If you are going to understand what’s happening to your daughter’s body, you need to know what you’re working with. We offer you guides to vulvovaginal symptoms, conditions and common children’s vaginal conditions, and what to do about them so you can feel just as comfortable with a girl’s body as you would a boy.
We help you navigate the folds confidently.
Know your anatomy
Understanding how your child’s vulva and vagina are different to an adult woman’s is important, since it’s possible that your only experience with vaginas is in a sexual context with an adult, which is helpful but only up to a point.
This relationship to sexual contexts and lack of knowledge about even an adult woman’s body can make men shy away from making important investigations and decisions about their daughter’s body. While this is understandable, with a bit more knowledge on what’s going on inside and out, you can feel more confident in making executive decisions. Knowing the anatomy of a child’s vulva and vagina is your first step.
Call me by my name
You may be calling your daughter’s vagina or vulva by a name other than it’s real name, and now is the time to stop that cold turkey, and start naming body parts accurately.
Naming body parts accurately is important for a few reasons:
- If something goes wrong, your daughter can name at least the area that is sore accurately to you or to a doctor
- You and your daughter should feel comfortable referring to body parts by their real names, just like you would an arm or a finger
- Using proper names stops kids feeling the shame of their parents around their bodies – don’t give your girl a hangup – she’s already got a pretty hard go of it in that department
- If someone touches her inappropriately, your daughter can confidently speak up – ‘down there’ is pretty vague
To know what her body parts are called, you need to know, so you’ll need to check out the diagrams and figure out how much she needs to know based on her age and comprehension.
The most important names relate generally to the vagina and vulva – the inside is the vagina and the outside is the vulva. There is actually not one single name in English for the whole vulvovaginal area. Most people just call it the vagina, and mean the whole area, which is fine.
As she gets older and other things possibly go wrong, you can teach her other names for other areas, like vulva, labia, anus, clitoris, and perineum. You can do this teaching on a need-to-know basis as your child grows, but don’t shy away from it if it doesn’t come up – take your educational moments where you can, so that if later something comes up, your daughter has her words.
What can go wrong
Vulvovaginitis and infections
A child’s vagina has very little bacteria (good or bad) in it, because it is the influence of oestrogen that encourages friendly bacteria to grow.
Oestrogen, which only starts at puberty, causes the vaginal cells to produce glycogen (a sugar) that lactobacilli feed on. Without the oestrogen or glycogen, a prepubertal girl’s vagina is very much like her grandmother’s in many ways, sans the wrinkles and greys.
This can mean her putting the wrong things in or close to her vagina (think wiping from back to front, dirty toys or toilet paper, you name it) can cause infections, as there isn’t a lot to defend the vagina from invaders. Vulvovaginitis remains a common affliction of girls, but usually identifying the cause and removing it/treating it, solves the problem quickly.
Low to no oestrogen also makes her vulva and vagina look and behave in a unique way that will change once she hits puberty. This doesn’t matter a great deal, but it’s good to know.