** WARNING ** This post talks about some important things involving body parts (specifically, the vulva). If you’re not interested or body parts are not your thing, just scroll on by.
At the time of this post, I’m 42. I have a 5 year old and an almost 7 year old. When I was growing up I didn’t realize it, but my family wasn’t really one of those ‘let’s talk about all of the things’ families. I thought we were, but experience has taught me that it was mostly a façade. I want to be better.
I was well into my 30’s when I discovered that the body part I thought my entire life was a vagina – was actually a vulva. Learning this pretty much blew my mind because how could I possibly be in my 30s and not even know the proper name of MY OWN BODY PARTS. No one had taught me otherwise, it was rarely talked about, and when it was, it was referred to as a vagina. WRONG! It is not a vagina! The insides are (it’s the passage that connects the uterus to the outside of your body), but the genitals on the outside are the vulva (this includes the mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, vestibular bulbs, vulva vestibule, Bartholin’s glands, Skene’s glands, urethra, and vaginal opening). Not a vagina. Vulva.
Now back to not talking about body parts and I cannot stress this enough – PLEASE TALK ABOUT BODIES. Remove the stigma surrounding simple discussion.
Why? Because it turns out that my ENTIRE life I’ve had a vaginal septum – that NO ONE mentioned to me despite having pap tests since I was in my late teens. This septum separates my vagina into two parts. Basically it’s a line of tough tissue that runs from top to bottom, and I in essence have TWO vagina. Sometimes this also means you have duplicates of other things (I do not fall into that category) but I didn’t discover that I had a septum until I was having issues getting pregnant and went to a gynecologist to see what was up. The doctor looked at me after a failed attempt at trying to get a camera in there and said “you know you have a septum, right?” because how on earth could I be getting pap tests without anyone letting me know that things are not ‘normal’ down there. I had no idea. No one told me.
A vaginal septum can cause lots of issues. I can’t wear tampons, I can’t wear period cups, you can have issues getting pregnant, periods are all messed up, sex can be painful, etc. You basically can only get in so far and then you hit a wall (the line of tissue that’s in the middle). Now, a pap test (or smear) is where they take a few swabs of the inside and test for various things to make sure you’re all healthy (cancer is a big deal in my family, it’s important to get these tests done). The problem with having a septum #1 is you need TWO swabs, one on each opening, otherwise you’re not actually testing things properly, and #2 it’s PAINFUL and difficult, because they have to get inside each of those openings. Usually by moving that tissue from one side to the other. Which hurts.
Why didn’t any doctors before the age of 35 tell me I had a septum? I have no idea. According to my gyno it should have been very noticeable to anyone who was trying to do a pap smear – and once it was explained to me it just made so much sense.
TALK about bodies. There is nothing wrong or shameful or weird about having open and frank discussions and it is just so very important that you know your own. I don’t want my kids to be in their 30s and not know the proper names for things, or have them discovering important medical information about themselves. Just talk.