I used to think that all vaginas were roughly the same. Sure, maybe tall women had longer vaginal canals and short women had shorter vaginal canals, but how different could they really be? I assumed that if I talked to enough women, I would be able to find trends and easily match the right menstrual cup to each women.
I was so wrong. Vaginas are incredibly intricate and vary greatly between women. High cervix, low cervix, tight pelvic muscles, stretched pelvic muscles, vaginas that contract involuntarily, highly sensitive vaginas, scarred vaginas, cut vaginas. So many types of vaginas. Unless you can examine a vagina you really have no idea what characteristics it has. In fact, I am still figuring out my own vagina and am seriously thinking about investing in a speculum.
Getting to know your vagina is powerful--understanding where your cervix is and how it shifts during your cycle, identifying your urethra, understanding how to stimulate your clitoris. Your body is yours and just like you are recommended to examine your breasts, examining your vagina is also important. You may feel bumps, lumps, soreness, tenderness, dryness, yeastiness. You may experience incontinence, vaginal tearing, and infections. Vaginas not only vary between women, each vagina is also dynamic.
This varied nature means we need options in services and products. Options allow us to find supports that work for our body. Period products that fit well and match our flow. Yeast infection treatments that soothe and cure. Therapies that breakup scar tissues. Vibrators that meet our sexual needs. We need options and we need the experience and voices of women to drive the development of these options.
Recently, Ova shared an article that highlighted how few women there are in industrial design. From cars to medicine, men dominate the design world and this has serious implications for how women experience products. It wasn't until 2011 that female crash test dummies were required in safety testing.
The New York Times just published an article that mentioned that 75% of the patents registered for feminine hygiene products have been registered to men. Maybe you love tampons, but there are plenty of women who cannot comfortably wear tampons and really don’t like pads. They feel like there really isn’t a product out there for them. I’ve heard firsthand how this can make some women feel like their vaginas are abnormal or not right. I can’t help but wonder if we would have more options for these women if we had more women product designers or more women at the table for these decisions.
This past year we've seen tremendous strides in women's health. We have more fertility apps, period products, breast pumps and lubricants than we did in 2013. As we develop these products, let's make sure we put the health and comfort of women first. Let's create products that truly make a difference and advance the current state of women's intimate health. To do this, we must listen to women and not just a few easily accessible women, but a variety of women. Remember, there are many types of vaginas.
I am incredibly grateful for all of the conversations I’ve had with women over the past two years. I am inspired by the companies that are working to move the needle on women’s health. If you don’t believe there needs to be more innovation in women’s health, please talk to the women in your life about their health experiences with sex, birth, infections, periods and menopause. Stories will emerge that will move you and inspire you to support innovation in women's health.