and women with hemorrhoids would be able to see that protrusion there as well.
These are the landmarks that get covered in episode 2 of the podcast but clearly there are many more details that could be shared about our female anatomy. Some women may find that being exposed to the material a first time and then going back to listen a second time helps them to navigate their parts a little more clearly. We closed the podcast with wishes for luck as women checked out their own parts and invited them to follow our Instagram @wine_and_gyn to get more insider scoops on how we continue to share information about anatomy!