Hymens are a strange biological phenomenon. Some are thick, some are thin. Hell, there are even different shapes. Oh, and some women aren't born with one at all. Stranger still, doctors aren't entirely sure why they even exist! Chances are, you've never talked about your hymen with anyone—except maybe your doctor. (Or, um, your first lover.)
But today is the day we're introducing you to the imperforate hymen and its less annoying little sister—the microperforate hymen. Let's learn shall we?
What is it?
Regardless of shape, size and thickness, most hymens (which are membranes surrounding or covering the opening of the vagina) leave enough room for—at least—a light day tampon. An imperforate hymen covers the entire opening of the vaginal cavity with the tenacity of a medieval chastity belt; nothing goes in or out. Ladies with microperforate hymens fare just a smidgen better, boasting an itty bitty opening that allows blood to flow out once a month, but hardly enough room to fit more than a Q-tip.
Giana, I've never even seen my hymen. Do I even have one?
Microperforate and imperforate hymens are usually caught when a girl is still young. Since imperforate hymens block everything, the young lady won't experience that delightful rush of her first menstrual blood staining her clothes at school. Instead, she'll feel intense pain in her abdomen and/or lower back. This is usually mama's cue to get her daughter to the doctor to check things out.
Microperforate hymens, on the other hand, could potentially be trickier to catch. There is a teensy opening, so period blood does flow. If a women doesn't explore sexual activities and decides to abstain from tampons, she could (possibly) go quite some time without realizing the secrets of her anatomy. Though you should have a gynecologist anyway, some ladies skip that part of the doctor's office if they're not sexually active.
Key point: if you can't use a tampon or have sex, there's a chance you've got a pesky hymen.
Ah! So what do I do?
Fret not! Happily, there's a super simple surgery to take care of any and all hymen woes. Chat with your gyno. It's important that the procedure is done oh-so-carefully. After the surgery, your doctor should give you a lubricant or cream to ease with recovery.
Not down to go under the knife? Talk to your lady-bits MD about safe stretching methods—chances are you can do the deed yourself with a little guidance.
Image: Woohoo! No hymen here! Courtesy of, ThinkStock