We have all heard of hymens, right? That is the thing on the outside of a woman's vagina that is meant to break, in most cases when a girl loses her virginity. Well, what if I told you that this is not always the case and that 'popping your cherry' is a myth? What if I also told you that not everyone's hymen is just around the outside of their vagina and that sometimes their hymen can also run in a line across the middle of the opening of a vagina? Ever heard of a septate hymen? Well, a septate hymen is just that: where the hymen not only runs around the outside of the vaginal opening, but also through the middle of it.
I got my first period when I was eleven, however it was not until two years ago that I used a tampon for the first time. I was under the impression that it was very simple to use: just insert the tampon into my vagina and then pull the string to get it out a few hours later. How wrong I was!
I left the tampon in for around eight hours, which is the maximum amount of time you should leave a tampon in your vagina, as if you leave it in any longer it may or may not cause problems, such as toxic shock syndrome. Like I said above, I thought it would be incredibly simple to remove the tampon, however what I endured instead was what felt like hours (although it was probably more like 40 minutes) of tugging and me trying to position myself into different positions to try and get this tampon out. It was incredibly painful and as my period was relatively heavy at the time there was quite a lot of blood. I am not going to tell you how I eventually managed to get it out as it is quite graphic, but when I had been trying to get the tampon out it felt like there was something inside my vagina that was blocking the tampon from coming out, which I later found out to be a septate hymen.
I only found this out earlier this year while, believe it or not, I was scrolling through Facebook. I saw this article pop up on my feed and it was a story by a girl called Georgia who experienced similar problems to me while using a tampon for the first time (you can read that article here). When I had first experienced this problem I did not think much of it as I thought that everyone's vagina was like this and that in my sex education lesson where they told us about using tampons they had lied to us about how easy it is to remove the tampon so as not to scare any of us. However from reading this article and doing a bit of googling on septate hymens, I realised that what I had experienced was in no way normal and that my vagina is quite abnormal (not what you want any guys to know about you when you are trying to find a boyfriend and not scare them away).
Having a septate hymen means that having things inserted into your vagina, such as tampons and having penetrative sex, can be quite painful, particularly if one hole is smaller than the other and whatever is being put into your vagina goes into the small hole. Since my first time of using a tampon, over time it has become a lot less painful in removing tampons, which is either due to a technique I developed in order to remove the tampon, because the tampon is getting put into the larger hole, or because the hole has been stretched enough to remove it pain free, therefore making it easier (and not as painful) to remove. Sex is more of a slight discomfort than painful, but I would not say that having a septate hymen has really affected my sex life or has ever prevented me from wanting to have sex due to a fear of any pain or discomfort I may or may not encounter. But obviously others who also have a septate hymen may say otherwise - not everyone's experience will be exactly the same.
It is possible to get a septate hymen removed, called a hymenectomy, which removes this extra bit of hymen that goes across your vagina and creates a normal opening. However, as with every surgery, this involves a few weeks of recovery. I have thought about going to my doctor and asking about having this procedure, however as it has not caused me that many problems I do not really see the point in having unnecessary surgery. Yes, it would be great to be able to easily remove tampons and to not have slight discomfort whenever I have sex, but it is not like both of these things affect me all the time. I rarely use tampons anymore and whenever I do, there is hardly any pain there anymore whenever I remove it. And as for sex, well, the less said about my sex life the better.
The reason why I am sharing my story of having a septate hymen with you today is because from when I first discovered that there could possibly be something wrong with my vagina, it took two years to find out, by chance, what this problem was. Having a septate hymen is relatively rare, however there are also some other types of hymen that I had never heard of. These are an imperforate hymen, which is where a thin membrane completely covers the vaginal opening and means that your menstrual blood cannot exit the vagina. There is also a microperforate hymen, which is similar to an imperforate hymen in that a thin membrane covers the vaginal opening, however with a microperforate hymen, the membrane does not completely cover the vaginal opening and menstrual blood can still flow out of the vagina, but women who have this type of hymen cannot use a tampon, or if they do manage to get one into the tiny opening they have, they may not be able to remove it once it has soaked up the blood. Both of these can be removed through minor surgery in order to create a normal vaginal opening. Obviously if you think you have any of these three types of hymens, particularly one of the last two, then please go and see your doctor. I know I have not been to see mine about my septate hymen, but it is not posing any difficulties to me, nor do I believe it is posing any sort of health risk to me. Things would maybe be easier if I did get it removed, but right now I do not have an urgent need to do so. But if you do and think by having one of these types of hymens you may have a health risk, please, please, PLEASE go and see your doctor.
There is not that much information out there concerning septate hymens. If you type 'septate hymen' onto the NHS website, it does not even come up with any kind of information whatsoever. Other websites online that talk about septate hymens all say relatively the same things, however there are some differences in what they say and only give very limited information about septate hymens. More information needs to be put out there about the different types of hymens as thinking something is wrong with your vagina but not being able to find anything online so thinking what you believe is abnormal to actually be normal, only to then find out a few years later that it is indeed abnormal is very frustrating.
I ask of you, so that some more information is shared on septate hymens, to share this post far and wide. This is a first-hand experience of having a septate hymen and I think it is important that some more information is put out there so that people can find out an answer much sooner to something that is completely unknown to them. Having an abnormal hymen could be something that could pose a high health risk, so the fact that there is next to no information on them is quite frightening. I know they say not to google anything health related, however just to be able to have a little bit of knowledge on something can be a bit helpful when going to the doctor.
So please share this to help get this information out there as I wish that something like this or the article I linked above had been available to me two years ago. I would hate for anyone else to spend as long as I did in confusion over why removing a tampon causes them so much pain.
Love Beth xx