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3 Myths About Vaginas You Need To Stop Believing

Clearing up some *intimate* mistruths, once and for all.
3 Myths About Vaginas, Debunked
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Anyone with a vagina will know that there is plenty of information out there about them—not all of which is correct. From long-held myths about what (and where) your vagina actually is to confusion around the difference between thrush and bacterial vaginosis, vaginas are still, in many ways, shrouded in mystery.

We're on a mission to change that. By discussing vaginas more openly and honestly, we're removing some of the taboos that society is still clinging to. That starts by debunking three of the most widely held myths about vaginas.

Myth: Your vagina is...all of that *gestures downstairs*

Truth: Though often used as an umbrella term for everything below the belt, the vagina actually refers to the closed muscular canal that runs from the vulva (that's the outside of the female genital area, which includes the labia and clitoris) through to the the cervix (the neck of the uterus).

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It's really important to be able to name each part of your anatomy correctly. Not only does it help to shake off some of the mystery around the area but it can also help you to feel more empowered when speaking about it, whether that's in a medical setting or with partners or friends.

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Myth: Vaginal irritation means you've got thrush

Truth: While it certainly might mean you have thrush, irritation, alongside an unusual discharge or unpleasant odor around your most intimate areas could actually be bacterial vaginosis (BV). Twice as prevalent as thrush—but very rarely recognized—BV occurs when your vaginal pH becomes unbalanced and bacteria can flourish in your vagina. BV is more common than you may think, and unprotected sex, periods, hormonal changes, and stress can all be very common triggers.

Recognizing the difference between thrush and BV can save you a whole lot of discomfort and hassle. Thrush is a yeast infection that can cause itching, soreness, and redness. Some people may also experience a white, lumpy discharge (often likened in appearance to cottage cheese), but thrush doesn't commonly produce any sort of unusual odor. In comparison, BV symptoms often include itching as well as excessive discharge (usually watery or gray-ish) that has a distinctly "fishy" odor. Once you're able to spot when you're suffering from BV, you'll be able to treat the condition far quicker and more effectively. 

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Myth: It's important to keep your vaginal area really, really clean.

Truth: Contrary to popular belief, a fresh, healthy vagina isn't one that's been scrubbed and soaped up with harsh products every day. Remember: Vaginas aren't supposed to smell like a tropical, fruity cocktail!

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"Your vagina is a self-cleaning machine, and it will have a natural odor that's likely to be familiar to you," explains Dr Brooke Vandermolen, Obstetrics and Gynaecology doctor and co-founder of The Birth Collective. And discharge? That's nothing to be frightened of either. "Discharge is a very normal part of the vagina's cleaning process: It washes away potential infections and prevents the walls of the vagina rubbing together and becoming sore," she adds.

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Dr. Vandermolen also advises against the use of harsh washes or soaps that can disturb your vagina's natural pH balance (a slightly acidic range somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5) and trigger an imbalance of the "good" and "harmful" bacteria within your vagina (a known cause of BV). "Whatever you do, avoid using perfumed soaps, gels, and antiseptics on the area," she warns. "Instead, use plain, unperfumed soaps to wash around the vulva—never inside."

So, step away from those fragranced body washes. Your vagina will thank you for it.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.

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