Hoo-ha, honeypot, juju, Mrs Jones, lily, mini, fanny, foof, and the list continues. As original as many of these little pseudonyms are, why do we still find it so difficult to call a spade a spade (or in this case, a vagina by its proper name?)

At the same time – and lamentably so – feminine health and wellness is a topic that still gets treated with a sense of hush-hush. Is there a reason we keep tip-toeing around something that affects over half of the world’s population?

According to Odette van Oudshoorn of ACG Clinic, this is a question she regularly asks her clients – both young and old. The most common answer, she explains, is that it simply isn’t something that’s discussed around the dinner table. Also, it’s still regarded as a subject matter that’s not easy to broach. Not only do women feel awkward discussing it, but as individuals, they feel as though they would be the only one with a “problem” or they might be falling outside of the norm.

Which begs the question, what exactly is the norm when it comes to the vagina, and how do we measure it?

Before we get into the rejuvenation of vaginas and all that entails, perhaps it’s important to establish a solid foundation of truth regarding womanhood’s most intimate organ and clear out a few long-standing myths:

  • There is no one right ‘shape’ to the vulva. One lip of the vulva may be longer or larger than the other – as is often the case with breasts – and this is normal
  • It’s normal for vaginas to have a scent, and it’s not supposed to remind you of roses
  • You don’t need to douche to have a clean vagina. In fact, this can unbalance the vaginal flora. Just some clean water and non-fragranced soap will do the job
  • It’s not more hygienic to wax your vaginal area. This is a purely personal preference
  • It’s important to exercise your vagina. Kegel exercises focus on the muscles in and around your pelvic floor, which need to be strengthened like any other muscle group. Click on this link to find out how you can do this and what the benefits are.

So where do these ideas and preconceived notions come from?

Odette attributes some of it to the way we are brought up, as well as cultural values and our religious upbringing. “The way our parents handled questions when we were young and asked things out of sheer curiosity.”

She also blames the influence of social media and exposure to pornography. It’s important to know that vaginas regularly featured in pornography are often the result of cosmetic surgery. And the recent uptick in labiaplasty procedures clearly points to this having an effect on women’s perspective of what they should look like down there. This is often done to achieve a more youthful-looking, ‘tidy’ appearance. And while there is nothing wrong with deciding to have plastic surgery for your vaginal area. You should be cognizant that as long as your vagina is healthy and functions properly, there is no need to make invasive changes.

Dr Anushka Reddy – founder of Vivari Hotel and Medisculpt Clinic – agrees that the media has a big role to play in this regard. “[Because they] portray that women are supposed to look a certain way, it’s difficult for women to discuss if they feel embarrassed or ashamed that they may not be normal or look the way they should. This is a misconception, and awareness is important in helping women realise that we come in all shapes and sizes.”

Click on this link to find out how you can improve your intimate hygiene in 2021 and have a happier, healthier vagina overall.

Medical journal data indicates that 40% of women experience sexual problems.

That’s profound.  Some of the most common problems women experience are the result of childbirth, aging, or menopause.

“Pregnancy causes many changes in the body,” says Odette. “One of the focus points are the hormone changes, amongst a myriad of changes. One of the changes experienced is the fact that ligaments soften preparing the body for childbirth, which is one of the areas I focus on.”

Understanding your nether regions

Due to the taboo surrounding the vagina and its various parts, many women don’t know their own anatomy or how to take care of it properly. Naturally, many women are unaware of the role of the pelvic floor and its role in supporting your inner organs. Let’s dive into it.

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The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone at the front, to the coccyx (tailbone) at the back and from one ischial tuberosity (sitting bone) to the other (side to side). A female’s pelvic floor muscles support her bladder, bowel, and uterus (womb).

“Clients tell me that after childbirth, they have problems when they laugh or cough. [For example] they have urine leakage that they have no control over. I explain to them that this kind of stress incontinence can be caused by a weakened pelvic floor. [This is often] due to hormonal changes during pregnancy and should improve when their body changes back to its pre-pregnancy state.

