[This article originally appeared on Ferne Health and has been republished with permission.]
There’s a lot of confusion and myths circulated about women’s health, and one common misunderstanding of female anatomy is the hymen.
Illustration by: @justforsensation
The hymen is a remnant tissue just inside the opening of the vagina. It's left over from a vagina formation during its embryonic development. Lots of people associate the hymen with virginity and assume the hymen “breaks” when you have penetrative sex for the first time, but is it true?
Misconception 1: Everyone who has a vagina has a hymen
Many people think the hymen totally covers the opening of your vagina until it’s stretched open, but that’s not usually the case. For most women, it’s a membrane covering the vagina opening that naturally has a hole to allow period blood to come out. But some other women are born with little hymenal tissue or without the tissue at all! Not everyone who has a vagina would have a hymen, so don’t trouble yourself finding it.
Misconception 2: Hymen completely covers the opening of vagina
If you do have a hymen, it would come with a hole that’s big enough to allow period blood and the usage of tampons. In some rare cases, though, some women have hymens that cover the entire vaginal opening, or the hole in their hymens is so small that it would interfere with sex or tampon usage. In these cases, they would need to see a doctor to remove the extra tissue.
Misconception 3: Hymen indicates a woman’s virginity
Many people believe that the indicator of virginity is an “intact” hymen, and some women would even seek for a hymenoplasty or hymen repair surgery in order to prove their virginity. However, having a hymen and being a virgin is not the same thing. Some people are born with hymens that are naturally open, and many activities, such as cycling and swimming, can stretch the hymen. You can’t tell if someone has had sex by the way their hymens look or feel.
Misconception 4: You will bleed when stretching your hymen
Many people believe there should be blood after the first sexual intercourse. However, the hymen is a membrane that can be stretched with minimal or no injury. It only has a few blood vessels, so even if it's torn, it may not bleed significantly. Forced penetration and lack of lubrication may cause lacerations to the vaginal wall, both of which are most likely to be responsible for the “blood-stained bedsheets,” rather than trauma to the hymen.
Misconception 5: Hymen can be seen or felt
The hymen is a membrane inside your vagina, so it’s impossible to see your hymen yourself even with a mirror and a flashlight. It’s also nearly impossible for your partner to feel it during penetration, or feel it by fingers. Stretching or tearing the hymen might hurt some people, but most people won’t feel it happen at all.
In conclusion, the state of your hymen — or lack thereof — has nothing to do with whether you’ve engaged in sexual activities. On top of it, the idea of virginity means very different things to different people. So there is nothing to worry about!