Looking into your vagina can help you understand your body better. As everyone’s vagina and vulva look different, you can only figure out what your genitals look like by observing them with your eyes, and by feeling them with your hands. Learn about yourself, your vulva and vagina. See for yourself that there’s nothing sacred or unclean in your body and identify any changes or abnormalities. Break the taboo that inhibits you from exploring your own genitals.
Say hi to your vagina once a month
✔️ When and how often to do a self-exam
- Once a month
- On a fixed day every month, when you are not menstruating
Set a date to perform a self-exam to identify any changes compared to the previous time. We recommend setting a date in between menstruations to avoid bloodstains or infection.
✔️ Step 1. Prepare yourself
- Get familiar with the different components of the genitals
- Relax your mind and body in a comfortable environment
You may find it uncomfortable to see or touch your genitals due to the social taboos you have internalized. Give yourself enough time to try it in a comfortable and private space. If you need preparation, you can search for some medical articles to learn about the anatomy of genitals in advance.
✔️ Step 2. Look at it and feel it
1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Trim your nails to prevent any scrapes. You could wear latex gloves if preferred.
2. Take off your bottoms or change them for a wide skirt and remove your underwear to expose your vulva.
3. Sit against a wall with your back propped up by pillows and bend your knees. Your heels should point toward your buttocks, and your toes should extend outward.
4. Spread your legs when you are ready. Hold a hand mirror out where you can see the reflection of your vulva in it. You may use a flashlight to see it better.
🔎 Examining the vulva
(Image) Look at it / Feel it with your hands / Squeeze the skin gently
5. Check the inner and outer labia for any small cuts, ulcers, lumps, or changes in color. See if there are any unusual signs.
6. Spread the inner labia carefully to inspect the clitoris, urethral opening, and vaginal opening. Examine the skin throughout all these areas for any problems. If you cannot figure out where these are, read the article Female External Genitalia (Vulva) for information. Gently squeeze the skin around the vaginal opening to see whether there is any unusual pain, swelling, or discharge.
👆 Exploring the vagina
(Image) Clitoris / Outer labia / Inner labia / Urethra / Vaginal opening / Anus
7. Insert one finger into your vaginal opening. You will feel the flexible vaginal folds. Gently push along the vaginal wall until you reach the cervix at the end of the vagina. Check for any sores, unusual growths, or lumps like ulcers.
8. Slide half of your finger out and tighten your pelvis, trying to squeeze around the finger with your vagina. You will feel your pelvic floor muscles. See if there is a difference in strength compared to the last self-exam.
9. When you finish examining the vagina, gently remove your finger. Then, look at your vaginal discharge on the finger. Check for any unusual color (yellow or green) or foul odor.
10. When you are done, wash your hands, sit comfortably, and note what you have seen during the examination.
✔️ Step 3. Review the results
Performing a self-exam is a good way to get familiar with what your vagina looks like and identify any obvious symptoms of a problem. However, it is under no circumstances a substitute for a gynecological checkup. If you notice any unusual signs, as shown below, seek medical advice.
You see any sores, spots, ulcers, or lumps
You feel itchy when you touch the vulva
You feel any sores, unusual growths, or ulcer-like lumps inside the vagina
Your vaginal discharge has an unusual color (yellow or green) or a foul odor
You notice anything else unusual or experience discomfort
- You can get to know your body and dismiss vague fears through a vaginal self-exam
- Don’t hesitate to seek professional help when you notice anything unusual
- Pro Tip
- Your vagina is not the same as anyone else’s.
- And it is totally normal!
- by Suzy Elneil, a gynecologist in the UK
- Things to keep in mind
- As vaginas vary in shape and color, it is desirable to set your own standard for what your vagina looks like when it is healthy
- Never put off your regular gynecological checkup just because you didn’t find anything unusual in a self-exam