Why you should exercise your vagina

Like any other muscle group, your vaginal and pelvic floor muscles need to be strengthened and trained to function optimally. Exercises that can help to tone and tighten your vagina are called Kegel exercises. This can also help prevent urine leaking (incontinence) and can help your vagina feel firmer. Kegels can also help improve orgasms and sexual function. Even if you’ve never done Kegels in your life, it’s never too late to start. It can still make a difference to your pelvic floor.

How to do your Kegels:

You can do pelvic floor exercises anywhere and at any time, either sitting or standing up:

1. Squeeze and draw in your anus at the same time. Close up and draw your vagina upwards. Imagine you have a straw in your vagina and you’re trying to draw up liquid by squeezing your muscles upwards

2. Do it quickly, tightening and releasing the muscles immediately

3. Then do it slowly, holding the contractions for as long as you can, but no more than 10 seconds, before you relax

  • Repeat each exercise 10 times, 4 to 6 times a day
  • You may find it helps to imagine you’re stopping a bowel movement, holding in a tampon, or stopping yourself from urinating
  • You could fit the exercises in while washing up, queuing in the supermarket, watching TV, or waiting for the light to change

How does giving birth change the vagina?

It’s a fact that vaginal delivery puts a strain on the vagina and the muscles supporting the uterus. Luckily, this is one of the functions that the organ was designed for.

“I use literature written by Dr. Suzy Elneil from the urogynaecology unit at  University College Hospital in London. The pelvic floor issue is not just about the vagina, but about the bladder as well.”

The following changes can be expected initially:

  • the vagina might look wider than it did before
  • the vagina can feel looser, softer, and more ‘open’
  • it may also look and feel bruised or swollen

This is normal, and the swelling and openness should start to reduce a few days after your baby’s birth.

So, while it may not completely return to its pre-birth shape, this shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re worried, talk to your gynaecologist.

Dryness in the vagina

Odette explains that it’s normal for the vagina to feel drier than usual after childbirth. This is linked to lower levels of estrogen in your body compared to when you were pregnant.

For breastfeeding mothers, levels of estrogen are lower than in those who aren’t breastfeeding. Also, the dryness can be more marked. Once you stop breastfeeding and your periods have returned, the levels of estrogen revert to pre-pregnancy levels. If you have noticed dryness, it should improve.

Lubrication can make a big difference to dryness once you start having sex again. You can buy good-quality lubricants in pharmacies, supermarkets, or online. However, if dryness remains a problem, talk to your doctor. Remember that there’s no right or wrong time to start having sex again after you have had a baby. Don’t rush into it. If sex hurts, it won’t be pleasurable.

Furthermore, it’s not unusual to feel less like having sex than you used to. You have given birth. You’re looking after a tiny baby. And you’re probably feeling very tired. Give yourself time.

So where does vaginal rejuvenation come in?

The majority of women find the option of vaginal rejuvenation when they start noticing sexual problems like dryness, loss of sexual sensation or a visual change in their labia. That being said, there are several options that women can choose from. There are non-surgical, non-invasive intervention options and then there are the more invasive surgical options.

Vaginoplasty is plastic surgery for the vagina

This is performed by a specialist and is done to strengthen the vaginal muscles. The procedure can be undertaken as a medically required reconstructive surgery or an elective cosmetic surgery. Reconstructive surgery is judged to be a medical necessity. Because the vaginal canal or its structures are damaged or absent.

This is usually due to either a congenital cause such as:

  • a deformed vagina
  • absent vagina or
  • a non-functioning vagina,
  • reconstruction after radical cancer surgery or physical trauma.

This procedure can take between one to two hours to perform. The result is a tighter, restructured vagina that will ideally provide more friction and better pleasure during sex.

Labiaplasty is a surgery to reshape the lips

This is an option for women who feel their labia is uneven or too long. This issue can often cause discomfort during sex.

Laser therapy is a medical procedure. One of them is fractional CO2 (carbon dioxide) laser energy directed at the soft tissues in the vagina. This kind of surgery is not as invasive as vaginoplasty or labiaplasty surgery. However, it is a medical, surgically invasive treatment for vaginal rejuvenation with downtime for healing. By acting on the tissue of the vaginal mucosa, the laser stimulates the production of collagen. This improves the functionality of the treated area and restores the proper trophic balance to the mucous membrane.

