Getting to know your intimate areas
Our intimate areas are often a bit of a mystery and we only really think about them when something doesn’t feel right. But having a better understanding means we can take better care of our health.
Many of us say ‘vagina’ to describe the intimate area as a whole, but the truth is a little more nuanced.
Vagina is actually a very specific term, describing the internal canal that leads to the cervix. It doesn’t include the areas on the outside.
The vulva is the area of our genitals outside our bodies, which includes the labia and clitoris 1.
No two vulvas look exactly the same, and the size, colour and shape vary from person to person. This is perfectly normal and natural.
Together, the vagina and vulva areas are home to the vulvovaginal microbiome: a delicately balanced community of microflora or ‘good bacteria’ that keep us healthy and protected. 2
The vulvovaginal microbiome is mostly made up of a type of bacteria called Lactobacillus,3 which produces lactic acid. This lactic acid stops pathogens from growing and causing infections in the vagina. (Our gut microbiome, on the other hand, is made up of lots of different types of bacteria that do different jobs.)
To function properly, Lactobacilli bacteria need a slightly acidic environment. 4 Anything that disrupts the natural balance can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as itching, burning or dryness, discharge or infection. 2,3 We talk more about the importance of pH here.
As we all know, our intimate areas are sensitive. So caring for them is really important. A happy and balanced vulvovaginal microbiome helps us keep our intimate vaginal ecosystem hygienic.
As we say: Hygienic = healthy = happy 😀
1 John D. Nguyen; Hieu Duong 2021; Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Female External Genitalia,.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547703/
2 Bing Ma, Larry J. Forney and Jaques Ravel 2012; The Vaginal Microbiome: Rethinking Health and Diseases https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780402/
3 Xiaodi Chen, Yune Lu, Tao Chen and Rongguo Li 2021; The Female Vaginal Microbiome in Health and Bacterial Vaginosis https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcimb.2021.631972/full
4 Emmanuel Amabebe and Dilly O. C. Anumba 2018; The Vaginal Microenvironment: The Physiologic Role of Lactobacilli https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6008313/