Wellness Matters

Things You Always (or Never) Wanted to Know About Your Vagina

March 11, 2016

Firstly, let’s define what a vagina (lady parts) is and is Not. If you can easily see it with a mirror, that is your (or someone else’s) VULVA, not Vagina. The vagina is a muscular tube that starts just inside the hymenal ring and ends at the cervix. The cervix is the bottom-most part of the uterus (the part that dilates with labor to allow a small human being to enter the vagina.) OUCH!! Did I mention how much I appreciate a good epidural?!

The word vagina comes from the Latin word for “sheath for a sword”. My goodness. It seems that men have forever been rather proud of their parts, deservedly or not. The word “hymen” comes from the Greek goddess named Hymen. She was the goddess of marriage. Makes sense, I guess. And while we’re discussing etymology, it is interesting that the word “speculum” (That horrible metal or plastic Thing that your gynecologist uses during a pap smear) comes from the Latin word for “mirror”. They date back to 1300 BC and have been found in the ruins of Pompeii. Wow!

So, back to some anatomy. The clitoris is the homolog of the male penis. However, it is generally a fraction of the size but has double the amount of nerve endings, 8,000 versus 4,000. Hah! It also becomes engorged with arousal and becomes erect. And men are so proud of their parts. The average vagina is 2-3 inches wide and 3-4 inches long. It can double it’s size with sex and expand up to 200% during childbirth. That’s pretty incredible! During sex the increase in length occurs when the uterus moves upwards with arousal, called “vaginal tenting”. The vagina is so good at expanding that in 2011 in Scranton, Ohio, a criminal was found to have 54 bags of heroin tucked away in her lady parts. But in case you are wondering, you can never really lose anything there.

The vagina, like the eye, is self-cleaning. Meaning ladies, DON’T douche. The amazing thing is that in the past women were encouraged to douche. Lysol was actually marketed in the early 1900’s as good for this purpose. Yikes! The vagina is home to at least 15 different strains of good bacteria that ward off bad bacteria. When you douche, you remove the good bacteria and allow the bad ones to enter. The vagina naturally produces a discharge, more with ovulation, less with menopause and breast feeding, anywhere from less than ¼ teaspoon to a teaspoon per day. The texture changes depending on the menstrual cycle. It will be clear and sticky, almost like clear snot, during ovulation, thin and white most of the month. The vaginal pH, or measure of acidity is normally between 3.8-4.5, just like wine! It can also smell differently depending on the time of the month and what you are eating. Think before you eat too much garlic.

There are so many more interesting things about the vagina, but I only have a limited amount of space. Let me end with the admonition to be love about your lady parts. Studies show that vaginal confidence improves orgasms!

This article first appeared in the December 2015 edition of Guilford Women magazine. 

About the Author

Myra C. Dove, MD specializes in Obstetrics/Gynecology with the

Center For Women's Healthcare at Women's Hospital, a Cone Health Medical Group practice.


  1. Leave it to Dr Dove to make TMI fun! Feeling more confident already...great article. :-)