Yes, Your Vulva is Normal
What you have come to know as your vagina (your external genitalia) is in actual fact, your vulva. Vulva is a broad term that refers to your labia, clitoris, urethra and the entrance to the vagina. Your vagina, on the other hand, is the passage that leads to your cervix, which opens to your uterus.
Your vagina is self-cleaning, and never needs to be washed, no matter what suspect internet sources may tell you.
Your vulva, on the other hand, can be cleaned, and you can do this with warm water and unscented soap or wipes if you’re on the go and quickly need to freshen up.
Not all vulvas look the same, and that’s okay! Some people have longer labia than others, while others may have very short labia. The colour of a vulva (and pubic hair) may change from person to person, depending on skin tone and hair colour. Maybe you have a freckle down there, or even a scar. No two vulvas are the same, and no single ‘kind’ of vulva sets the gold standard for what is ‘normal’.
When it comes to vaginas, vulvas and what they smell like, a lot of menstruators worry whether or not they’re ‘normal’. It’s natural for your vagina to have a mild smell. However, should this odour suddenly grow stronger, change or become fishy, you may have a yeast infection, thrush or BV (Bacterial Vaginosis).
This may or may not be accompanied by a frothy, green or grey discharge, and definitely warrants a trip to the doctor. To feel fresh (and save your underwear), you can wear pantyliners between periods, or just on the days when you’re experiencing a lot of discharge.
Your vulva and vagina are not intrinsically unclean, and neither is pubic hair. There is simply no science-based evidence to suggest that a bikini wax or Brazilian is better than leaving your pubic hair as is. In fact, some forms of hair removal, like shaving, can cause irritation or even ingrown hairs, and these small wounds can put you at risk of infection.
While hair removal is a personal choice, there is no hygienic value in lasering it all off or keeping it all on. It’s a matter of preference and doing whatever makes you feel the most comfortable!
You might notice a slight odour when you're on your period. Changing your pad and tampon regularly can help keep unwanted odours down to a minimum. Tampons can also help with odours as they're worn inside your body – though you should still change them as frequently as your flow demands!
Making sure that you wash your vulva (and groin area, especially if you’ve had any blood spillage) will also help any odours. While washing with warm water is perfectly fine, you may want to use unscented soaps for a fresher feeling.
If you find yourself getting extra aroused during your period, know that you’re not alone!
Some people feel really tired and bloated, and sex is the last thing on their minds. Other people feel really up for having sex, and whether it’s on your own or with a partner (and everybody involved is comfortable), then why the heck not? It’s perfectly hygienic, plus the endorphins your body releases during sex may also provide mild relief from your period pain symptoms.
If you happen to get any blood on your sheets, which can happen with or without period sex (shout out to Day Two of our periods), wash the stain with cold water first, and detergent after. Repeat if necessary. The same method applies to any blood-marked underwear, too.