3 Reasons Why You Should Look At Your Vulva (ITR Physical Therapy) 

June 19, 2023

If you’re a woman, when was the last time you looked at your vulva?

This might sound like a strange question, but in talking to my female patients, I’ve discovered that women most don’t perform vulvar self-examinations often enough…if at all! (By the way, many people use the terms vulva and vagina interchangeably. In actuality, they are two completely different areas of the female’s body. The vulva is the external genitalia including the labia majora, labia minora, and clitoral hood, clitoris, urethral opening, and vaginal opening. While the vagina is the muscular canal leading from the external genital, the vulva, to the uterus.) And while most of us have heard about the importance of monthly breast self-examinations, monthly vulvar self-examinations just aren’t discussed as much in the public health setting.

The good news is, monthly vulvar examinations are simple to do—plus, they offer plenty of important benefits to women. Here are three reasons why looking at your vulva should be a regular part of your self-care:

1. Learn What’s “Normal” for You

Like the other parts of your body, your vulva is unique. By routinely examining your vulva with your eyes and clean hands, you’ll be able to learn what looks and feels normal for you “down there.” Not only can this help you gain confidence, but it can also help you recognize any changes or concerns and prompt you to reach out to a health care provider more quickly.

2. Become More Comfortable With This Part of Your Body

Many of us carry around strong emotions regarding our genitalia, like shame, embarrassment, or guilt. Vulvar self-examinations may help ease some of those tensions by removing some of the “mystery” surrounding this intimate area of your body—which can benefit not only your sexual health but also your emotional and psychological well-being, too.
Note: if you have a history of sexual trauma or are concerned about your mental health, please reach out to a licensed mental health professional for support.

3. Ensure You’re Using Feminine Hygiene and Grooming Products Correctly

Shaving, waxing, inserting a tampon or menstrual cup, or learning to use a pessary or other vaginal devices aren’t always easy when you can’t see directly what you’re doing! Using a mirror can help you perform these hygiene or grooming techniques correctly, check your technique, and minimize your risk of mistakes.

By the way: Looking at your vulva while doing pelvic floor exercises may help you better connect to the feeling of these muscles contracting and relaxing. (maybe link earlier blog on how to kegel?)

How to Look At Your Vulva: Tips From a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist

As a reminder, the vulva is the outer part of the female genitalia, including the labia majora, labia minor, clitoral hood, clitoris, urethra, and vaginal opening. During vulvar self-examinations, I also encourage women to look at all surrounding anatomical structures as well, including the pubic hair, groin, and anus. Here’s how to conduct a vulvar self-examination in the comfort of your own home:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap.
  2. Gather up your supplies: you’ll need a mirror (ideally hand-held if you have one) and a comfortable, brightly lit place to sit or lie back. You can also try standing with one foot propped up on a stool, chair, or bed.
  3. Spend at least a few minutes looking at and feeling different parts of your vulva.
    Feel and look for things like:
    1. New moles, lumps, warts, sores, or other growths
    2. Changes in the color, feel, and/or texture of your skin
    3. Areas that are painful, itchy, or otherwise uncomfortable
    4. Vaginal discharge, being sure to note its color, texture, and odor

The National Vulvodynia Association recommends performing vulvar self-exams around the same time every month between menstrual periods. You may also want to look at your vulva at different times of the month, too, since you might observe normal subtle changes depending on where you are in your cycle.

Do you have a women’s health concern?

At ITR Physical Therapy, our experienced physical therapists specialize in the management of a wide range of women’s health conditions, including vulvodynia and pelvic floor dysfunction. Contact us today at 301-770-7060 to schedule an appointment with a pelvic floor physical therapist in Bethesda, MD or McLean, VA.

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