Your body is an essential part of who you are. If you only leave gynaecological examinations to your doctor, you will not notice the little differences you develop in your body or be able to provide full care and consideration for yourself and your health.
CHECK YOURSELF FOR CHANGES
If you are menstruating, check yourself within the first two weeks after menstruation. If you are not menstruating, set a date for doing it once a month.
HOW TO SIT?
Use a position where you will be able to see yourself between the legs. You can sit while propping yourself up on your elbows in bed or stand with one leg placed on the toilet seat or a chair. Use a handheld mirror and make use of some extra lighting.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR?
You must look and feel for changes. If certain places hurt, write a note of where and how. If you experience vulvar pain, you can draw the picture further below to show your doctor.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE?
Every vulva is different. There is no one specific way that genitals are supposed to look. However, the skin should be a consistent colour without dark and light areas/circles. Some small darker places can be natural, but make sure there are no wounds, blisters, or rashes.
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE?
The skin should be soft, without any hard or rough spots. It may be sensitive, but the pain is something to note.
What should discharge be like?
Vaginal discharge can be thick or thin (it often changes depending on where you are in your cycle) and is usually clear or white. It should not have a distinct smell or have a grainy/clumpy texture. Slight yellowness may occur, but any severe colouring, e.g. greenness should be noted.
WHERE TO LOOK & WHAT TO LOOK FOR?
Your vulva is your outer genitals.
Spread apart the outer labia, and look for areas of concern; redness, swelling, dark or bright spots, blisters or sores. Spread the inner labia and look for the same changes.
The colour of your labia minora can have the same or maybe a darker colour than your labia majora. The important thing is that there is no apparent abnormality in specific spots of skin.
Check if the inner labia are fused or look as if they fade away. Also look for changes in the crevice between the outer and inner labia.
Pull the skin over the clitoris back slightly and gently. Look for abnormalities and scar tissue. Follow the clitoris.
Look for redness at the entrance to the urethra.
Entrance to the vagina
Inspect the area around the opening of the vagina. Consider whether it is sore or discoloured. Also look for a change in vaginal discharge.
Little almost invisible glands are placed in your vulva. Two Bartholin Glands are set just around the entrance of the vagina. The Skene’s glands are situated just around the urethra. In rare cases ,these can be blocked and painful.
Insert a clean finger into the vagina and feel for sore spots. Try to squeeze around your finger and feel whether you can feel your pelvic floor muscles contract and relax. If your pelvic muscles are weak or untrained, it will often be characterized by you having difficulty holding your urine, gas, and faeces. Pelvic muscles can also be tight and contain muscle knots, which can cause pain and discomfort in your daily life, during sex, and gynaecological examinations.
Perineum (between the vagina and anus)
Look for skin breaks, rashes, wounds, scars, or blisters. Touch and feel to see if there are aches in the muscles. You can push a little to one side and the other to feel if there is a uniform movement of muscle and skin. Place the finger on the perineum. Press for soreness, it might be tight muscles. Can you feel the tissue become harder when you contract the muscles underneath and softer when you relax?
Feel the rim for hardness. If you have haemorrhoids, ask your doctor, whether they should be examined.
What if I notice a change?
If you experience abnormalities or changes during your self-examination, you should contact your doctor and explain clearly what you have noticed. You have the ability to check yourself and you can quite possibly get your answers to what the changes mean. Take advantage of it. Remember that Pap smears should be done every three years after you turn 21. This gives you the opportunity to remove the problematic cells before they become cancerous.
Watch a movie on how to check yourself here.
Read Know yourself