Let’s talk vulva
Many people say “vagina” when they’re actually talking about the vulva. The vulva is the outside, visible part of your genitals – your labia (lips), clitoris, vaginal opening, and the opening to your urethra (the hole you pee out of). The vagina is the inside – the stretchy tube that connects your vulva to your cervix and uterus.
Vaginas and vulvas are unique – they all have the same parts, but everyone’s looks a little different. Labia (the inner and outer lips) come in all shapes and sizes. People can have dangly labia, puffy labia, or barely-there labia. Some people’s inner labia stick out past their outer labia, and others have inner labia that are more tucked in.
Some people have wide vaginal openings, others have smaller ones. The clitoris can be big or small, and it may stick out or be tucked away under the clitoral hood. It’s totally common for your vulva to be asymmetrical (when one side looks different than the other). And vulvas come in a whole range of skin colors, from dark brown to purple to tan to light pink, with many different textures, types, and amounts of pubic hair.
Most people with vulvas are born with thin tissue that stretches over part of the opening of their vagina – this is called the hymen. Some people have hymens that cover most of their vaginal opening, and others barely have a hymen at all. Certain activities can cause your hymen to stretch and open up – like riding a bike, a horse, some sports, or using a tampon.
Vaginal discharge and Wudhu
During puberty, you’ll start getting vaginal discharge (wet stuff that comes out of your vagina). You’ll probably start seeing this discharge on your underwear. It can look clear, white, or slightly yellow, especially when it dries on underwear. Around your period, it may be brown or pink (this is sometimes called “spotting”).
Your vaginal discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle. Some days you’ll have more discharge than others, and it may get thicker or thinner, or change color a little bit. Most discharge is totally normal – it’s part of your vagina’s way of cleaning itself.
It’s a good idea to pay attention to what your vulva and vaginal discharge normally looks and smells like, so you’ll know if something changes – it could be a sign of an infection. If you have discharge that’s green, grey, foamy, clumpy, and/or has a strong fishy smell, visit a doctor. Don’t worry – vaginal infections are really common, and they’re usually easy to treat.
Wudhu: Vaginal discharge is considered taahir (pure) – you do not need to change/ clean out your underwear or do ghusl but it invalidates wudhu. If you are getting discharge, your wudhu will only remain valid for the prayer you did wudhu to pray. This means you have to do wudhu for the prayer after its time began, and the wudhu stays valid even if you release a discharge, until the time for that prayer ends. You should then perform wudhu for each subsequent prayer.
Do not pray two obligatory prayers with one wudhu if you are having vaginal discharge, unless you joined them for one of the reasons where you are allowed to join prayers (sick, travelling).
If your vaginal discharge is not continuous (it starts and stops), it is better if you delayed the prayer until you stop discharging, as long as there is no fear of the time of prayer ending. If you fear that you will miss the prayer, then just go ahead and do wudhu and pray.
How should I clean my vagina and vulva?
The best way to clean your vulva is to just wash the outside parts with water and mild soap. Never put soaps or other cleaners inside your vagina. You don’t need to clean the inside of your vagina as it already cleans itself.
It’s normal for your vagina and vaginal discharge to have a light smell, even when it’s clean. It’s not something other people can notice and you don’t need to douche, or use vaginal deodorants or any other kind of “feminine hygiene” sprays or washes. In fact, douching and using scented “feminine hygiene” products can actually cause irritation and infections.
A healthy vulva or vagina shouldn’t be itchy. Itching can be a sign of thrush or another infection, but it can also have other causes.
Itching can be part of a generalised skin problem, such as eczema or it can be a sign of another condition, such as lichen sclerosus.
All need treatment, so if the itch persists for more than a month, get it checked by a doctor.