At Jean Hailes we are passionate about encouraging women to talk about their health. So with the release of our new information booklet, The vulva: irritation, diagnosis & treatment, there's no better time to start a conversation about what can be a tricky topic for some women. And we think there's no better person to kickstart the conversation* than our own Jean Hailes Ambassador, Melbourne comedian and health advocate, Nelly Thomas.
*Colourful yet educational. Trust us.
By Nelly Thomas
Comedian and Ambassador for Jean Hailes for Women's Health
First things first – you probably call your vulva your vagina. Don't fret; most of us do. As far as I'm concerned, if you're not calling it your 'front bottom' or 'foo-foo' (thanks Nanna), you're well ahead.
Suffice to say, the vulva is basically the outside part – what you see between your legs – whereas the vagina is actually the internal tube that connects the vulva to your other lady bits. In this article I'll use slang terms for both because I'm a comedian and they're funny.
So let's talk Honey Pot health.
In short: all aspects of your Pootananny need attending to regularly to maintain optimum health.
Let's start with the outside. I know a lot of ladies these days seem to worry about the appearance of their Chuff (found that one on Google). Porn and other things have given us a very skewed idea of what a 'normal' labia minora and majora look like. Let me clarify: there are no normal Double Doors. The labs are there to keep your Hoo-Ha clean and safe, not to get a modelling contract.
(As an aside, have you seen testicles lately? Bless, but they're hardly likely to end up on the cover of Vogue any time soon. Genitals are not meant to look good, they're meant to feel great).
And they're all different. Some stick out, some slink in, some are long, some are short and pretty much all are different colours. If you doubt the diversity of the appearance of the Cave of Wonders, just pop along to MONA and check out the big wall of Penis Fly Trap (not its real name, I'm not allowed to swear too much).
Not a single Vag looks the same as the next, and as far as I'm concerned, if your Juice Box is healthy, then stop worrying about what it looks like and just enjoy it.
How do we keep it healthy? According to the specialist clinicians at Jean Hailes, three simple things, really:
1. Keep it clean
Nothing worse than feeling like your Fanny needs a spit and polish (I'm so sorry for using that expression in this context). Nothing special to mention here; if you're having regular showers and wiping front to back, you're good.
2. Do your tests
Yeah, I know Pap smears (cervical screening tests), STI and other tests are about as fun as having your Hairy Crumpet waxed (or not), but on the upside, they can keep you alive! Pretty good trade-off. STI tests are pretty simple these days – most just involve weeing in a cup – and the frequency and type of cervical screening tests are changing later in the year, so talk to your doctor about when you need one.
If you've never had a Pap smear, please don't be put off by a doctor having to look at your Panty Hamster – they literally look at 100s or 1000s a year and I hate to disappoint you, but yours isn't going to be special.
If you've never had an STI test, add it to your bucket list. Somewhere below 'Sky Diving' and 'Washing Elephants in Thailand'. Information is power: if you know, you can treat.
3. Get professional help if you notice any changes
Some changes in the Love Garden are common and to be expected, but if you notice abnormal bleeding, pain, an unusual odour or any other change Downstairs, don't try to self-diagnose or treat yourself – go see a medical professional (note that a 'medical professional' doesn't include Aunty Faye or your waxer).
Not many people like to talk about their Vaginator more than me, but doctors are mad for it! The team at Jean Hailes talk Vag all day, and aren't frightened of a bit of Minge talk, either. If you do ever come across a health professional who shows any discomfort with such a subject, you need a new health professional. Immediately.
But seriously folks, your Vertical Smile is critical to your sexual, physical and mental health and gone are the days when the subject was swept under the Furry Carpet.
We are so lucky that we have access to healthcare for our Lady Bits. Please use it.