Another method of vaginal rejuvenation is the non-invasive route

Global Reports report a 93% satisfaction rating for non-invasive vagina rejuvenation. Technology has vastly improved over the years, is also backed up with clinical data and not only with anecdotal data, which cannot be discounted as it is the personal opinion of the experience of the end-user. If a woman is considering vaginal rejuvenation, then exploring a non-surgical route is a good option to start with. Laser treatment with Exilis Ultra Femme 360 can be an extremely effective non-surgical treatment.

Vaginal rejuvenation is essentially a facelift for the vulva and vagina. It often combines a tightening of the vaginal wall, specifically at the entry point to the vagina, and labial tightening to improve its outer appearance for a refreshed look and feel.

What does this laser treatment entail?

Exilis ULTRA Femme is the only technology of its kind providing complete vaginal rejuvenation including labial remodeling and vaginal tightening with a single device.

The procedure:

  • tightens and raises the labia
  • decreases the diameter of the introitus (vaginal opening) and the vaginal canal
  • improves natural lubrication
  • improves sensation, and
  • can make orgasm easier to reach.

Many patients also experience an improvement in stress incontinence from the treatment. ULTRA Femme 360 causes no pain or discomfort, requires no anesthesia and has no downtime. It uses the body’s natural processes to stimulate collagen production and restore the vaginal and vulvar areas to a more youthful state.

According to initial results, 80% of tested subjects noted an improvement in the appearance of the area as moderate to excellent.

There are also injectable treatments available

According to Dr Reddy, injectables such as the O-Shot can also help to improve these conditions. PRP (platelet-rich plasma) – which is spun off from the client’s blood is injected into the vaginal tissues. This stimulates the regeneration of the tissues and promotes sensitivity and overall vaginal health. Patients can also opt for a treatment known as the G-Shot. This is a popular procedure where hyaluronic acid is injected into the G-spot to increase sexual gratification and sensitivity by enlarging the area for easier stimulation.

All the treatments mentioned above are effective treatments. However, these should be discussed with the patient’s doctor. It’s important to note that only the healthcare practitioner is able to assess what kind of procedure should be administered.

“I have stressed to my clients that as they make inquiries about the different options, it’s not just about sexual or aesthetic issues,” says Odette. “Above all, it’s about female health. Before I start with any treatment, I ask my client when she last had a pelvic examination and when her last pap smear was.  The recommendation is to have had a full gynae check-up within the last year and a clear pap smear. My passion has always been with female health and my background within the Pharmaceutical Industry allowed me to be involved in various aspects of Patient Education, particularly in Female Health.”

What are the benefits of vaginal rejuvenation procedures?

  • Plumping of labia majora
  • Lifting and firming of labia minora
  • Tightening of introitus (vaginal opening)
  • Vaginal canal tightening
  • Tightening of perineum
  • Increased blood flow to the clitoris
  • Increased sensitivity & improved orgasm
  • Improvement in stress incontinence

Sexuality is an important component in the lives of women from the onset of sexual maturity, throughout and beyond menopause.

As stated in a clinical paper written by authors Kimberley Thornton, Judi Chervenak, and Genevieve Neal-Perry, the addition of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction in combination with longer life expectancy has impacted attitudes and expectations to maintain sexual functioning.

Despite the importance of sexual function in menopausal women, sexual dysfunction increases with age. Age-related declines in sexual function may significantly reduce the quality of life, making recognition of sexual dysfunction by physicians important for getting menopausal women effective care.

Sexual dysfunction can result from multiple causes including psychosocial factors, medication side effects, vulvovaginal atrophy, chronic illness, or hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). Discovering the causes and identifying them in their role of sexual function will help define appropriate treatment.

Johane du Toit

Johane du Toit

Johané du Toit is the Health Writer at Longevity Magazine. With an Honours degree in journalism from the North-West University at Potchefstroom, she has a keen interest in medical and scientific innovations and aspires to provide the public with the latest reliable news in the fields of medicine, fitness, wellness, and science. Johane is happiest outdoors, preferably near a large body of water or in the mountains, and loves waterskiing, cooking, travelling and reading.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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