The Size of Your Vagina: Is It Normal?

December 17th, 2014 by admin
Find out how your fine china measures up.

While there's tons of info out there to help you figure out if your breasts are normal (not to mention visual evidence), vaginas are pretty mysterious. It’s difficult to get solid facts about your lady-garden. So we turned to Brook McFadden, M.D., assistant professor in the division of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at The Ohio State University, to get the scoop.

The thing that makes it hard to figure out how you compare: Barely anyone has studied va-jay-jay sizes. McFadden, whose focus is on how vulva measurements can influence body image, is on a mission to change that. In her most recent research, she replicated scientist Jillian Lloyd’s study "Female genital appearance: normality unfolds" from the May 2005 issue of the British Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. It measured the private parts of 50 women who were going to the gynecologist for reasons other than pelvic dysfunction. To build on that research, McFadden studied 168 women, median age 57 years, using the same technique as Lloyd—so the scientific world can start to bank important information about women’s bodies. Here’s what the abstract of her study, which appeared earlier this year in Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, has to say about what's up down there (the full study text isn't available yet since it hasn't been published).

RELATED: 11 Ways to Keep Your Vagina Happy and Healthy

Your Labia Minora

Elizabeth Natoli

These are the smaller, inner lips that surround your vaginal opening. When it comes to width, McFadden (who prefers her research be noted in centimeters) found that the left labia minora was an average of 2.1 centimeters wide, with a range of 0.4 to 6.4 centimeters. The right was an average of 1.9 centimeters wide, with a range of 0.3 to 7.0 centimeters. And how long were they? The left labia minora was an average of 4.0 centimeters long (about the size of a baby carrot) with a range of 1.2 to 7.5 centimeters, while the right labia minora was an average of 3.8 centimeters long and ranged from 0.8 to 8.0. Notice anything interesting there?

For starters, labia minora come in wildly different lengths from woman to woman. Second, the two sides aren’t the same! “There is a statistically significant difference between the left and right labia minora, which shows that it’s normal if yours are different sizes,” says McFadden. The only time you should really worry about yours is if you experience a lot of chafing or rubbing to the point where you become uncomfortable. “That’s the time to go in and get evaluated,” says McFadden. If you’re considering a surgical labia modification for cosmetic reasons, researchers don’t even know if it improves self-image. “There’s no valid data on that, so it’s a very controversial topic,” says McFadden.

Elizabeth Natoli

Your Labia Majora

These are like the parentheses around your labia minora. As the outer lips, they bookend the awesomeness that is the rest of your external reproductive anatomy. The participants’ labia majora were both an average of 8.1 centimeters long (about the size of a bottle of nail polish), with a range of 4.0 to 11.5 centimeters. As you get older, your labia minora and majora both become smaller, according to the abstract. Interesting, right?

RELATED: Your Vagina On Sex

Your Clitoris

Elizabeth Natoli

Much like the rest of your anatomy, there’s a pretty broad variation when it comes to your pleasure button. In McFadden’s study, clitoral width ranged from 0.2 to 2.5 centimeters with an average of 0.8. Participants had a clitoral length of anywhere from 0.4 to 4.0 centimeters, with an average of 1.6 centimeters (a bit smaller than the button on your jeans). One especially interesting finding is that “increased clitoral width was associated with likelihood of orgasm during intercourse,” says the abstract. So if you’re hitting the jackpot almost every time, you may have been blessed with a wider clitoris than women who have an easier time getting off in other ways.

Your Vaginal Canal
McFadden’s findings on the vaginal canal haven’t been presented yet, but in the meantime, she thinks it makes sense to follow the guidelines for length from the 2005 study. They found that the average length of a vagina is 9.6 centimeters (about the length of a tube of lip gloss), while the range is between 6.5 and 12.5 centimeters. As for the width, the most recent research is from a 1995 (yes, seriously!) paper in Obstetrics & Gynecology called “Vaginal anatomy and sexual function.” Still, even though it isn’t recent, McFadden is comfortable with its assertion that the range for vaginal diameter is 2.1 to 3.5 centimeters. “One thing to note is that only two women with diameters of 2.1 were sexually active, and both had pain with intercourse,” says McFadden. Unless you’re experiencing pain with sex or an inability to use tampons or even get your period, you likely fall into the normal range for both width and length. And of course, your vagina’s width and length adjust during events like intercourse and birth to better accommodate what your body’s dealing with. 

Elizabeth Natoli

The bottom line is that unless you’re experiencing some kind of discomfort or interruption of sexual function, it’s likely your goods fall in the regular range. While outside influences can affect whether you think you’re "normal," chances are everything you’ve got looks fine and is in good working condition. The abstract even concludes that while measurements vary from woman to woman, "they do not correlate with body or genital self-image." Still not sure everything checks out down there? Schedule a chat with a doctor. That’s what they’re there for, after all!

RELATED: How Your Food Impacts Your Vagina

vagina-size.jpg

Posted in Health, need to know, self care, sex, Zahra Barnes | Comments Off

FYI Ladies: This Is How Long Ebola Can Live in Semen

December 2nd, 2014 by admin
You know, just in case.

