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Does vagina ever stop working?

Written by Funmi Akingbade - Punch, Nigeria

A newly wed husband sent me a 'God bless you' greeting while still in his honeymoon. He and his wife were for months my students at the coaching programme for intending couples (this is a free coaching scheme for intending couples organised to help train amateur singles for better sex in marriage) before their marriage.

According to him, he had such a speechless, wonderful swell time during his honeymoon. In one word, sex was lovely. Then, his next statement surprised me, 'Madam, does vagina ever stop working; does it ever pack up? If it does, I am finished.'

Finished? But what could have warranted such a statement, I asked. He replied thus, "If anything goes wrong with my wife's vagina, I may not be able to cope in the marriage. Our sexual experience is just so thrilling; I don't want anything to go wrong. Sex is not only tasty but delicious and even if it is a dream, I don't want to wake up."

For the vagina to function perfectly, couples must understand that the normal vagina is a self-cleaning organ. It discharges which is a normal function of that process. This ensures that the vagina is in the right condition. Most women have some amount of clear or milky odourless discharge that will be noticeable on their underwear during their entire lifetime but some women produce more discharge than others. The colour and thickness of the discharge changes with a woman's monthly cycle. For instance, it is thicker after ovulation, when breastfeeding and when a woman is sexually excited. Vaginal discharge is generally heavier when ladies are younger and it becomes less as they age. In fact, many women will have dryness problems as they grow older, particularly during menopause. During pregnancy, vaginal discharge often increases.

For the vagina to be serviceable at all times, it is advisable to keep it from unbalanced environment and keep the vagina area clean and dry. This lessens the onset of infections. For instance, after using the toilet, wipe from front to back; never back to front. Wiping from back to front can bring bacteria from the anus into the vagina and urethra which can cause infection. Wear cotton panties during the day as this allows air to freely get to the vagina area. Avoid wearing tight pants for a long period especially because we are in the tropical region. Make sure that the laundry detergents are not the types that easily irritate the genital areas. Long period of soaking in the bathtub may change the environment of the vagina. Instead, shower-bathe often. It is better to avoid feminine hygiene sprays, coloured or perfumed toilet paper and deodorant pads. If you notice any discharge that appears unusual in colour or smelly, it is advisable to see your doctor, because vaginal health affects more than just the couple's sex life. It is an important part of a woman's overall health. Vaginal problems can affect fertility, desire for sex and ability to reach orgasm. It can also affect other areas of marriage and impacts a wife's self-confidence.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of vaginal problems and what you can do to protect against such is important. The vagina is a closed muscular canal that extends from the vulva - the outside of the female genital area - to the neck of the uterus (cervix). Various factors can affect it. For instance, forceful sex or an injury to the pelvic area can result in vaginal trauma. Diabetes can cause vaginal dryness and prolonged use of antibiotics does increase the risk of a vaginal yeast infection. Certain antihistamines can cause vaginal dryness. Some birth control products can cause vaginal irritation.

Some conditions that might affect the vagina are persistent or recurrent genital pain just before, during or after sex (dyspareunia). Pain during penetration might be caused by involuntary spasms of the muscles of the vaginal wall.

An infection or change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria can cause inflammation of the vagina such as discharge, odour, itching and pain. Common types yeast infections, which are usually caused by a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans; and trichomoniasis, which is caused by a parasite is commonly transmitted by sex. Sometimes when the supporting ligaments and connective tissues that hold the uterus in place become weak, the uterus, bladder or rectum might slip down into the vagina (uterine prolapse). As a result, the vagina also is pulled down.

It is very important to be managed by a well-trained midwife during normal vaginal delivery as vaginal tears are relatively common during childbirth. In some cases, an episiotomy which is an incision made in the tissue between the vaginal opening and anus during childbirth may be needed, and when not well handled, such vaginal delivery can decrease the muscle tone of the vagina. This can affect the sexual function of the vagina. Anxiety and depression can contribute to a low level of arousal and result in discomfort or pain during sex. Trauma - such as sexual abuse or an initial painful sexual experience - also can lead to pain associated with sex.

Changes in a woman's hormone levels can affect the vagina. For example, estrogen production declines after menopause, after childbirth and during breast-feeding. Loss of estrogen can cause the vaginal lining to thin (vaginal atrophy) - making sex painful. The vagina loses elasticity after menopause; that is the end of menstruation and fertility.
So when a wife or husband notices the following, it is good to seek for help: a change in the colour, odour or amount of vaginal discharge - especially when accompanied by a fever, vaginal redness, itching or irritation, vaginal bleeding between periods, after sex or after menopause, a mass or bulge in the vagina, a sensation of pressure or heaviness in the vagina.

Question and Answer
Morning erection as one ages, is it normal?
I was in a party last week where some friends argued that early morning erection is not important to good sexual life. They said that as you age, you should not look forward to experiencing morning erection anymore. Please, is this true?

Mr Noso Tochukwu
Early morning erection is an indication that all is well, although men have several night-time erections. On average, a sexually healthy man has three to five erections during a full night's sleep, with each erection lasting 25-35 minutes. It is common for men to wake up with an erection, informally called "morning glory." This is in fact the last in the series of night-time erections. The cause of night-time erections is not fully understood. However, studies suggest they are closely associated with the phase of sleep known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is when dreaming is most common. Whatever their cause, most sex therapists agree that night-time erections are a sign that everything is in working order. When men do not experience this, they need to visit a sex therapist.

Is it possible to 'see' your period when you are pregnant?
I am still bleeding after the pregnancy test indicated positive and my doctor said there is no reason to be alarmed but I am afraid.

Mrs Emason
Technically, no. Normally, pregnancy prevents the drop in hormones that causes the uterine lining to shed off. However, when you are pregnant, you can still experience spotting or light bleeding around the time you would normally expect your period, although it is not considered an actual period. Known as implantation bleeding, this is a harmless event that occurs when the fertilised egg first burrows into your uterus and breaks some of the blood vessels in its lining.

I have pain when about to ovulate
I always experience pain in my belly area each time I am about to ovulate, is this normal or am I infected with some illness or disease or what? The funny thing is that I always feel like wanting to make love, do you have any idea of what is wrong with me?

About a fifth of women can actually feel something happening in their ovaries around ovulation. This can range from mild achiness to twinges of pain. Some women feel ovulation as one-sided backache or a tender area. This condition is called mittelschmerz, it may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. If you notice these sensations at roughly the same time each month, check your cervical mucus.
Ovulatory pain can be a useful guide to when you're fertile. Many women experience heightened sexual desire in the several days immediately before ovulation. Feeling sexy may all be signs that you're at your most fertile. You may notice a peak in sexual desire at 
this time.
My hubby’s love-making irritates me
My problem is my husband. Before we got married, he was very descent and a gentleman. Since we got married, however, he has turned into what can best be described as an animal. He likes to have sexual intercourse in unusual and perverted ways. Although we have a comfortable bed, he likes to lay me on a hard floor. He asked me to suck him. I want to please him in this, but the thing is so large, it always makes me choky. I never asked him to do anything abnormal so why has he turned into someone I now fear?
It has got to a point where I hate making love to him. I have even thought of running away.

Dear Uche,
Why don't you tell your husband how you feel about his sexual demands? They are not as abnormal as you think, but you have to enjoy doing them together to make it fulfilling.
Discuss the techniques you particularly fancy with him and try and meet his needs half-way too.
Now that you are married, you don't expect him to be as cautious as when you were courting.
But he needs to ease you into demands you both feel comfortable with. Don't run away from perceived problems only to be confronted by real sexual perverts!

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