Women have recently been told to ignore against the bizarre trend of using a cucumber to clean their vaginas with experts warning it raises the risk of infections.
And for years many women have believed slapping yoghurt on their vagina could help cure a yeast infection.
Recent research has also revealed fears over the look and smell of their genitals are even preventing women from attending smear tests.
Now New York-based gynaecologist Alyssa Dweck, author of The Complete A to Z for your V’ has spoken to Insider to debunk the myths about vaginas that are actually harmful to health.
Having hang ups about our intimate parts seems common for women (stock image)
MEN SHOULD STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT THE SMELL OF WOMEN’S VAGINAS
Dr Jen Gunter, a prominent critic of Gwyneth Paltrow’s controversial Goop website, hit out at men who complain about the natural smell of their partner’s genitals in October.
The Canadian gynecologist described it as a ‘form of abuse’ writing in her blog newsletter.
She revealed she once dumped a boyfriend for complaining about the smell of her genitals.
Dr Gunter urged women not to feel ashamed and feel they have to resort to buying harmful products that create artificial odours.
She said they upset the vagina’s natural pH balance and leave you at a greater risk of infections like gonorrhoea and even HIV.
Myth 1: You do not need to use feminine hygiene products
The likes of perfumed douches, washes and wipes are not necessary and can be damaging to the vagina, according to Dr Dweck.
Indeed, that vaginas are inherently dirty is the number one fallacy in her view.
‘I hope that in my lifetime we can really break the myth that the vagina is a gross place,’ she said.
She says it’s a belief that the makers of feminine hygiene products have exploited – when the vagina is in fact self cleaning.
Such products can upset the natural balance of your microbes down there and can cause irritation and itching. They also raise the chances of a yeast and bacterial infections.
Dr Dweck says good old-fashioned mild soap and warm water is enough to keep the vagina clean.
Myth 2: Yoghurt will cure a yeast infection
Women have long been told to dab a little live yogurt on their vagina to treat a yeast infection.
Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the genitals and this has long been considered a potential treatment due to it containing friendly bacteria and probiotics.
But as feasible as it sounds, the individual species of lactobacilli in yogurt are very different from those that are good for your vagina, said Dr Dweck.
However, she said unsweetened yogurt might help you manage the symptoms of a yeast infection by cooling it down – but it doesn’t have fungus-fighting powers.
Antifungal medications, from the chemist or your doctor, are an effective way to treat them. Alternatively, it may get better in time without treatment as the vaginal pH improves.
Myth 3: Every itch down there is due to a yeast infection
‘So many women think every single symptom they have in their vagina is a yeast infection when it isn’t,’ said Dr Dweck.
She said vaginal itching can be due to irritation from products, hormonal changes, bacterial vaginosis, public lice or an STD called trichomoniasis.
If your symptoms continue, you should see your GP instead of relying on home remedies.
Myth 4: Tampons can get ‘lost’ inside your body
According to Dr Dweck, technically it isn’t possible to ‘lose’ a tampon as the opening of the cervix is too small to allow a tampon to go through it.
‘However, women often will forget to remove a tampon and it can get lost in the sense that they can’t get it out,’ she explained.
Tampons can’t technically get ‘lost’ inside your body says Dr Dweck (stock image)
You will typically be alerted to you having forgotten to remove a tampon by the resulting bad odour.
Using tampons – particularly if you leave them in for longer than recommended – comes with the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins.
Myth 5: You will have symptoms if you have an STD
Chlamydia is a common STI and is easily passed on during sex. Most people don’t experience any symptoms, so they are unaware they’re infected.
Upwards of 50 per cent of women who have it will have no idea, estimates Dr Dweck.
Other STIs that may not show symptoms include gonorrhea, herpes, trichomoniasis, or HPV often do not manifest symptoms in an infected person. This is why regular STD testing is important.
And in women, certain untreated infections can lead to infertility.
Myth 6: Discharge means there’s something wrong
Vaginal discharge is normal – most women and girls get it, explains Dr Dweck.
It’s a fluid or mucus that keeps the vagina clean and moist, and protects it from infection.
‘Discharge is expected from most women,’ she told Insider. ‘Particularly mid-cycle when they’re ovulating, they’re going to have more discharge — it’s a little slimier and mucusy and clear.
‘Some people also get a little bit of a discharge right before their period and as their period is ending.;
The important thing is noticing what’s normal for you – go to see a doctor if you notice unusual changes.
Myth 7: You can get drunk using an alcohol-soaked tampon
Rumours have circulated the internet that teenagers have used vodka-soaked tampons to get drunk without having alcohol on their breath.
But a tampon likely can’t hold enough alcohol to intoxicate you. Scientists even tested this out in 2014. They soaked different brands of tampons in vodka for 10 minutes and then measured how much was absorbed – just 5-15 milliliters, which is a fraction of a vodka shot.
The message is, don’t try this at home, says Dr Dweck.
Myth 8: You’re abnormal if you can’t orgasm from sex
A quest to experience ‘vaginal orgasms’ can cause women needless anxiety. But if you struggle, then it’s completely the norm, say experts.
Many, if not most, women need clitoral stimulation to reach climax, plenty of research suggests.
Many, if not most, women need clitoral stimulation to reach climax (stock image)
Dr Dweck said it’s important to realise that most of the clitoris is hidden inside of the body.
‘The clitoris is not just the one little spot,’ she explained. She said it also has ‘legs’, called crurae which extend down into the labia minora underneath the skin.
Myth 9: Lots of sex can make your vagina loose
The flexibility of the vagina is impressive – it can stretch to accommodate a penis as well as rather large babies.
But can sex have an effect? It’s a question that’s been debated repeatedly over the years. And if so, is it permanent?
‘Even though the vagina may seem a little tighter in certain instances or looser in certain instances, it is an incredible organ in the sense that it is highly elastic and accommodating,’ Dr Dweck said.
Childbirth on the other hand can permanently change the shape of the vagina.
You can do pelvic floor muscle exercises to strengthen the muscles in your vaginal wall to improve sexual function.
Myth 10: Having an intact hymen means you’re a virgin
The hymen is a thin membrane that surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening.
The concept of ‘virginity’ has long been linked to whether or not this is intact.
The hymen can indeed tear after first time sex, but the notion that it can reveal whether or not a woman has had sex is inaccurate.
But physical activity, medical procedures, or tampon use can also cause this. And some people are born with no hymen.