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Your down-there guide from A to V: GL's spill-all guide to your girly parts

 
Everyone’s got questions about down there. Our, uh, nether regions change every single day making this area harder to figure out than that last level of Angry Birds. Good thing for you, girl, we’ve gathered up tonsa topics from readers who came to us with questions they’re even too embarrassed to ask their best buds. We’ve covered everything from A to V—and in between, so you’ll never have to wonder what the heck is going on down south again.
 
  • A.jpg

    Abnormal Activity

    The numero-uno question on most girl’s minds when it comes to down there is, “Am I normal?” Rest assured that, no matter how foreign your V may seem to you these days, most itches, odd smells and different-looking discharges are indeed typical. But pay attention to any abrupt changes down there and definitely see a doctor if you’re ever in major pain or you sense that something’s just not right. (Keep reading for more deets on other warning signs.)

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    Bikini bumps

    No, that huge red, zit-looking bump isn’t cancer. Phew! Mostly likely, it’s an ingrown hair. After your shower, treat it once a day with Tend Skin. Have a rash-like irritation? You could have an allergic reaction, inflamed oil glands or some other skin condition that may need treatment. “Don’t pick at it or scratch!” says Dr. Melissa Holmes, a gynecologist in South Carolina and co-founder of Girlology.com. A doc can help you ditch that itch.

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    Cramps

    Cramps are a pain, literally. There are three different times in a cycle when chicas may get those aches. Right before your period starts, your hormones can go haywire and your uterus can clench up a lil’ bit. Then during your period, blood clots might hurt you when they squeeze through your cervix. And two weeks into your cycle, you might get achy when your ovary releases an egg. “This is all normal pain, and an anti-inflammatory like Advil or Ibuprofen should help,” says Dr. Kelly Kasper, a gynecologist in Indiana. Stretching your abs and working out are other great ways to conquer cramps.

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    Discharge

    Every chica gets discharge when she goes through puberty. It’s your body’s way of cleaning itself out, and it usually starts six month to a year before you get your first period. The amount varies based on your hormone levels and where you are in your cycle. Some girlies like to wear pantyliners on heavy days. A healthy discharge white, clear, or sometimes light yellow when dried. “If it has a bad odor, if it is green or bubbly grey, if itching doesn’t go away, or pain and burning, you should see your doc,” says Dr. Kasper.

  • E.jpg

    Eau de you

    Reality check: No one’s vagina smells like roses. A little body odor is totally normal, but pay attention is something smells a bit fishy or otherwise foul down there.  “Most likely, the smell comes from sweat,” says Dr. Randi Protter, medical director at the Center for Women’s Health in New Jersey. If ya notice that you smell more after working out, you can use a little bit of deodorant in the area where your leg meets your outer lips (just avoid feminine deodorant sprays, which can irritate your vagina). Leaving in a tampon for too long or an infection can also cause a stink. If he smell is really bed, or if your discharge has a funky odor, book an appointment with your doc.

  • F.jpg

    Funky folds

    Ever sneak a peek down there? Then you probably noticed that your vagina isn’t quite the tidy little package it’s often portrayed to be (thanks airbrushed nudie mags). That’s because no one vag is the same. There are folds of skin—also known as your labia or lips—that can have lots of different shapes, colors and sizes. “A lot of girls’ labia minoras aren’t symmetrical on the left and the right, and it’s not a medical problem at all,” says Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a gynecologist in New York and author of V is for Vagina. So whether your lips are tan, grey, flesh-colored, light pink or bright pink, you’re A-OK. Just keep an eye out for any dark freckles, which should be checked to rule out melanoma.

  • G.jpg

    Gas attacks

    It’s 3 p.m. And you’re gassy…again. Yep, gas is embarrassing. But it’s also pretty normal—and there are ways to temper those toots. “The type of food you eat makes a big difference,” says Dr. Protter. Foods like beans or cabbage are especially gas-inducing, as is chewing gum and drinking soda since they increase the amount of air you swallow. Eliminating this stuff from your diet may help, as does trying a chewable tablet called Beano can help you digest beans, and Lactaid can help you digest milk. If you are suddenly having a lot of gas, diarrhea or losing weight, speak with your doc.

  • H.jpg

    Hair 411

    What’s the point of pubic hair, you ask? The coarse, dark, and often curly hair that appears during puberty serves a very important purpose: To block bacteria from entering your vagina. Everyone’s hair down there is different, in color, length, texture and even location. Whether you want to trim it up or keep things au naturel is up to you. (If you choose to prune your pubes, see “Keeping it Clean”).

  • I.jpg

    Itchy sitches

    A little itch around your vagina is completely common, but if yours just won’t go away, you may be having an allergic reaction or suffering from dry skin. If the area becomes painful to touch, or if it is accompanied by odor or unusual discharge, see your doc. Otherwise, ditch that itch by washing down there daily with a non-scented soap like Dove, especially after you exercise. Take a break from thongs and skinny jeans whenever you can, and try to find out if you have any allergies. “Think about everything that touches your skin down there, figure out what’s causing it and get rid of it,” said Dr. Dweck. 
  • J.jpg

    (Va) Jay-Jay probs

    Thinking something’s a little off down there? We can’t stress it enough: Do not ignore any pain, funky smells, or oddly colored discharge (see sidebar for a breakdown of three major ailments most girls suffer from). Doctors see this stuff all the time, so there’s no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. And besides, nipping these probs in the bud early on may save you from a boatload of issues down the road. Your va-jay-jay will thank you for it. 

