West Valley Medical Center - October 17, 2017

In part one (read here) of our two-part series where we tackle myths about the vagina, West Valley Medical Center OB/GYN Jessica Fu, MD, set the record straight on some of the lies floating around:

  • No, douching is not a healthy way to clean the vagina.
  • No, you cannot tell if a woman is a virgin by her hymen.
  • No, every woman does not have a G-spot.
  • And no, not all women over 40 experience a sexual revolution.

“There's a lot of hesitation around talking about the vagina,” Dr. Fu says. “It's a very private matter, but we should talk about it.”

Here are four more myths about the vagina that most women never talk about, but should.

Myth #5: The Vagina is a Muscle.

If you've ever seen a woman give birth, you know that the vagina is indeed something strong and powerful, but a muscle it is not.

“It's more like a cavity that contains fibrous muscular tissue,” Dr. Fu explains. There are also glands outside the vagina that allow the vagina to secrete discharge.

The Truth:

The muscles most people are referring to are not in the vagina, but rather the pelvic floor muscles. “It's like a bowl of muscles that supports our bladder, uterus, and rectum,” Dr. Fu says. These are also the muscles you are strengthening when you do Kegel exercises, a series of exercises that contract and relax pelvic floor muscles.

Myth #6: Women Need a Pap Smear Every Year.

Or, there's the belief that you don't need them at all after 50. “That's not true either,” asserts Dr. Fu.

During the pap smear, the gynecologist swipes your cervix with a really long Q-tip or brush to get a sample of cervical cells. The cells are sent to a lab to be analyzed for signs of cervical cancer or human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer.

The Truth:

“There's no one rule for everyone,” Dr. Fu says. “It depends on your age and risk factors.”

You doctor may recommend screening every three years in your 20s, and then every three to five years after age 30. After age 65, your doctor may say you no longer need pap smears if you've never had an abnormal result.

But, even if you're not due for a pap smear an annual pelvic exam is recommended.

Myth #7: Pap Smears and Pelvic Exams Are the Same Thing.

Dr. Fu understands why many women are confused about pap smears and pelvic exams: Most women don't want a biology lesson. They just want to get it over with.

"A lot of women think they've had a pap smear, but they've really only had a pelvic exam," says Dr. Fu.

It's the speculum that throws women off, that instrument that reminds you of metal tongs inserted into the vagina at the beginning of the exam.

The Truth:

“Speculum does not mean pap,” Dr. Fu says. Even though a pap smear and a pelvic exam can be done at the same time ‹ and the doctor may use a speculum for both ‹ they are indeed different tests.

The speculum helps the gynecologist get a better look at the vagina and cervix. But if no cells were taken from the cervix to be screened for cervical cancer, then it was only a pelvic exam.

  Pap Smear Pelvic Exam
Examines the... Cervix Vagina, ovaries, and uterus
Screens for... Cervical cancer Infections and fibroids
Have it every... Talk to your doctor Year

The pelvic exam, which can be done with the doctor's gloved fingers, looks for issues like signs of ovarian or uterine infection, cysts, fibroids, enlarged ovaries, and pelvic floor issues.

Myth #8: Childbirth Stretches Out the Vagina.

Yes, the vagina does dilate and stretch to accommodate the baby's delivery. The change in shape depends on several factors, says Dr. Fu, such as a baby's size, delivery trauma, and vaginal tearing and how it was repaired.

The Truth:

“It does not become a gaping hole,” Dr. Fu says. “It has been stretched out, but our bodies have a great ability to return to normal. It's not like you stay dilated forever.”

And no, the woman's size does not matter. A petite woman's vagina will return to normal just like a larger woman's.

The bottom line: “If there is something you're concerned about ‹ any issues with sexual intercourse or the vagina in general ‹ hopefully you're comfortable enough with your doctor to talk about it,” Dr. Fu says. “If you're not, it may be time to find a new doctor.”

Still curious about your vagina? Schedule an appointment with a West Valley gynecologist to get your questions answered.