Looking at your vulva in the mirror: just do it!

vagina bekijken

Be honest: how well do you know your own vulva? Have you ever used a mirror to look at yourself ‘down there’? Looking at your vulva in the mirror is an excellent idea!

Let me tell you about the birds and the bees

Many children in the Netherlands receive sex education. If not at home, then at school. However, sex education is often focused on reproduction: sex between men and women with a baby as the end goal. The diagrams of female genitalia shown during sex education classes don’t provide a clear picture of what a vulva really looks like. Because of this, we advise every woman to use a mirror to look at their own vulva.

Why look at your own vulva in the mirror?

It’s good to get to know your own body. For things like sexual pleasure, if you’re ready for that, but also if you want to start using tampons. By looking at yourself, you will also realize that every woman looks different (and often very different than what you see in porn films). If you look at your vulva regularly, you’ll also notice any changes. Dr Laura Laursen, a gynaecologist, advises every woman to take a look at her vulva. “It’s important for everyone to know what their body looks like. It is the only way to become and stay healthy.” It’s entirely natural for your vulva to change colour slightly or for a few bumps to show up. “But,” says Laursen, “it is important to look for longer-term changes.”

Looking at your vulva in the mirror: what exactly am I looking at?

Don’t be afraid: it is never too late to start looking at yourself in the mirror. You can, for instance, use a hand mirror while you lay on your bed or sit on the edge of the toilet. You will see a variety of body parts in the mirror. First off, the labia. Every woman has two sets of skin folds, the outer and inner labia, which protect the vaginal opening. The outer labia, the labia on which hair grows, is what you will see when looking at yourself with a mirror. Between your outer labia, you’ll find your inner labia, where no hair grows. Also, despite the name, it is entirely natural for your inner labia to stick out a bit. Remember: everybody is different, so no vulva is the same.

When you open your labia slightly, you’ll see a small part of your clitoris at the top where your labia meet. The part you see, the tip, looks like a small round ball. The skin surrounding it (the hood) can be gently pushed back. Together with your labia, the exit of your urethra, and the vaginal opening, your clitoris forms your vulva.

Vulva or vagina?

The terms vulva and vagina are often mixed up. The vulva is everything you can see on the outside, and the vagina is the internal tube leading from your vulva to your uterus. However, these often get confused, and people say vagina when they are actually referring to the vulva.

Look at your vulva at different moments as well

Dr Laursen advises you to check your vulva at different moments as well. For instance, before, during, or after your period. That way, you will discover how your vulva changes during your cycle.

It is also a good idea to look at your vulva in the mirror while aroused. Your labia and clitoris will swell because of an increase in blood flow. This also happens inside of your body: the internal part of your clitoris has erectile tissue (corpora cavernosa). Just like with the male body, you can see when the female body is aroused.

It’s also a good idea to check your vulva with a mirror if you’re experiencing any changes such as unusual vaginal discharge, dry or red spots, pimples, and other similar complaints. If you now know what your vulva normally looks like, you’ll notice changes more quickly.

Finally, you can look at your vulva while masturbating. If you look closely, you can even see the pulsations when you reach an orgasm. It might be easier to look at your vulva by filming it with your phone and watching the video afterwards. It’s one of your most sensitive spots, but not every woman feels comfortable giving it a closer look. And that’s okay, but you can always try it out, even if it’s just once. Maybe afterwards, you’ll find that you’re feeling more powerful in your femininity.

Sex education for children

Lastly, a few words about sex education as discussed before: a personal tip as the mother of two children who are almost teenagers: the book Ben jij ook op mij? by Sanderijn van der Doef. The book deals with the topic of sexuality and sex education in an inclusive and modern way. In the book, people don’t only have sex to make babies, and not all babies are made by having sex. The topic of masturbation isn’t skipped, and not every couple is made up of a man and a woman. The book also emphasizes how not every boy has to be tough and not every girl has to be girly—highly recommended!

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