Your vagina is just another part of you, just like your heart or brain or legs. So it makes sense to get to know it.
"Some women don't have any idea what's normal and what's not normal," says Jennifer Ashton, MD, author of The Body Scoop for Girls: A Straight-Talk Guide to a Healthy, Beautiful You. And that can cause many young women to think that everything's bad.
These suggestions can help you be smart and healthy about your vagina.
1. Know what your girl parts look like.
Slang: Time of the month, the crimson tide, on the rag, riding the cotton pony, Aunt Flo (as in "My Aunt Flo is visiting.")
Most common: Your period
Basics: The menstrual cycle is a month-long series of events that prepares your body for pregnancy. If there's no fertilized egg growing in your uterus (womb), it sheds the inner lining. You lose blood for five to seven days.
Periods usually start around age 11 or 12. For most girls and women, they cause only a few days of hassle, maybe mild cramping.
Your choices for absorbing flow have colorful nicknames, too.
Basics: Pads can be made of cotton or other absorbent materials. Sticky tape on one side holds them in your panties to soak up menstrual blood. They can be thin or very thick. "Wings" on the sides help stop the pad from bunching.
Slang: Cork, plug, wick, pen (as in ''My Aunt Flo needs a pen.'')
Basics: Tampons are plugs of cotton or other materials that you slide into your vagina with a cardboard or plastic tube to guide it into place. Once inside, your vagina hugs it so it stays put. You shouldn’t be able to feel it. Sizes range from light to super-absorbent.
Tampons have a string, or wick, that you gently pull to remove them. You should change a tampon every four hours or so to prevent leakage and infection.
PMS and Ovulation
Formal: Premenstrual Syndrome
Slang: Part Monster Syndrome, Pass My Sweatpants, Perpetual Munching Spree
Most common: PMS
Basics: PMS refers to unusual feelings you may have for one to two weeks before your period starts. Your hormones shift during this time. This may cause mood swings, bloating, tender breasts, headaches, or symptoms of depression. Some women have a lot of symptoms, and others don't have much trouble at all.