Just when we thought all the terrifying news about Ebola had finally begun to die down, this tweet from the World Health Organization (WHO) landed in our news feed. It's a warning that semen could contain infectious Ebola viral particles for up to three months after the first symptoms of the disease are detected. The WHO tweet goes on to advise "men should wear condoms during sexual contact for at least three months after recovery from Ebola."

Frightening stuff, and here's what apparently prompted it: Last month, an Indian man who had Ebola and was declared cured on September 30 had his blood and semen tested in an Indian airport, according to a CNN report. While his blood test came back negative for Ebola, the virus was detected in his semen. The man was placed in quarantine, and scary headlines linking Ebola and semen went out all over the media.

RELATED: Questions About the Ebola Virus That You've Probably Googled This Week

The CDC has always included semen in the list of bodily fluids that can transmit the virus from a symptomatic person to a new victim (read this for more info on how the virus spreads, and how you can protect yourself).

But CDC officials aren't sure if the presence of viral particles in semen means that the person is actually infectious. "Although Ebola virus has been detected in semen after patients have recovered, it is not known if the virus can be spread through sex (including oral sex)," states the CDC website. "As a precaution, men who have recovered from Ebola are advised to abstain from sex (including oral sex) for three months. If abstinence is not possible, condoms may help prevent the spread of disease." And according to WHO, sexual transmission of the virus has not been documented

RELATED: CDC Announces New Guidelines for Ebola Care

Still, in another effort to play it safe, a second WHO tweet made a suggestion regarding masturbation:

For more information, check out the CDC's latest Ebola updates.  

RELATED: What Happens If You Go to a Bowling Alley Where an Ebola Patient Went?

semen-ebola.jpg

Posted in birth control, Esther Crain, Health, need to know, sex | Comments Off

How Worried Should You Really Be About Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea?

November 22nd, 2014 by admin
Because it sounds like the most terrifying thing on the planet

In case you haven't heard, some experts are warning that gonorrhea could soon be very difficult to treat. This worry is based on the infection's history of becoming resistant to certain antibiotics, which is actually downright terrifying.  

According to the CDC, they updated their treatment guidelines in 2010 after lab data found that the antibiotic cefixime was becoming less effective against it. They changed the guidelines again in 2012 to ditch cefixime altogether and instead suggest an injectable antibiotic called ceftriaxone plus an oral antibiotic (either azithromycin or doxycycline). New data from the CDC seems to show that these bacteria are becoming easier to treat with these drugs, at least in the U.S., though more research is needed.

Unfortunately, there are still a few cases of drug-resistant strains of the infection popping up around the globe, the most recent of which occurred in December 2013 in Australia.

This particular case, detailed in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, involved a young woman who had sex with a new partner while traveling through Australia. She first developed vaginal discharge and visited one clinic, where she was tested for STDs and given antibiotics. When she continued having symptoms, she visited another clinic, where she told doctors that she had since received a phone call from the first office telling her she had gonorrhea.

"When we tested the gonorrhea bug from this patient for antibiotic resistance, we found that it was technically resistant to ceftriaxone," says study co-author David M. Whiley, M.D., of Queensland Children's Medical Research Institute. "We had never seen this type of gonorrhea resistance in Australia before, and so [it] was quite alarming. The patient was successfully treated with a combination of two drugs, ceftriaxone plus azithromycin."    

So what do these reports tell us about the future of gonorrhea? "The history of gonorrhea resistance tells us that once the bug starts to show signs of resistance, then it is generally not very long, perhaps only a few years, before such strains become commonplace," says Whiley. "Reports of ceftriaxone-resistant gonorrhea have only been very sporadic, with only four to date. But combined they provide mounting evidence that gonorrhea may soon become very difficult to treat."

MORE: The Shocking Number of New STD Cases Each Year

The CDC confirms that they still only have one first-line of treatment, so new treatments are needed in case resistance to the current cure develops again, which can definitely happen. They are currently addressing this issue and monitoring trends through several initiatives, including the Gonococcal Isolate Surveillance Project (GISP), which looks at strains of gonorrhea in the U.S.

Okay, so this is all generally nightmare-inducing, but here's the good news: The vast majority of cases of gonorrhea are currently curable with antibiotics, and there are researchers working to ensure that we stay on top of any future antibiotic resistance. That said, this is just one more reason to practice safe sex (that means using a condom every single time until you're both mutually monogamous and know you're disease-free because yo've been tested).

MORE: The New Rules of STD Testing You Need to Know About

"There are already plenty of reasons why people should consider practicing safe sex, and, in my opinion, HIV remains on the top of that list," says Whiley. "The potential to acquire gonorrhea, including drug-resistant gonorrhea, is simply another good reason." 

