A patient of mine told me that at the age of 57 she could not have sex ever again because her uterus had dried up. She knew this, she said, because when she had a pap smear, a paediatric speculum was used and then her doctor prescribed a low dose localized estrogen.
I could not help but wonder if this woman would not still be a virgin had she had a better understanding of her “lady bits.” I explained to her gently that her uterus was her womb, it was likely her vagina that had lost it’s elasticity and (as she put it) “dried up” due to the decreased estrogen receptors in the vagina (actually the urogenital tract which may also lead to bladder urgency and leakage) associated with menopause.
Many women do not have a good understanding of their reproductive organs which is why we need to open up the dialogue and educate women (and men) about sexuality. I wondered if the reason that this woman led a sexless life was because she did not have enough knowledge about her “lady bits.” Clearly, lady bit education is needed to increase our understanding about the vagina which comes from the Latin word meaning “sheath for sword.”
No two vaginas are alike but they are all powerful. The vagina is a strong hollow muscular organ with the innate ability (albeit rare) to clamp down on a penis, making it impossible for the penis to extricate itself. Talk about girl power. In essence, it is the centre of sexuality and the soul of our sensuality.
Here are a few things you may not know about the vagina:
- Estrogen is the hormone regulator of the vagina which helps it to be elastic and so it can stretch to accommodate a penis or a baby’s head. Estrogen balances the pH of a woman’s vagina and also helps to prevent infection.
- There are more than 8,000 nerves in the clitoris which is twice as many as the penis! This is where sexual sensation is felt and when nerves are bathed in estrogen they are more sensitive and sex is more satisfying.
- The controversial and elusive G-spot is located in the anterior wall of the vagina. Most women cannot experience orgasm during intercourse and therefore require clitoral stimulation to experience the big “O.”
- Vaginas are like self-cleaning ovens designed to remain clean with natural secretions or vaginal discharge. There is no need and, in fact, a woman should not use perfumed soaps or gels to wash her vagina as this may upset the natural balance of the vagina and lead to irritation. Coloured, flavoured, or tingly lubricants may also irritate a woman’s lady bits.
VAGINAL HEALTH & VAGINAL DRYNESS
The vagina needs care like any other organ in the body. The vagina can become dry at different times during a woman’s life like when she is on the pill, breastfeeding, peri-menopause, menopause and beyond. Vaginal dryness does not spell death for the vagina and does not mean the end of sex for women.
I always say, it is just as important to moisturize your vagina as it is your face. There are many non-hormonal treatments like personal moisturizers and lubricants women may use and of course low dose vaginal estrogen is another treatment if needed.
Having an understanding of your lady bits, especially your vagina, is important to health and sexuality and getting back to the bedroom! For more education on vaginal health and vaginal dryness, check out my video with Canadian Health & Family: Understanding and Managing Vaginal Dryness.