Like so many other young women, it wasn’t until I was in college that I realized I knew almost nothing about my own body and female health in general. I had attended a strict Catholic school for most of my younger years, and they skimmed over sex ed while pushing the idea that having sex or masturbating would send you straight to hell. Even my public high school didn’t do a great job when it came to teaching us about the female body, especially sexual health – my health teacher spent most of his time screaming about how drugs were bad (true!) and sex requires, like, three forms of protection to actually be safe (also pretty true!). But no one told us about the clitoris, about the fact that you should pee after sex, that discharge is normal, that PMS symptoms can be weird AF and totally unpredictable. There were so many things I should have learned about my body that no one ever taught me.
This is true for most young women – the sexual education system in most schools has failed us. Sex ed focuses on safe sex, basic health issues, and unwanted pregnancy stuff, basic anatomy… and that’s about it. Sure, these things are obviously important, but you know what else is important? Teaching a young girl the stuff that’s going on with her vagina so she doesn’t get the freaked the eff out when she gets a yeast infection for the first time. So, if you feel like you’re in the dark, you’re not alone. Here are some things all women should know about their bodies that they’re never told… until now (thanks to this Ask Reddit thread):
Your PMS Symptoms Can Change Every MonthIf your PMS varies month to month, you're not alone - some months, I get horrible cramps and really bad stomach pain, other months I just get super hungry and cranky. This is normal! User ncninetynine says, "You can get different period symptoms depending on which ovary releases the egg. So for example, you could get cramps one month and acne the next depending on if it was the right or left. It could be why you may feel you get symptoms every other month and not every time (I know I do)." The most common and most discussed PMS symptoms are cramps, bloating, mood swings, food cravings, and sore breasts, so it's easy to assume you should feel those things, and only those things, every month. We're not even taught about all of the other strange things that can happen during PMS! Source: iStock
It's Normal To Have Bumps On Your NipplesOne of the most common questions we get here at Gurl.com is about bumps on nipples and the ensuing panic that comes from discovering them. No one ever teaches you what these really mean: user dino_erotica says, "Montgomery glands are those bumps on your nipples, totally normal. I grew up thinking I had pimples on my nips and was super embarrassed for the longest." It's disconcerting to think your boobs are supposed to look one way - thanks to the media - and to realize they don't look that way. A lot of girls even think the bumps are dangerous. Source: iStock
One Boob Is Almost Always Bigger Than The OtherSpeaking of boobs, another thing we should be taught about them is that they aren't always the same size. User 2weird2care says, "One boob is typically larger than the other. It may be noticeable; it may not. Don't freak out if you randomly notice. Keep track of it though to make sure it isn't anything more serious." There are very few people who have boobs that look exactly alike - and if they do, it's just because the differences are super small and subtle. You might not be taught that different sized breasts are normal, but at least you know now! Source: iStock
Plan B Doesn't Work For EveryonePlanning on taking Plan B for protection? Beware: as user sweadle says, "Plan B doesn't work on people above a certain weight." Okay, so, officially, Plan B spokespeople claim the pill works for any weight. But studies have been done that claim that Plan B is less effective or won't work if you're a woman who is over 176 pounds. An alarming amount of women don't know that, and it's really important to be aware of it. Source: iStock
Labia Look Different For EveryoneOkay, important newsflash: all vaginas do not look the same, and that is totally okay. User CinnamonBunBun says, "If your labia minora are tucked inside your labia majora, that's normal. If your labia minora poke out from your labia majora, that is normal too. If your nipples are brown, that's normal. If your nipples are pink, then that is also normal. Buttholes come in various shades of browns and pinks. Your pubic hair may grow half way down and across your thighs and half way up to your belly button and that is normal too. Don't let porn skew your concept of what a normal female body looks like." Sometimes, it feels like educators are scared to talk about the vagina too much. While we learn about basic anatomy down there, they usually fail to mention that labia can look so different.
