It may sound like a silly question, but really, do you know how to find the vagina in the below diagram?
A 2016 study by The Eve Appeal showed that half of young women polled couldn’t actually locate the vagina on an image. In fact, many women confuse the external female genitalia, the vulva, with the internal cavern, the vagina. 65% of those surveyed even had difficulty using the word ‘vagina’ itself. However, there doesn’t have to be so much mystery involved.
Getting to know your body and reproductive system
An important step in taking charge of your own health is to know your body and know how it works. Before you can recognise vaginal problems or make decisions about your sexual health, you need to be familiar with your body and its cycles.
The internal section of the reproductive system is made up of five parts:
- Fallopian tubes
But that’s just the inside. It’s equally important to understand what the external genital organs are. These are the parts that you can see, and they consist of:
- Vulva – the part that is often mistaken for the vagina
- Labia majora and labia minora – two sets of skin folds that protect the vaginal opening
Sexual pleasure for women
Sexual pleasure for women is very diverse, and there are many different ways to enjoy sexual activity, which is more than just intercourse. Orgasm is the intense and pleasurable release of sexual tension that has built up from earlier stages of arousal, but there’s no one way that works for every woman to reach an orgasm. On top of that, not all women have an orgasm every time they have sex.
There are generally four steps to sexual pleasure for women:
- Excitement – in this state of arousal, blood begins to engorge the clitoris, vagina, and nipples, and creates a full-body sexual blush, heart rate and blood pressure increase.
- Plateau – sexual tension builds and the outer one-third of the vagina becomes particularly engorged with blood, creating what researchers refer to as the ‘orgasmic platform’, whilst the heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration continue to increase.
- Orgasm – a series of rhythmic contractions occur in the uterus, vagina, and pelvic floor muscles, and as the sexual tension caused by lovemaking or self-stimulation releases, muscles throughout the body may contract.
- Resolution – the body relaxes, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration return to normal.
Contraceptive options for women
If you’re sexually active, you should be familiar with a variety of contraceptive options. Finding the one that works for you and any partners you have may take time, but it’s important to use contraception regularly in order to protect yourself from STIs and unwanted pregnancy.
There are many kinds of contraceptive options for women. The most common is the contraceptive pill, of which there are a variety of different types, but there are a variety of options:
- Contraceptive implant – lasts up to three years
- Intrauterine system, or IUS – up to five years
- Intrauterine device, or IUD, also called the coil – from three to 10 years
- Female sterilisation – permanent
- Contraceptive injection – renewed every eight weeks or every 12 weeks, depending on the type
- Combined contraceptive pill – taken every day for three weeks out of every month
- Progestogen-only pill – taken every day
- Contraceptive patch – renewed each week for three weeks in every month
- Vaginal ring – renewed once a month
- Female condom
- Male condom
A consultation with your doctor is a must if you’re unsure what method would work best for you as finding the right one is an important decision.
Getting started finding the right contraception
Our Women’s Health Clinic has a number of informative articles designed to give you information on the contraception options available, written by NHS doctors. If you’re still unsure, online consultations are available for further help and guidance.