The CDC recommends annual screening for gonorrhea for any at-risk, sexually active women, so be sure to ask for it if you've been with anyone new since the last time you were tested. Here's why: Gonorrhea is often symptomless in women, though you may experience pain urinating, increased vaginal discharge, or bleeding between periods, according to the CDC. If you do test positive for gonorrhea, take the antibiotics according to your doctor, and check in with them. "If you are diagnosed with gonorrhea and you still have symptoms following treatment, then definitely get back to your doctor and let them know," says Whiley.

MORE: 11 Ways to Keep Your Vagina Happy and Healthy

drug-resistant.jpg

Posted in Casey Gueren, Health, need to know, self care, sex | Comments Off

Things You Should Know BEFORE You Visit the Gyno

November 12th, 2014 by admin
Keep your vaginal health in check by taking these crucial steps.

Women’s Health and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) teamed up on an exclusive survey that revealed how much women know about their own anatomy. The answer, sadly: Not a whole lot. To help you better understand your nether regions, we created an all-inclusive guide to your private parts in our November 2014 issue. This article is part of that package. 

Before you book your regular appointment, read on for important information about exam guidelines, common issues, and how to be more proactive about your vaginal health. 

New Rules for Pelvic Exams
Used to be, you got a yearly pelvic exam, rain or shine. Now new government guidelines call for a drastic reduction in the look-sees, in which your M.D. shines a flashlight and feels around inside you. (A pelvic exam is not the same thing as a Pap smear test that screens for cervical cancer, though a Pap can be done during a pelvic exam.)

Experts say that a personalized exam schedule—basically, your doc will determine if and when you need one—will cut rates of costly misdiagnoses. Not everyone is thrilled. Forgoing an annual scan can make some women nervous. But rest assured, those at high risk or who are just uneasy can still request the test. Insurers do take cues from guidelines, so call first to make sure you're covered.

5 Common Gynecological Troublemakers
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
The world's most widespread reproductive disorder is also the most common cause of female infertility. Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is likely caused by high levels of "male" hormones that can lead to cysts, missed periods, or skipped ovulation. Type 2 diabetes and obesity skyrocket your risk.

Endometriosis
Killer period cramps are the hallmark of this fertility-hindering condition that hits some 176 million women worldwide. It happens when the uterine lining sheds up instead of out, glomming on to the ovaries, GI tract, even lungs. Surgical treatments can be highly successful.

Sexually Transmitted Infections
Just 7 percent of you knew that nearly every sexually active woman will get the human papillomavirus (HPV) in her lifetime. Yup, 20 million new STI's of all kinds are diagnosed each year. Some, like chlamydia, can be curable hassles; others like HPV aren't curable but are treatable if ID'd early.

Fibroids
These uterine growths range from microscopic to the size of a football. Around four out of five women will have one at some point, so look out for symptoms such as painful sex and irregular bleeding. Most docs take a "watch and wait" approach before—if ever—scheduling surgery.

Infertility
Despite much media hype, infertility rates—even those in women over 35—are actually falling. Still, one in 10 couples has trouble conceiving and, generally, the older you are, the higher your risk. If you've been "trying" for more than six months without luck, talk to your doc.

How to Do a Self-Check Down There
Squeamish? Get over it. Giving your bits a yearly once-over is the number-one way to stay safe. Here's how:

1. Squatting makes it hard to get a good glimpse. Sit in a chair or on the floor, open your thighs, and elevate one leg.

2. Using a handheld mirror, note the size and color of your labia and clitoris (this might involve some touching), as well as any bumps or rough spots (chill—no one's skin is perfect down here, either).

3. Train your eyes on your vaginal opening, then on your anus—you shouldn't see tissue peeking out of either.

4. If you ID any major changes, blisters, open sores, or protruding tissue, call your doc. Otherwise, put your big-girl panties back on and pat yourself on the back.

More from Women's Health:
Everything You Need to Know About Vaginas
How Your Vagina Changes in Your 20s, 30s, and 40s
5 Hormones That Mess With You Every Month

1411-gynegologist.jpg

Posted in Health, Malia Jacobson, need to know, November 2014, sex | Comments Off

Everything You Need to Know About Vaginas

November 12th, 2014 by admin
Get ready to get up close and personal with your nether regions.

Women’s Health and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) teamed up on an exclusive survey that revealed how much women know about their own anatomy. The answer, sadly: Not a whole lot. To help you better understand your nether regions, we created an all-inclusive guide to your private parts in our November 2014 issue. This article is part of that package. 

A sketchy pelvic-area situation can have far-reaching repercussions: Female hormone imbalances, for instance, can affect your weight, mess with your love life, disrupt your future family plans—and give you (no!) chin hair. Yet 64 percent of women can't pick a cervix out of a lineup, and that's just for starters, according to our exclusive Women's HealthAmerican Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) survey. More than 7,500 peeps weighed in—and, to put it mildly, a whole lot of women know a whole lot of nothing about their reproductive health.

Now, we understand it can be easy to blow off your below-the-belt region. It's not like you can pop into your uterus to say hi, or ask your ovaries how they're holding up. Then there's the fact that, when it comes to anything "vagina," even the most jaded can act both captivated and prudish. But what you don't know could hurt you (or, at the least, make you look clueless).