Your Boobs Can Get Bigger At Certain Times During Your CycleAre your boobs bigger during your period or are you imagining it? They're probably bigger. User Ivyblueberryhill says, "Your breasts may get big and/or lumpy during different parts of your cycle. This is normal and you don't have breast cancer." Breast size fluctuates in small amounts throughout your cycle. It probably won't go up or down a whole cup size, but if you feel like sometimes they're slightly larger, that's normal. Source: iStock
Vaginal Discharge Is Totally NormalAnother thing that's normal: vaginal discharge. Yes, even if it happens every day. User GETINTHEHOUSECORAL says, "Your body creates discharge! It's normal! I thought I had a yeast infection for years. My mother never explained that to me and was furious with me when she saw the discharge when doing laundry. I didn't know what I did wrong." I still can't believe how no one teaches girls about discharge. It's so scary to see it there and have no idea what it is! Unless your discharge smells really badly or is a weird color or a weird texture, it's normal - and it fluctuates, so sometimes it might be heavier than usual. Don't worry about it! Source: iStock
Your Discharge and Cervix Change Throughout Your CycleYour breast size isn't the only thing that changes throughout your cycle. User bulborb says, "The position of your cervix changes depending on where you are in your cycle, and that's why sometimes it can get hit during sex when other times it doesn't. Also, you can tell when you're ovulating depending on the consistency of your discharge. There's variation from person to person, but generally, it gets gradually runnier and more translucent towards ovulation." Again, more discharge lessons, please! Source: iStock
Plucking Your Brows Can Change Them ForeverWant to shape your eyebrows on your own? Great, but just know that you could cange the way they grow forever if you aren't careful. User bestofescher says, "If you pluck your eyebrows enough, there is a chance they won't grow back. I know so many women with pencil-thin eyebrows now because they plucked them thin when it was fashionable." Plucking your brows is considered a right of passage for becoming a young adult, but it can also go really wrong. Over-plucking can lead to some serious future regrets! Source: iStock
Bleeding After Sex Isn't NormalGirls are taught that bleeding during their first time having penetrative sex is normal. And, sure, you might notice a little blood when you lose your virginity. But if it happens often? That's not okay. User YewbSH says, "If you have any unexplained bleeding after penetrative sex (dicks or toys), please please please see a gynecologist. Some women think it's normal, or part of being a woman, which is such bullshit - and dangerous, too. Seeing a specialist for this might improve your sex life, or in rarer cases save your actual life. Post-coital bleeding is common but should never be ignored." Sex is supposed to be fun and pleasurable, not painful and scary. Feeling pain during sex isn't just a normal thing for females! Source: iStock
You Probably Won't Orgasm From Penetrative SexYou know all of those movie and TV scenes of women having an orgasm two minutes after a penis goes into their vagina? Yeah.... that's not how it works (usually). User MissAnthropoid says, "Odds are only about 50/50 that you will be able to orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. If you can't, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you. You should find a teachable sexual partner who is willing to put in the effort to get you off. Don't settle for the popular belief that 'sex ends when the man has an orgasm.' In the long run, that will probably put you off it entirely. Be prepared for it to take way longer for a partner to get you off than it does to get yourself off." The female orgasm is a tricky thing, and a lot of women find that they can't come vaginally no matter what. That's normal - more women can orgasm from clitoral stimulation, which is hard to come by during penetrative sex. Source: iStock
You're More Likely To Have Serious Stomach ProblemsIf you feel a lot of stomach pain, there might be something seriously wrong. User legham_lucy says, "You're more prone to gallbladder issues! As I found out recently when I started having them myself." It's true: women are more likely to get gallstones because of the estrogen in our bodies. Gallbladder problems are a huge issue. I had my gallbladder removed when I was 19 after a year of barely eating and feeling sick on an every day basis. It took my doctors a long time to figure out what was wrong with me - if you feel a lot of stomach pain, you should absolutely see a specialist. Source: iStock
What did you never learn about your body that you think is really important? Tell us in the comments.