In 2023, a range of everyday experiences for women and gender-diverse people are still unfortunately shrouded in stigma. In partnership with Libra, we're going to shine a light on these moments to break down the shame around them.
And spoiler alert; there isn’t one.
Refinery29 Australia spoke with GP, Dr Dona Hooshmand from Medical on Robina to answer some of your most FAQ on vaginas.
There’s no such thing as a “normal” vagina
Similar to our breasts, vaginas and vulvas can vary in size, shape and colour.
“Just like any other part of the body, there is no singular definition of 'normal'. Each person's anatomy is unique and it's essential to embrace and appreciate this diversity, understanding that what's normal for one person might not be the same for another,” says Dr Hooshmand.
So while there's no "normal", there are certainly factors that contribute to a healthy vagina.
However, this can change through a number of factors including medication, your menstrual cycle, and using lubricants.
“Your vagina is great at self-regulating and needs minimal interference from douches, lotions, potions or perfumes to maintain its normal health,” says Dr Hooshmand.
Despite what some brands may tell us, the only thing that should be used down there is water and unscented soap (carefully, of course).
“In fact, these [douches] can interfere with the balance of good and bad bacteria and lead to infections, odours and irritations. Good personal hygiene and safe sexual practices are essential for maintaining vaginal health.”
Staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress can also contribute to overall vaginal wellbeing.
What does regular discharge look like?
Vaginal discharge is a normal part of the organ’s self-cleaning process. It’s required to keep the vagina clean and moisturised. Dr Hooshmand notes that discharge varies through the menstrual cycle so knowing what’s consistent for you is important so you can stay in touch with your body.
“Clear or slightly white discharge is usually normal and at ovulation, this may change to become thicker and stickier like egg whites. However, changes in colour, consistency, or odour might indicate an infection. For example, green or yellow discharge could indicate a bacterial infection, while a thick, white, cottage cheese-like discharge might be a sign of a yeast infection.”
Dr Hooshmand notes that if you see (or feel) anything out of the ordinary, you can always consult your general practitioner about it.
Vaginas and vulvas can change over time
Of course, your vulva and vagina changes from puberty through to adulthood, but your genitals can continue to change over time.
“These changes are entirely natural and often manageable. It's essential to stay in tune with your body, adapt to these changes, and consult a general practitioner if you have concerns,” Dr Hooshmand says.
What might these changes include?
If you sense any noticeable or sudden changes in colour, shape, odour or discharge that are accompanied by itching pain, bleeding or discomfort, then make an appointment with your doctor.
“These changes could be indicative of an infection, hormonal imbalance, or other underlying health issues. It's crucial not to ignore any significant changes and seek medical advice promptly,” says Dr Hooshmand.
If you’re between the ages of 25 to 74, ensure you are also undertaking your cervical smear tests every five years.
Staying on top of your vaginal health is one of the most important forms of self-care there is. Considering it’s an ever-changing ecosystem of pH levels and hormonal changes, figuring out what’s “normal” for you is the best way to maintain a healthy vagina and vulva.