Cases in point: Nearly a third of survey respondents thought an ideal hoo-ha is an odor-free hoo-ha (in fact, a little musk is practically a must, and trying to remedy the sitch by douching can introduce gnarly pathogens). Thirty-three percent of others said red wine is great for the vag (not—alcohol can cause hormone havoc). Nearly two-thirds of women did not know how big the average vagina is...and a disturbing number of people could not locate their urethra orifice, a.k.a. the pee hole.

Don't believe it? Top experts back up our results: Per new Yale School of Medicine research, 40 percent of women think their ovaries continue creating eggs throughout their twenties and thirties, when, in reality, you're born with all the little suckers you'll ever have. And according to a study in Fertility and Sterility, 40 percent of women don't know the ins and outs of ovulation.

"When it comes to down-there health, many women don't know what 'normal' is," says Meadow Maze Good, D.O., a pelvic medicine specialist at University of Florida Health Jacksonville. This typically leads women in one of two directions: They either ignore potentially important symptoms for years on end (50 percent of the gals in our survey do this or attempt DIY treatments), or they spaz out at every single twinge or harmless cosmetic change (see: "corrective" vaginoplasty surgery, up 44 percent within one year).

What's worse, 54 percent of women copped to keeping secrets from their gynecologists, a particularly risky strategy in the face of super-stealth girl-part problems. Diagnoses of certain repro ailments—such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)—are spiking in recent years, and sexually transmitted infections are running rampant. Such conditions—along with myriad others—can lead to minor discomforts, major pain, surgeries, or baby-making hurdles far down the road.

So, bottom line: When you're short on info or avoiding your M.D., it's tough to keep your nether regions in good working order. Which, like anything in ill repair, can lead to all kinds of problems. On the awesome flip side, a healthy, happy vaginal vicinity means a calmer, more energetic, even younger-looking you. Oh, and hotter sex. Did we mention hotter sex? Give us a chance to get into your pants and we promise, all that (and more!) can be yours.

Check out the links below for everything else you've ever wanted to know about your lady parts.

Things You Should Know BEFORE You Visit the Gyno

Your Vagina On Sex

How Your Vagina Changes in Your 20s, 30s, and 40s

5 Hormones That Mess With You Every Month

Your Guide to Your Lady Parts

1411-vagina1.jpg

Posted in Health, Malia Jacobson, need to know, November 2014, self care, sex | Comments Off

5 Hormones That Mess With You Every Month

November 12th, 2014 by admin
Mood swings, crazy cravings, and irrational crying fits? Yeah, you know what we're talking about.

Women’s Health and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) teamed up on an exclusive survey that revealed how much women know about their own anatomy. The answer, sadly: Not a whole lot. To help you better understand your nether regions, we created an all-inclusive guide to your private parts in our November 2014 issue. This article is part of that package. 

If, once a month, you turn crazy pants, go on cupcake benders, or QVC-binge at 2 a.m., guess what? You're normal. Ricocheting reproductive hormones can influence your period, fertility, and sex drive—and your mental state and sleep cycle and appetite. Use this advice to keep everything in check.

1. Estrogen
Estradiol, the most potent type, prepares the uterus for conception. Stable levels can boost sex drive and immunity.

Big Impacts: Estrogen sends "grow" signals to your body's every cell, from your breasts to your bones. But too much can lead to severe PMS, fertility woes, even breast cancer. Too little can lead to osteoporosis.

The Balancing Act: Being way too thin can hinder production, while extra fat cells can produce a type of estrogen that messes with estradiol. The key: maintaining a healthy weight. Aim for a BMI between 18.5 and 30.

2. Progesterone
It creates a cushy uterine lining (i.e., an embryo crib) each month. No conception? Levels sink, triggering your period.

Big Impacts: Talk about a love-hate affair: Progesterone has a mild sedative effect that can lead to solid sleep (hence those sounder pre-rag z's). It can also ramp up water retention, gassiness, and constipation...ouch.

The Balancing Act: Since regulating this hormone is critical for baby-making, many wannabe mamas turn to OTC creams. Don't. Studies show they're useless. What may work: meditation, as little as five minutes per day.

3. Testosterone
Not just for guys, the androgen hormone supports regular ovulation and a hearty libido. Rawrr!

Big Impacts: Too-high levels—often associated with PCOS (see page 150)—can cause acne, dandruff, or dark hair in abnormal places. Lacking levels can zap your mojo and overall sense of well-being.

The Balancing Act: Excess testosterone has been closely linked to obesity, so strive for that beneficial BMI. If you're low, zinc-rich foods like hummus may increase levels. (Relax—you'll get an energy lift, not a man-beard.)

4. Prolactin
This one's made in the brain, and its main jobs are to govern egg release and stimulate breast-milk production in new moms.

Big Impacts: Rare sky-high levels can squash your sex drive and bring on menopause-like symptoms. Slightly elevated levels can suppress ovulation. Post-childbirth, normal levels can help you ditch pounds faster.

