Culturally, vaginas and vulvas have a lot of shame placed around them, so we don’t talk about them openly enough. This means we’re often left with the internet as our main source of information, or grabbing onto snippets of hearsay from others.

Not all the information out there is medically verified, which is why it’s important to always speak to a doctor if you have a worry or a question about something health-related.

5 truths to help you sort fact from fiction

1. Vulvas are all unique and there’s no such thing as ‘normal’ – be wary of language that suggests otherwise:

Look out for words that suggest vulvas need to be improved, like ‘perfected’, ‘refreshed’, ‘lighten’ and ‘brighten’ – nobody’s vulva needs a makeover!

2. The vagina is self-cleaning, it doesn’t need products to help

You can wash your vulva with plain water or gentle, unscented products specially designed for that area. Using normal soaps and shower gels or over washing could lead to pH imbalance in the vagina.

3. Home remedies are not proven to work and could be harmful

The internet is full of home remedies for vaginal infections, like using yoghurt and garlic to cure thrush. These are not scientifically proven and could make things worse – ask your GP for advice instead.

4. Only doctors or other medical professionals are qualified to provide a diagnosis.

Asking the internet for advice is as easy as typing a few words into a search bar – but not everyone on the internet is an expert. It’s important to speak to a real-life doctor to understand your condition and before using a product or remedy you’ve found yourself.

If you have a vagina and you notice a change that involves discomfort, pain, discharge or smell that is not normal for you, then speak to your GP, school nurse or visit a sexual health clinic. Healthcare practitioners are used to answering all kinds of questions about vulvas and vaginas. You can talk about anything with a member of the NHS and get the answers you need, and it’s confidential.

Not sure how to find the right healthcare practitioner? Start by making an appointment with your GP. Find your nearest GP here if you don’t have one.

If you’ve had unprotected sex, you can make an appointment at https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/sexual-health. Some clinics offer walk-in appointments – check online before you go.

Canesten Thrush External Cream 2% w/w cream contains clotrimazole. Always read the label.