Is My Hymen Intact?

Detailed Question: 

How do I know if I have an intact hymen?

Answer: 

 

Dear Reader,

Thank you for visiting SexInfo! If you are curious about what your hymen looks like, you can use a flashlight and a mirror to see inside your vaginal canal. Lie on your back and position the mirror between your legs so you can see your vulva, and slowly spread the inner and outer “lips” (known as the labia minora and labia majora) of your vulva. If you cannot see into your vaginal canal, use a flashlight to illuminate the area (although this can be tricky while trying to hold the mirror and your labia apart). If you can see a thin layer of skin right inside your vaginal opening that has a small hole (or holes) present, your hymen is most likely intact.

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The images to the right show the hymen in various states. The hymen comes in many different shapes and sizes, and these images represent just a few examples of how the hymen may appear.  

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  • The first image shows a perfect annular hymen. In this state, the hymen forms a ring around the vaginal opening. The hymen becomes less ring-like with exposure to sexual, masturbatory, or other physical activity.
  • The second image shows a cribriform hymen. This hymen has many small holes. These holes allow passage of menstrual fluid, but tampon insertion and sexual activity may be difficult.
  • The third image shows a septate hymen. This means that there are bands of tissue that extend across the vaginal opening. This tissue can be thick and rigid, which may make tampon use and penetrative sex difficult. Sometimes, the bands will naturally stretch or break on their own; other times, a healthcare professional may need to surgically correct the tissue.
  • The fourth image shows an imperforate hymen. In this state, the hymen completely covers the vaginal opening. This type of hymen can impede blood flow during menstruation and must be surgically corrected. Without correction, an imperforate hymen can cause menstrual blood to build up within the vagina and create health problems like infection or endometriosis. Imperforate hymens only occur in 1-2% of women and can often be diagnosed at early infancy.   
  • The fifth image shows a parous introitus hymen, or a hymen that is nearly or completely gone. This state typically follows childbirth.1,2

If you think you may have a septate, cribriform, or imperforate hymen, talk to your healthcare provider. Do not attempt to surgically alter your hymen on your own. Surgical procedures for hymen correction usually take less than an hour and have a short recovery period.

The image below illustrates what an imperforate hymen may look like:

:Imperforate-Hymen.jpg

If you notice small traces of broken skin surrounding your vaginal opening but no thin membrane, you may have already stretched or broken your hymen. The state of the hymen is not an accurate indicator of virginity. The structure of the hymen differs for each woman, meaning that the tendency to bleed is also variable. If a female’s first experience with sexual intercourse occurs when she is aroused and lubricated, the hymen has a greater tendency to stretch than to tear. In this case, there is a lower likelihood that bleeding will occur.3 Physical activity, tampon or menstrual cup use, masturbation, and pelvic examinations with a speculum can also cause the hymen to stretch or even break.2 Tearing the hymen is not always a painful experience; some women do not feel it break if engaged in physical activities or certain sports. Thank you for your question, and feel free to contact us with any more that you may have!

Sincerely,

The Sexperts

 

For More Information on the Hymen:

To learn about the cultural significance of an intact hymen, please click here.

To learn about the concept of virginity and an intact hymen, please click here.

To learn more about the hymen (and whether or not it is intact), please click here.

 

References:

1. "Hymen Gallery." Healthy Strokes. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2015. <http://www.healthystrokes.com/hymengallery.html>.

2. "Hymen." TheVisualMD.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 03 Feb. 2015. <http://www.thevisualmd.com/visualizations/result/annular_hymen_within_fe....

3. "Bleeding After First Intercourse." Med-Health.net. N.p., 03 Feb. 2015. Web. 03 Feb. 2015. <http://www.med-health.net/Bleeding-After-First-Intercourse.html>.

 

Last Updated 17 February 2015.

 

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