The Balancing Act: Skimping on sleep can spike stress hormones such as cortisol and prolactin. Score optimal levels by committing to seven to eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye every night.

5. FSH/LH
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) readies eggs for prime time; luteinizing hormone (LH) makes them drop.

Big Impacts: Ideal FSH/LH amounts can also contribute to favorable progesterone levels, while spiked FSH has been linked to memory problems, insomnia, and acne.

The Balancing Act: Keep a lid on your booze intake, especially if you're looking to have a baby: More than two drinks per day can throw FSH and LH production out of whack.

More from Women's Health:
Everything You Need to Know About Vaginas
Your Vagina On Sex
How Your Vagina Changes in Your 20s, 30s, and 40s

1411-hormones.jpg

Posted in Health, Malia Jacobson, need to know, November 2014, sex | Comments Off

Your Vagina On Sex

November 12th, 2014 by admin
From the first sexy thought to that ultra-satisfying orgasm, here's what's happening below the belt.

Women’s Health and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) teamed up on an exclusive survey that revealed how much women know about their own anatomy. The answer, sadly: Not a whole lot. To help you better understand your nether regions, we created an all-inclusive guide to your private parts in our November 2014 issue. This article is part of that package. 

When something sexy piques a man's interest, he gets a boner. What happens to you is less outwardly obvious but just as stimulating...

  • The second your brain senses some potential action, your blood vessels expand and direct extra flow south. The increased circulation spurs vaginal secretions—natural lube made up of proteins and amino acids—and a plumping of the vulva. Thousands of nerve endings in the vagina's most sensitive areas light up.
     
  • Tissues in your clitoris swell and stiffen. Yes, we're talking mini hard-on. If you're, like, totally turned on, your clit can triple in size. (It takes a while post-nooky for it to shrink back down, though; during this interim, it can be difficult for some women to urinate.)
     
  • Your cervix softens and, if it or a major surrounding nerve is stroked by a penis or toy during sex, it may light up the same pleasure areas in your brain that are activated by foreplay.
     
  • In about 10 percent of women, pelvic floor muscle contractions during orgasm can propel a few drops of clear fluid out of the urethra. Don't sweat it: "Female ejaculation" is not pee; it's made up of natural sugars and prostatic acid phosphatase, a chemical also found in semen. Odds are, your partner thinks it's superhot.

More from Women's Health:
Everything You Need to Know About Vaginas
How Your Vagina Changes in Your 20s, 30s, and 40s
5 Hormones That Mess With You Every Month

1411-vagina-sex.jpg

Posted in Health, Malia Jacobson, need to know, November 2014, sex | Comments Off

How Your Vagina Changes in Your 20s, 30s, and 40s

November 12th, 2014 by admin
A three-decade snapshot of your snatch

Women’s Health and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) teamed up on an exclusive survey that revealed how much women know about their own anatomy. The answer, sadly: Not a whole lot. To help you better understand your nether regions, we created an all-inclusive guide to your private parts in our November 2014 issue. This article is part of that package. 

In Your 20's...

Normal Shrinkage
Puberty's totally over (thank gawd), and your organs have reached their adult size. Except, that is, for your labia majora, the outer "lips" that enclose the rest of your privates. Don't be shocked to see these looking slimmer. As you age, subcutaneous fat, including that of your genitals, decreases.

In Your 30's...

Dark Shadows
The hormone shifts that come with pregnancy or aging can cause your labia minora, the "inner" lips that encircle the clitoris and vaginal opening, to darken in color. So you can relax if, on your next self-check, it's like 50 shades of (mauve-ish) gray down there.

The Big Stretch
The uterus balloons to watermelon proportions during pregnancy—then shrinks back down within six weeks after birth. Some 32 percent of women now deliver by C-section, sparing their vag opening similar stretching (though their surgery scars can ache or tingle for years).

In Your 40's...

Short Stuff
Though a woman's egg supply dwindles rapidly in her early forties, she still ovulates and (sigh) gets her period. Cycles are a bit shorter, though, and tend to peter out by age 51—i.e., menopause. Your body puts the kibosh on fertility five to 10 years before that.

Deep Squeeze
Your repro organs are supported by a hammock of tendons, tissue, and muscle. Extra pounds, aging, or years of high-impact workouts can loosen this pelvic floor, straining organs and causing bladder leakage or a "heavy" feeling down below. Your move: Kegels. Lots of 'em.

Desert Rescue
Lower estrogen levels affect the vagina's acid-alkaline balance, which can spur inflammation—along with thinning and drying of the vaginal walls, which can cause itching, burning, and redness. Silver lining: Regular sex can prevent this atrophy (hop to it!).

More from Women's Health:
Everything You Need to Know About Vaginas
Your Vagina On Sex
5 Hormones That Mess With You Every Month

vagina-ages.jpg

Posted in Health, Malia Jacobson, need to know, November 2014, sex | Comments Off

Your Guide to Your Lady Parts

November 12th, 2014 by admin
Do you really know which parts go where…and do what? Check out this helpful map to your anatomy.

