6 Things You Might Not Understand About Vaginas

It's time for some real talk.


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By Korin Miller 

It’s time for some real talk.

Your vagina is an important part of your body—obviously. But, while you’ve probably been pretty intimately acquainted with that area since practically forever, there’s one major thing that a lot of women get wrong about it: what it’s called.

We tend to use the word “vagina” to describe everything that’s down there, but that’s not really accurate, points out women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider. Your vagina is actually the muscular canal that connects your uterus to the outside of your body (like, where you put a tampon, where a baby comes out if you have a vaginal delivery, and where a penis or internal sex toy goes during sexy time).

Watch: “Is It Totally Normal If My Vagina Is Always Wet Or Should I Be Worried?”

Everything else “down there” has a specific name, and the things you most commonly refer to as your vagina technically are something else. For example, your inner and outer lips are your labia (specifically the labia minora and labia majora) and your vaginal opening is your vulva. It’s important for you to know what’s what when you’re treating stuff on your own, like a yeast infection, Wider says. Pharmacies sell vulvar creams (which go on the outside) and vaginal cream, and they’re two totally different things. You don’t want to mistake those!

Granted, your gynae isn’t going to keel over if you refer to the whole area as your vagina. Heck, they probably do it when they’re talking to their patients, too—it’s just something we’ve become conditioned to say. But if something is wrong down there, it’s helpful for your doctor to know what area you’re talking about so they can recommend the right treatment. An itchy vagina, for example, could be caused by something totally different from an itchy vulva.

Watch: How Your Vagina Changes In Your 20s, 30s, 40s And 50s

Plus, your vagina and vulva both deserve to be called by their actual names. “A rose by any other name…,” right?

Okay, now that we’ve got that settled, it’s time to learn five more vagina-loving facts! Check out the video above in which Dr. Michelle Metz, an gynae based in New York City, answers the questions you’ve always wanted—but been too shy—to ask.

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