IT’S easy to feel flustered about things that happen below the waist, but when it comes to your sexual health, it’s time to stop those blushes.
It’s really important to understand your genitalia – what it looks like, smells like and what is ‘normal’ for you.
Of course, the topic can make you feel embarrassed, but embarrassment shouldn’t stop you from knowing what you need to know about your body.
So we asked GP and author Dr Philippa Kaye to answer four sexual health questions that you might be too bashful to ask yourself…
1. What is the difference between a vagina and a vulva?
"Lots of people don’t know the answer to this one, and it’s really important to know what you’ve got," says Dr Philippa.
"Everything on the outside, the hairy, fatty lips, the inner lips, the clitoris, everything that’s on the outside, is the vulva.
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"And the vagina is the muscular tube on the inside, and it’s got a clue in the name, it’s got the letters ‘I’ and ‘N’ in it, vagina, and it’s inside, everything on the outside is the vulva.
"It’s really important that you know your normal – what your normal vulva looks like – and if anything changes, or you have any concerns, you see your doctor."
2. Is it normal for the inner lips to stick out?
"Actually yes. You are unique, and so is your vulva. Everybody looks different," explains Dr Philippa.
"You might notice on the fatty outer lips where there may be hair, that the inner lips protrude outside of that.
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"You might notice that one side is longer than the other, all of which is normal. You and your vulva are unique."
3. Is it normal for a vagina to smell?
"Yes! All vaginas and vulvas have a mild odour," says Dr Philippa.
"Now if that changes in any way, for example, if it’s associated with a lot of discharge or becomes offensive in smell, then it’s time to see the doctor.
"But it’s normal for there to be a mild odour that may change throughout the month and it does not mean that you’re dirty. It’s completely normal."
4. What is normal for vaginal discharge?
"It is normal to have some vaginal discharge and that might vary from person to person, but even within the same person, it might vary throughout your menstrual cycle," says Dr Philippa.
"For example, as you’re coming up to ovulation, you might notice the discharge becomes thinner and more watery, and as you come up to your period, that it might become more sticky and thick.
"If you notice any changes to what your normal is, for example, if it becomes offensive in smell, if you have much more than normal, changes colour or it’s blood stained, then please see your doctor.
"If you’re at all worried about your sexual health, speak to your GP – don’t be embarrassed, they’re there to help and will not be phased.
"You can always request a female doctor or nurse, and take someone with you if you feel uncomfortable."
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