Women’s Health and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) teamed up on an exclusive survey that revealed how much women know about their own anatomy. The answer, sadly: Not a whole lot. To help you better understand your nether regions, we created an all-inclusive guide to your private parts in our November 2014 issue. This article is part of that package. 

Nearly half the women who took our WH-ACOG survey were stumped by which parts go where...and do what. Consider this a sex-ed refresher.

1. Vagina
It's the guardian of your reproductive parts: Its acid balance keeps harmful bacteria at bay. But it can also be accommodating: Shaped like a three-to four-inch-long tube sock, it can expand lengthwise (up to six inches) and widthwise (up to five inches) during sex or childbirth. Two vag no-nos? Douching and lotsa sugar, which can wipe out friendly bacteria and cause yeast overgrowth.

2. Cervix
The doorway between your uterus and vagina, this smooth, springy organ softens as estrogen surges. When you're knocked up, your cervix supports--quite literally--pregnancy, so keeping it strong is crucial. Compounds in the spice curcumin, as well as ellagic acid found in raspberries, walnuts, and pecans, can all stall cervical cancer. Smoking, on the other hand, is murder on your cervix.

3. Uterus
The fist-size, muscle-lined pouch makes a cozy home for your mini-me during pregnancy (it's also where menstrual cramps come from, ugh). Excess pounds and GI probs like constipation can put pressure on the uterus (not pleasant!), so stick to a healthy weight and eat ample fiber. Flavonoids in foods such as broccoli, cabbage, and peppers may help prevent uterine cancer.

4. Ovaries
Guys have testes; you have this almond-size twinset. At birth, your ovaries house around a million eggs, more than half of which are reabsorbed before puberty. Your ovaries work with what's left, unleashing up to 400 total ova over your lifetime. Keep them churning with beta carotene-rich foods (carrots, grapefruits) and green tea.

5. Fallopian Tubes
Lined with eyelash-like hairs, these eight- to 12-centimeter-long highways connect your ovaries and uterus. It's here that sperm and egg typically collide. Once fertilized, an embryo takes about six days to travel to the uterus. If, that is, your tubes are well oiled: Certain STI's can lead to blockages or infertility. Studies show acupuncture could help unclog things.

Privates Not Pictured:

Vulva
Your outer lady bits, including your clitoris and labia (otherwise known as your genital "lips").

Urethra
Also inside the vulva, this is your body's exit route for urine.

More from Women's Health:
Everything You Need to Know About Vaginas
How Your Vagina Changes in Your 20s, 30s, and 40s
5 Hormones That Mess With You Every Month

girls-anatomy.png

Posted in Health, Malia Jacobson, need to know, November 2014, sex | Comments Off

The Conversation You’re NOT Having with Your Gyno (and Why You SHOULD)

July 10th, 2014 by admin
You might want to call her up instead of consulting your best friend on this one

Apart from the awkward chit-chat we make while our feet are in the stirrups, a lot of us don't have a very open dialogue with our gynecologists. In fact, a new study of 341 Swiss gynecologists found that less than 10 percent of the doctors surveyed spoke to their patients about sexual issues, and only 28 percent offered appointments solely for sexual health problems. Although this study only surveyed Swiss gynecologists, it's more than likely that these findings apply in the U.S., too, as most women and doctors rush through appointments and side-step the sensitive issues. 

According to the new research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, the times gynos do tend to ask women about their sex lives and sexual health are at the onset of menopause, after childbirth, following gynecological surgery, or when starting a new birth control method. Those are pretty major milestones, but what about the rest of the time? Even though sexual problems are regarded as an important issue in gynecological care, the study concluded that addressing patients' sexuality on a regular basis is still not part of routine practice.

But asking about a patient's sexual issues should be part of a general check-up, says board certified ob-gyn Dena E. Harris, M.D. If there's a specific problem you're having, don't wait until the end of your appointment to bring it up, she suggests. Once your gyno has finished your physical exam he or she is likely to have another patient immediately after, and won't have the proper time to spend addressing your issue. So write it down if that will help you to remember, and start off the appointment by letting them know you have some sexual health questions you'd like to ask. 

There are a lot of things women should tell their gyno, so it's worth it to get over your embarrassment and get the help you need. "You have to tell somebody about these thing—if not us, then who?" asks Harris. It's also totally normal (and often useful) to schedule a separate consultation with your ob-gyn to discuss anything beyond the scope of your yearly checkup so there’s plenty of time to go over everything you need to discuss.

MORE: 9 Weird Vagina Problems Solved

While women are more likely to mention problems like pain during intercourse, bleeding after sex, or lack of lubrication, it's just as important to bring up low sex drive or difficulties you might have reaching orgasm. From antidepressant side effects to lack of estrogen to neurological issues, there are many physical reasons women can't climax that your gyno can diagnose. And if everything physical is ruled out, a gynecologist should be able to refer you to a sexual counselor for further help, says Harris.  

