In a few weeks, I'll be recording a live episode of The Outspoken Beauty Podcast with beauty queen Caroline Hirons and it will be all about vaginas. The podcast will be in a theatre in front of lots of my work colleagues, and I'm blushing just thinking about what they're going to find out about a part of me that spends most of its life firmly hidden away.
We're doing the podcast in aid of The Eve Appeal. Their campaign this year is called 'Get Lippy' and it encourages us to talk more about our vaginas and, more importantly, about the five types of gynaecological cancer, some of which I didn't even know existed until I read their website. The idea is that the less bashful and more open we are about our frou frous, the more lives will be saved.
It's hard to know where to begin. I mean, it isn't exactly sociably acceptable to go to the pub and start chatting about the fact that you think your labia are too big or that you get recurrent thrush, but what I do know is that the more we normalise what goes on down below, the easier it will be to go to a doctor when we have concerns.
In a bid to get the conversation going, here are a few tips to get you chatting about yours:
Have a look at it
I have friends who have never actually seen what their vaginas look like because they are too embarrassed. Vaginas are quite fascinating and getting to know your own, mirror in hand, is a sure-fire way to have a good relationship with it. Most men I know have a very healthy friendship with their penis and I think women need to follow their lead and get to know their vaginas with pride.
Laugh about it
Hate your pubes? Think your vagina looks gross? Worried your lips are too big/too small/weird? Get heavy discharge? Talk about it with your friends. We all have vagina insecurities and you'll be surprised to hear that everyone else has exactly the same worries as you. Knowing that "I'm not the only one" always makes me feel much better about things.
Share smear stories
The statistics prove that thousands of us will happily go for a Brazilian wax but are too scared to have a smear test. This baffles me as health is so much more important than a few straggly pubes and yet so many of us put it very last on our list of priorities.
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Chatting to our friends about our own experiences of smear tests (which are pretty much painless and over so quickly), and reminding each other to get them done is so important and a really kind thing to do for one another.
Be open with your daughter
Although we have kid-friendly names for it, my four-year-old daughter knows that she has a vagina. I walk around the house naked and we talk about it if she wants to. There is no shame or embarrassment when it comes to discussing just another part of our body.
Sex should be honest
If sex hurts or feels uncomfortable, stop. We've all been there... you're trying to please a man so you pretend that it's all hunky dory but sometimes it's not. You need to respect yourself and your vagina and so does he. Chat to your partner about what works for you and make sure that he gives your vagina the respect and adoration that it deserves.
See a doctor
Doctors are there to help. Never be embarrassed or scared. If you're worried, see someone. More often than not it will be nothing but if you have any abnormal symptoms, tell someone. I was recently bleeding a bit in-between periods, which can be a symptom of cervical or uterine cancer. I had a smear and everything is fine. It's a huge weight off my shoulders.
Your vagina and everything that comes with it is a huge part of who you are. It is part of what makes you a woman and that alone is something to be proud of. Talking openly about your vagina and treating it kindly should be a goal for all of us.
Check out the vagina episode, as well as revealing beauty chats with Elle Macpherson, Myleene Klass and many more by downloading and subscribing to on iTunes.