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Taking care of your vulva and vagina

Teaching your child to clean their private body parts is an excellent way to practice consent and build independence in their personal care.

Introduction

Teaching your child to clean their private body parts is an excellent way to practice consent and build independence in their personal care.

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A girl’s genitals are made up of lots of different parts.

The vulva is the name for the outer area of the genitals. Vulvas come in all different colours, shapes and sizes. Pubic hair grows around the vulva, around the anus, and sometimes on the top of the thighs.

The vagina opens at the vulva. The vagina is actually located inside the body.

The labia are the folds of skin that are part of the vulva. It protects the vagina and urethra, and prevents bacteria and dirt from entering them. The Labia comes in lots of shapes, colours and sizes. It might be long or short, wrinkled or smooth, and one lip might be longer than the other. This is all normal.

The clitoris is a sensitive organ that is centred just above the opening of the urethra. The clitoris is visible as a pea-sized bump covered in folds of skin, however the organ extends deeper within the body. It has lots of nerve endings so it is very sensitive and pleasurable to touch. A person might rub their clitoris to experience pleasure during masturbation or sex.

The urethra is a very small opening where urine (wee) comes out.

During puberty, the vagina starts to produce a clear or whitish liquid. This is called discharge. The vagina produces discharge to clean itself.

Your child may start to notice discharge on their underwear. This is normal. Sometimes discharge can make underwear feel damp. If your child finds this uncomfortable they can use panty-liners or leak proof underwear to absorb some of the discharge.

The texture and amount of discharge will change throughout your child’s menstrual cycle. However, if the discharge starts to have a strong smell or changes colour it can be good to talk to a doctor.

As the vagina cleans itself there is no need to douche or flush the vagina with water. This is unnecessary and can be harmful to the good bacteria that keep the vagina healthy.

During puberty a thick whitish substance can start forming in the folds of the labia. This is smegma. If not removed, the smegma can smell or cause the skin to become irritated and sore.  For this reason, it is important for your child to clean their vulva and the folds of their labia regularly once puberty starts.

Encourage your child to gently clean their vulva and between the folds of their labia with warm water using their hand or wash cloth. They can then gently pat the area dry with a towel. Avoid using soap, bubble bath, perfume or talc as this can cause irritation.

Conversation Starters

You are doing such a good job of washing your arms and legs. You need to wash your vulva too. Can I show you how?
Cleaning your body is important to keep it healthy and feeling good. Your vulva is part of your body. It needs cleaning too. Can you show me how well you can clean your vulva?

Strategies for you to try

Visual schedule

Add cleaning your vulva to a visual schedule detailing your child’s personal care routine

Check in

When helping your child wash their vulva, describe what you are doing as you do it and frequently check in with them by asking ‘is this OK?’ This tells your child that taking care of their body is important and that they can say stop at any time.

Limited Mobility

If your child has limited mobility, give them time to clean their vulva as best they can before asking them if it is OK for you to finish helping them wash the area.

not washing their genitals

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Introduction to puberty for girls
Taking care of your vulva and vagina

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Introduction to puberty for girls
Taking care of your vulva and vagina

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