MORE: Your Gyno's Biggest Birth Control Concern

If you don't feel like you can ask your gyno questions about your sexual health or if they aren’t willing to give you helpful advice (or even a referral) it might be time to get a new one. If you aren't getting what you need from your gynecologist, "you should not have to suffer in silence," says Harris. Here are a few strategies to find the best doctor for you.

MORE: New Guidelines Advise Against Routine Pelvis Exams at the Gyno

 

gyno.jpg

Posted in Health, Kristen Sollee, self care, sex | Comments Off

The STD You May Have and Not Even Know It

June 17th, 2014 by admin
Why the CDC is sounding the alarm on this scary infection

No wonder chlamydia has been nicknamed the silent stalker: After analyzing the latest data, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than one in 100 U.S. adults currently have this sexually transmitted disease. That works out to 1.8 million cases—yet only 1.4 of those have been reported. In other words, 400,000 people may have it and be clueless about the risk it poses to themselves and their partners.

MORE: Which STDs Are on the Rise?

But it's not necessarily their fault they're in the dark. Most of the time, chlamydia has zero symptoms. "In men and women, it can trigger signs such as abnormal discharge and pain, especially during urination, but the most common symptom is actually none at all," says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale University.

For men, it rarely develops into a more severe condition, yet having it means they can spread it to their partners. For women, the consequences are much more serious. If left untreated for months or years, the bacteria will move past primary infection locations such as the urethra, vagina, and cervix and into the uterus and fallopian tubes. There it leads to scar tissue that can quietly harm your fertility, all while you have no idea what's going on, says Minkin. At that point, it can bring on a condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which often causes intense pain and cramping. But by the time PID strikes, irreversible damage may have been done. "Chlamydia and PID are huge causes of infertility in women," says Minkin. Untreated chlamydia infection can also make your system more receptive to HIV.

MORE: Could You Give YOURSELF an STD?

But here's the good news: A simple test at your gyno's office (either a cervical swab or a urine test) can diagnose chlamydia, and if you have it, a quick course of antibiotics will cure the infection. Ob-gyn guidelines call for all sexually active women under age 25 to be tested yearly, but if you're over 25 and aren't sure (and we mean really sure) of your partner's status, consider getting tested, just to play it safe. Read this for more information on this scary STD.

MORE: The Shocking Number of New STD Cases Each Year

chlamydia.jpg

Posted in Esther Crain, Health, need to know, sex | Comments Off

The Hidden Health Benefits of Sex

March 13th, 2014 by admin
Twisting the sheets comes with a slew of body-boosting side effects.

"Having sex regularly can do more than make you feel closer to your partner—it can actually make you physically healthier," says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University and author of Pleasure: A Woman's Guide to Getting the Sex You Want, Need, and Deserve. Check out a few of the surprising perks you can reap from great sex.

Less Stress
If you're freaking out about tomorrow's job interview, slip between the sheets. Research from the University of the West of Scotland reveals that people who had intercourse at least once over two weeks were better able to manage stressful situations such as public speaking, says study author and psychology professor Stuart Brody, Ph.D. That's because endorphins and oxytocin are released during sex, and these feel-good hormones activate pleasure centers in the brain that create feelings of intimacy and relaxation and help stave off anxiety and depression, says WH advisor Laura Berman, Ph.D., an assistant clinical professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and author of It's Not Him, It's You! You don't have to climax to net the effects, but you'll get the biggest surge of soothing hormones if you have an orgasm. Just one more reason to shoot for a stellar finish! 

Sounder Sleep
It's downright dreamy how an O can lull you to sleep. That's because the same endorphins that help you de-stress can also relax your mind and body, priming you for slumber, says Cindy M. Meston, Ph.D., director of the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin and coauthor of Why Women Have Sex. Plus, during orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released. "Prolactin levels are naturally higher when we sleep, which suggests a strong relationship between the two," she says. But if you're wild in the sack, take note: Highly active sex can make you feel more energized than sleepy. Sex should never be a snooze, but if you want to use knocking boots as a sleep aid, skip the acrobatics and opt for a subdued session. 

Minimized Pain
Talk about flipping the script: "Yes, tonight, honey—I have a headache." The surge of hormones released after an orgasm can help ease any annoying ache, whether it's a strained back or a head pounder, says Meston. A study conducted at the Headache Clinic at Southern Illinois University found that half of female migraine sufferers reported relief after climaxing. "The endorphins that are released during an orgasm closely resemble morphine, and they effectively relieve pain," says Meston. Have a migraine but your man isn't around? Self-medicate by treating yourself with some solo sex. As long as you hit your peak, masturbating will have the same soothing effect. 

Fewer Colds
There's nothing sexy about sneezing, wheezing, or that runny-nose look. But getting hot and bothered can help you avoid coming down with the sniffles: People who have sex were found to have higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA), according to researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. These antibodies help combat diseases and keep the body safe from colds and flu. Save up your sick days and use them as sex days! 

