Attention! Go ahead and explore your vulvas! (In a private setting, of course!) We don’t hear that very often do we? Check out this conversation with a brilliant and wonderful pelvic PT colleague in Australia, Lori Forner, B.ScH, MPhty(St), APAM.
This is so important. Here are just a few reasons why:
1. RECOGNIZING CHANGES:
It’s important to know what your vulva looks like because you will recognize if there are changes over your lifetime and have a better chance of seeking help in a timely manner. This can relate to skin conditions, cancerous lesions or growths, and sexually transmitted infections. For example, I suspected a patient had vulvar cancer. I asked her if she has always had a certain mark on her labia and she admitted “I have no idea. I’ve never looked down there.”
2. BODY AWARENESS
Lori Forner,B.ScH, MPhty(St), APAM, states, “in order for our brain to adequately assess whether a specific body part is healthy or in danger, it needs to know that it exists.” Get to know your vulva and surrounding structures! Did you know that every vulva looks different? Embrace that! The number one thing I hear patients ask me when I do an exam is “Am I normal there?” Yes, you are. There are some great projects going on around the world to educate women that vulvas are all different. The Great Wall of Vagina shares a sculpture made of hundreds of plaster casts of vulvas.
3. SEXUAL AWARENESS AND CONFIDENCE:
So often women say “I don’t ever have orgasms” or “I wish my partner knew how to touch me” or “I feel strange looking or touching down there.” There’s a lot of shame and doubt. One solution is self-exploration or exploration with a partner (as long as you are comfortable and ready). The more women get to know their private “bits” by looking and touching to understand what feels good, the more they will experience pleasure with or without a partner. A 2010 study showed “female genital self-image was found to be positively related to women’s sexual function.”
For lots of information on pelvic anatomy, check out this post on Ultimate Pelvic Anatomy Resource
Here’s another great link about a self-exam from Our Bodies, Ourselves and a Vaginal Self Examination (VSE) link from WebMD.
We also feature this video in the Ultimate Pelvic Anatomy Resource. It’s a great visual and info about the vulva!
Lori Forner, B.ScH, MPhty(St), APAM
You can reach Lori on Twitter at @LoriForner.
Lori has degrees in Human Movements and Physiotherapy. After working for years in musculoskeletal private practice clinics in Canada and Australia as a physiotherapist and pilates instructor, Lori found her passion in helping women with pelvic floor pain and dysfunction at Axis Rehab in Brisbane, Australia. Her clinical interest is in treating complex chronic pelvic patients. Lori is an active board member of Australian Physiotherapy Association’s Continence and Women’s Health Committee, a member of the Women’s Health Training Associates, provides lectures for allied health professionals, and educates the community on pelvic health.
**Thanks to Alyssa Tait for additional handout edits.