Whether or not you have Lichen Sclerosus, checking your vulva on a regular basis is an important part of your health. Anyone with a vulva should do a self-exam once a month, just like everyone with breasts should do a monthly breast self-exam.
Because vulva checks aren’t talked about much, it may seem weird to do one. And, if you have Lichen Sclerosus, you may be nervous about the kind of changes you may see. Know that with the right education and practice, it can become a routine part of your health that you’ll get more comfortable with.
In this blog, I’ll share with you my first experience doing a vulva check and how you can do one on your own. Plus, I’ll connect you to some helpful LSSN resources to make your experience easier.
Preparing for My First Vulva Check
When I was first diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosus, I didn’t know I was supposed to be doing vulva checks. My doctor hadn’t told me that. I started seeing Instagram posts from others with LS that said it was time for a vulva check. Even after I learned I was supposed to do vulva checks, it took me a while before I actually did my first one. I was stalling.
So I had to really, really think about why I wasn’t doing my vulva check. Then I realized that I was scared. I was petrified of what I might see because, by that time, I had already started feeling changes in my anatomy. In 2018, the changes that I saw to my vulva freaked me and sent me to the doctor. I didn’t want to see that again.
Once I realized I was scared, I set a date that I was going to check my vulva. I marked my calendar for my next night off of work. I didn’t want to rush and wanted to be alone and have privacy.
As the day got closer, I was getting more nervous. I wondered, why am I feeling these butterflies in my stomach? Why am I getting anxious about this?
I just felt so weird, but I didn’t say anything to anybody because it felt foolish and ridiculous. It’s my own body!
Doing My First Check
When the day for my first vulva check came, I had multiple opportunities to check, but I kept delaying it. Finally, I told myself I was going to treat it like a date. I was going to get up, shower, shave, and then do my vulva check.
Shaving felt important because I wanted to make sure I could see what was happening, especially on the mons pubis. That’s where I have the most symptoms.
So I got in the bathroom. Took a shower. Shaved. And with my little mirror, laid on the bed and tried to get comfortable. I started checking my vulva from the top to the bottom.
I didn’t see what I was so afraid of. There was no reason for me to be afraid. None whatsoever. Once I did it, it was a relief. It was done, over with. Until next month, anyway!
But I think when it comes to vulva checks, the first time is the worst time. After that first time, I knew what to expect.
I was actually pleasantly surprised after my first vulva check. My clitoral hood was closing in over my clitoris, but I had a tiny little opening. My labia minora was fusing with my labia majora. So the bottom part was reabsorbed, but I still had some of the labia minora on top. I had thought it was completely gone.
So that was a revelation, and a happy one!
Acknowledge the Emotional Side
I tell you this story to remind you that being scared is normal and ok. I’m here to tell you that being scared is not foolish and ridiculous. I wish somebody would have told me that because I was really beating myself up about it.
If you haven’t checked yourself, think about why it is that you haven’t. Be honest with yourself.
You have every right to be anxious and nervous about what you might see, especially if you’ve seen scary things about LS on the internet. Some forums, groups, and medical pages will put that fear in you. But don’t let that fear stop you because it’s way too important.
And chances are when you look down there, you’ll be fine. You’re going to be able to deal with whatever it is.
How to Check Your Vulva
So let’s get down to it — how do we do a vulva check? Below are the basics of a vulva check, but I encourage you to check out the resources at the bottom of this blog. We have a great video and an easy-to-follow guide (with a meditation!) to help you relax and feel more confident doing your vulva check.
- Get comfortable.
The first thing you need to do is stand, squat, or sit over the top of a handheld mirror. For my first check, I leaned some pillows on the headboard so that I could hold the mirror and look around. Eventually, I used more pillows for support so that I could use both of my hands.
Play with your positioning to see how you are most comfortable and what works best for you.
- Have good lighting.
Lighting is so important. If you’re away from the light or in a shadow, you’re not going to be able to see anything. Make sure you’re in a well-lit place and that the mirror is catching the light so you can see what you’re supposed to be looking at.
- Look for bumps, lesions, rashes, or discoloration.
When you do your vulva check, you want to make sure you thoroughly check the vulva but also the areas around it. This includes the area where your pubic hair grows, your labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, perineum, and around the anus.
Look for any spots, moles, bumps, rashes, sores, lesions, fusing, and/or discoloration.
- Take photos.
If you see any of these things, I recommend taking pictures and monitoring them for a week or two. Make a doctor's appointment if it worsens within a week or two.
Why take pictures? Pictures are very helpful for your doctor’s appointment to be able to show any changes. They are also helpful for self-monitoring. Even if everything looks typical, take a picture at least once every three months. You’re not going to remember everything. With photos, you can easily see what your vulva typically looks like and if there are any changes.
Step-By-Step Meditation and Vulva Check Guide
Vulva checks aren’t difficult to complete, but they can be very challenging to start. Knowing how to do it correctly can help you take that first step.
Here are two great resources to help you with your vulva checks. Even if you’ve been doing your checks regularly, these tools can make it easier for you to do a thorough check while staying relaxed.
The How to Check Your Vulva Bundle
This LSSN tool offers an easy-to-follow eight-step guide on how to do your vulva check. The printable PDF includes a markable vulva image to document any changes. We suggest creating a new copy every month so you can track changes.
The bundle also comes with two relaxing meditations that walk you through the vulva check process.
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Vulva Checks for Lichen Sclerosus
In this 30-minute video, Jaclyn goes into detail about the importance of vulva checks, how and when to do a vulva check, two ways to document your vulva check, and how to practice self-care after your checks.
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