A Youthful Glow
Get busy to get gorgeous: In a study conducted at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, a panel of judges viewed participants through a one-way mirror and guessed their ages. Those who were enjoying lots of nooky with a steady partner—four times a week, on average—were perceived to be seven to 12 years younger than their actual age. Regular sex promotes the release of hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, which can keep the body looking young and vital; estrogen has also been shown to promote soft skin and shiny hair, says Meston. Move over, moisturizer—time to turn back the clock with some shagging. 

Lighter Periods (with Fewer Cramps)
"When a woman orgasms, her uterus contracts and, in the process, rids the body of cramp-causing compounds," explains Meston. The increased number of uterine contractions can also help expel blood and tissue more quickly, helping to end your period faster, she adds. 

Going horizontal while menstruating has also been shown to help decrease the risk for endometriosis, a common condition in which uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus, causing pelvic pain and sex that hurts, according to researchers at Yale University School of Medicine. 

Sex during your period may not sound too appealing, but don't stress over making a mess. Just lay down a dark-colored towel and stick to missionary; when you're lying down, your flow tends to be lighter, says WH advisor Michelle Callahan, Ph.D., author of Ms. Typed: Stop Sabotaging Your Relationships and Find Dating Success.

A More Toned Bod
Sex counts as cardio! A romp can burn anywhere from 85 to 250 calories, depending on the length of the session (obviously a quickie will be less strenuous than an all-night pleasurefest), says Meston. In fact, cardiologists consider sexual activity comparable to a modest workout on a treadmill, according to a study published in The American Journal of Cardiology. 

Not only will your ticker get a workout, but you'll also squeeze in some sculpting: "Your abs and the muscles in your back, butt, and thighs get a good workout as you thrust during sex," says Hutcherson. Looks like you have a pretty good reason to skip spin class on Sunday morning and work up a sweat in bed.

healthy-sex.jpg

Posted in Cari Wira Dineen, Health, sex | Comments Off

Would You Do a Juice Cleanse to Boost Your Libido?

February 21st, 2014 by admin
Good news if your answer is yes—there’s now a cleanse for that

Plenty of people do juice cleanses to drop pounds (not the smartest idea—just check out how your body reacts to a fruit juice cleanse). But now, there’s a cleanse that promises to improve your sex life, too: Heartbeet Juicery has introduced a new cleanse designed to give your libido a jolt.

The program—which costs $65 a day—contains six different juices, which vary depending on whether you buy the female version or the male one. Both sexes get super greens, citrus spirulina, spicy lemonade, and almond masala juices. On top of that, women get carrot and maca juices, while men get beet and avocado.

“These his and her cleanses are designed to stimulate your brain and body, increasing blood flow to the all the right places and giving your libido a boost,” reads Heartbeet Juicery’s product description. “Ingredients like cayenne, carrots, and beet juice help to increase sensations and get the blood flowing, while the healthy fats and proteins in avocados, maca, and almond milk will help increase your stamina.”

The company doesn’t specify how many days you should do the cleanse for optimal results. But if you’d rather not shell out $65 (and subsist on a liquid diet for at least a day), then we recommend you stick with these seven foods that boost your libido.

MORE: Watch One Writer Hilariously Live-Tweet a Soup Cleanse 

juice-cleanse-art.jpg

Posted in Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Robin Hilmantel, sex | Comments Off

HPV Vaccine Doesn’t Lead to Risky Sex

February 5th, 2014 by admin
Here's scientific evidence

Here's something that should elicit a resounding duh from women nationwide: A new study published in the journal Pediatrics found zero proof that getting vaccinated against HPV encourages girls and young women to have unsafe sex. Study authors followed about 300 girls who were between ages 13 and 21 when they received the first of the three-shot HPV vaccine. (It's FDA-approved for boys and girls starting at age 11.) After six months, participants' attitudes about sex hadn't changed, nor had their sexual behavior. 

These results echo those of a similar study released last month, which detected no differences in sexual attitudes or behavior among teen girls who had received the shot and those who did not. Unfortunately, though, many women never receive the second or third shots required for the vaccine; study authors suspect the low rate may have to do with parents discouraging their daughters from getting the vaccine because they wrongly think it will boost risky behavior. 

It's crazy that so many people think a vaccine that protects against the strains of HPV that cause 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases could make a girl skip condoms or indulge in otherwise risky sex. Hopefully this new research will help dispel that misconception.

MORE: Another Scary Danger of HPV  

hpv-vaccine-please.jpg

Posted in Esther Crain, Health, need to know, Scoop, sex | Comments Off

Your Guide to Uncircumcised Guys

September 4th, 2013 by admin
More parents are choosing to keep their sons unclipped. Here's your crash course in the pros and cons
Url: 
http://blog.womenshealthmag.com/scoop/uncircumcised-guys/
Feed Pub Date: 
Wed, 04 Sep 2013 17:30:21 +0000
Feed Create Date: 
1378315821
Channel Feed Details
Slider Image: 
http://blog.womenshealthmag.com/scoop/files/2013/09/circumcision3.jpg
Display Off Slider Hed: 
No

Posted in Esther Crain, Health, Pregnancy, sex, STDs | Comments Off