Here's Everything Gynecologists Say You Should Stop Worrying About

Illustrated by CACHETE JACK.
If you have a vagina, chances are, you also have a fair share of questions about what exactly goes on down there. Asking those questions out loud — whether with friends or during a gyno appointment — might seem embarrassing at first, but the reality is, a lot of the things we find ourselves stressing about are totally normal.
In partnership with Vagisil, we set out to address the most common worries women have about their vaginas, from appearance to discharge, with help from Dr. Nicole Bullock, a Texas-based Ob/Gyn. "Don't be afraid of your vagina. It's okay to look at your vulva and see your anatomy," she tells Refinery29. Talking with your doctor is always encouraged: "As gynecologists, we've seen and heard stories," so rest assured no conversation is off limits, Dr. Bullock says.
Click through for a crash course on all things vaginas, including what doctors suggest is important to keep in mind when embracing your body's natural functions.
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First things first: Every vagina has an odor. “I tell patients that they are the ones most sensitive to their own smell,” Dr. Bullock tells Refinery29. “Healthy” odors vary per person, she says, but “a ‘fishy’ smell is often a sign of infection — most commonly bacterial vaginosis.”

“A combination of symptoms will tip you off to infection,” Dr. Bullock adds. “Color, smell, and skin changes, like burning or itching, can all give clues as to what is ‘normal’ or ‘not normal.’” Changes in your diet could also be the culprit, including “how much you are drinking and what foods you are eating,” so it’s important to stay mindful.
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Finding a damp spot in your underwear can be alarming (or, at the very least, uncomfortable). But this too is nothing to worry about.

After you have a period, estrogen and progesterone levels are low, meaning the vagina is typically dry with little to no discharge, Dr. Bullock says. Once a new cycle ramps up, estrogen increases, which in turn increases the production of clear-white mucus or discharge. During ovulation, discharge is clear and sticky. After ovulation, progesterone increases, which makes the discharge a thicker, white consistency.

Still, it’s important to remember that cycles aren’t always the same, and, likewise, “not every person’s discharge is the same,” Dr. Bullock notes. “Hormonal birth control will typically affect vaginal discharge, sometimes to the point of causing symptomatic vaginal dryness.” Keeping track of your periods will help you become aware of changes.

Discharges that are thick and cottage-cheese-like or watery with a grayish-green tint are associated with a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis, respectively. Both can be easily treated with medication. If you haven’t experienced relief after two weeks and there’s a known exposure to an STD or STI such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis, seek professional care as soon as possible.
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Similar to other body parts, the vulva — which is the most external female genitalia — looks different on everyone. Like your shoe size or breast size, “variations are totally normal” when it comes to labia size, Dr. Bullock says. “The only concern for the vulva is if the majora or minora are long enough to cause chafing, dryness, or discomfort.” Under those circumstances, contact your doctor who can then discuss possible solutions.

If you’re concerned about having a “loose vagina,” don’t be — it’s neither a real medical term nor a concern. “The vagina is quite elastic and quite accommodating,” Dr. Bullock says. “We all know it expands to allow for tampons, sex, birth control devices, and, of course, babies.” Although elasticity can decrease after giving birth or with age, according to Dr. Bullock, less elasticity does not mean your vagina’s broken.
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Pubic Hair

Being hairy shouldn’t be scary. In fact, pubic hair serves a great purpose: “decreasing friction during sex,” Dr. Bullock says. A recent study even suggests it can decrease the risk of sexually transmitted infections by creating a physical barrier, although evidence is often self-reported.

Moreover, contrary to popular belief, there’s no real health benefit to grooming, according to Dr. Bullock. If you do choose to groom, just be careful. Dr. Bullock’s advice? “Use professional services [and] sharp razors.”
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According to Dr. Bullock, “vaginal dryness is usually the result of a change or shift in hormones.” A dry vagina should only be a concern if it causes other problems, like burning and painful intercourse, or interferes with normal life in any way. “Dryness can be treated with hormones, other medications, or over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers,” Dr. Bullock tells Refinery29.

Vagisil ProHydrate Moisturizing Gel is a hyaluronic-acid-based moisturizer that offers relief for dryness that feels natural. Each single-use, pre-filled applicator is easy to insert, and the unique gel formula coats the vaginal wall to provide moisture.
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Ingrown Hairs

The small red bumps caused by shaving, aka razor burn, are “typically self-limiting, meaning they usually resolve on their own, although they may return with every shave or wax,” Dr. Bullock says. An ingrown hair, on the other hand, “will present as one isolated red bump [that’s] sometimes tender,” she continues. To prevent them, exfoliate regularly with a wet washcloth and always shave in the same direction as your hair growsnever against the grain.
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“I hate this word,” Dr. Bullock says. “It’s air escaping the vagina.” Queefing normally happens after sex and sometimes after exercising. While it may be shocking, it’s important that you “remember the vagina is a canal. Air can get trapped in there. With a position change or increased abdominal pressure like a cough, air escapes. It’s totally normal.”