THURSDAY, 7 JULY 2022
While 50% of the world’s population could benefit from a better understanding of vaginas, it appears a male-centric approach to research has led to neglect of the topic. In her book about the gender data gap, Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez presented basic yet surprisingly poorly answered questions: What are the shapes and sizes of vaginas? How do these vary with age and childbirth? A limited number of studies have explored these questions. Two studies identified five broad shapes based on just 77 samples: parallel-sided, conical, heart, slug, and pumpkin seed. Penis size, on the other hand, has been investigated through systematic reviews and in studies with over 15,000 samples.
The lack of data on vaginal anatomy has significant clinical implications. Millions of women are suffering from hard-to-treat conditions related to vaginal and pelvic-floor health. Similarly, devices like the vaginal speculum have retained their uncomfortable designs for years. Luckily, we may be witnessing a shift in attitudes: start-ups have begun to value variation in vaginas, leading to the development of more comfortable devices for examination and pelvic-floor training. Moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach, vaginas are finally starting to be appreciated for their fundamental role in menstruation, sex, childbirth, and pelvic health. Hopefully, soon enough, they will not be considered weird anymore but variably wonderful.