  • K.jpg

    Keepin’ things under control

    From shaving to waxing, you’ve got lots of options when it comes to cleaning up the hair down there. “It’s totally normal to want to remove hair. Most girls don’t want any out-of-bounds hair when wearing a bathing suit,” says Dr. Holmes. If you opt to shave? Wash the area gently with soap and water then grab a clean razor, lather up with shaving cream, and go with the grain of the hair. Don’t shave everything, because your hair protects your skin from irritation from sweat and oil. 

  • L.jpg

    Late bloomin’ bod

    The only one of your friends who hasn’t gotten her period? We promise, it’s on the way! The timetable for your first period is different for everyone, and usually reflects the age when your mom or older sisters started theirs. “The age where we start to get concerned if you don’t have your period is 16,” says Dr. Dweck. If Aunt Flo hasn’t visited by then, go in for a check up. Having a very lean body due to sports like gymnastics (or issues like an eating disorder) can be a possible cause for the delay.

  • M.jpg

    Majora what?

    Someone a while back came up with some funny-sounding labels for our girly parts. If ya need a quick cheat sheet for your V’s exterior, here goes: First, there’s the labia majora (outer lips), the labia minora (inner lips), which are there to block icky bacteria from entering the vagina. Beyond that is the clitoris (a small, super sensitive organ), the urethral opening (where your pee comes out) and, finally, your vaginal opening. Got it? Good!

  • N.jpg

    Non-Stop Flow

    Aunt Flo’s come to town and she just won’t leave ya alone? Heavy periods can be common, but if yours last longer than seven days, or are so heavy that you’re switching your tampons and pads like crazy, see a doc. You may just be genetically inclined to have heavy periods (thanks, mom!), but a medical pro can make sure that your hormone levels are OK—and that all of that bleeding isn’t sapping your iron levels.

  • O.jpg

    Off schedule

    So ya finished your period at the end of the month. But two weeks later, a little blood is showing up on your undies. What’s up with that? While it’s prob not anything serious at your age, you should still see a doc to find out for sure. “Some people may have a little bit of staining when they ovulate, but it’s not usual to have bleeding in the middle of the cycle,” says Dr. Dweck.

  • P.jpg

    Painful pees

    Peeing should not hurt. Period. So if you’re in pain while you pee (or just after), if you have to go more often than usual, or if you see blood in your urine, you may have a bladder infection, also called a urinary tract infection (or UTI). “This kind of infection requires treatment with antibiotics,” says Dr. Protter. Treat this sitch quickly or it can get super painful, super fast. A doc will have you pee in a cup and give you antibiotics that will help ya out in one or two days.

  • Q.jpg
    Questions, questions
    So, you've got a super embarrassing Q you're dying to ask someone...except the only person around is Dad or Grandma Sue. So. Not. Happening. What's a girl to do? Well, if you really want to see Dad run for the hills, you can ask him--and if he's got the answer, we give him major parenting props! But your best bet is to find another gal you can trust--someone who won't laugh, blab or tell ya the wrong thing (um, that means the bud who's always yankin' your chain is O-U-T, out). Pick a lady who's been there, done that and lived to tell the tale. If you can't ask Mom, chat up a cool aunt, a friend's totally chill mother or another adult you can trust, like a friend of the family, a god parent or your school nurse. And if all else fails--or we're you're number-one choice, obvi--you can always count on GL to dish the right advice when ya need it most.
  • R.jpg

    Rear reactions

    Your vagina’s not the only mystery down there. You may be having some issues on the other side, too. The number one concern for girls? Pain while pooping, and blood on the toilet paper after you wipe. If this is happening to you, don’t freak. Chances are, you have a tiny tear inside your bum, usually a result of straining while you poop (amping up the fiber in your diet and sitting in a warm tub for 15 minutes a day can ease your pain). Hemorrhoids—swollen veins in the anal canal—are also a possibility. But before you reach for over the counter solutions, sched some time to see your doc. 

  • S.jpg

    Snow way

    You can get dry skin allover your body—including around your vagina. As a result, you may notice dandruff-like flakes down there (which may also be caused by irritation from shaving, dried discharge, a yeast infection or even a skin condition called psoriasis). If you’ve got a flaky situation, “try switching to a gentle soap and keep the area clean and dry,” suggests Tamara Walker, a nurse in Oklahoma who hosts the Ask MomRN Show. (Whatever you do, definitely avoid anti-dandruff shampoo, which is way harsh). Switching to laundry detergent made for sensitive skin may help, too.

  • T.jpg

    Tampon troubles

    Feelin’ some pain is common when you’re learning how to use a tampon, but continuous discomfort probably means you’ve inserted it at a weird angle or not far in enough. “You shouldn’t be able to feel it at all when it is up there,” says Dr. Kasper. It may help to use handheld mirror as you’re inserting in the right place—and to get familiar with your V. If you’re still in pain, see a doc to make sure an infection isn’t making your tissue more sensitive.  

  • U.jpg

    Uh oh, camel toe!

    We’ve probably all been a victim of this oh-so-awkward front wedgie. Wearing too-tight clothes hugs the fatty tissue around your vagina, causing camel toe. The good news? You’re probably more aware of it than anyone else. But if you see a noticeable bulge on the inside of your vagina, it could be a glandular issue that a doc can take care of.

  • V.jpg

    (The Other) V-Word

    That would be virgin, natch. And contrary to common belief, you will remain one until you have sex—regardless of whether your hymen breaks another way. The hymen, a thin membrane that partially covers your vaginal opening, is easily ruptured by anything to riding a bike to inserting a tampon. And chances are, you won’t even realize it ever happened. “Yes, [you can break your hymen] from sex, sports or any sort of trauma to the area, but you don’t always bleed when it breaks,” said Dr. Dweck.


 

BY LAURA GREENBACK ON 2/11/2013 12:00:00 AM

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