There are numerous myths about the hymen. How does it look like? How deep is it in the vagina? When does the hymen tear? How can you tell if it has cracked? And: can the hymen be restored?
Contrary to popular belief, the organ known as the hymen is not a membrane that closes the vagina of girls and women before their first sexual intercourse. Rather, it is a thin, individually shaped mucous membrane that lies directly behind the labia minora, also known as the vulval lips, about two to five centimeters deep in the vaginal entrance. In Sweden, the term vaginal corona (Latin for wreath) has been used instead of the word hymen since 2009.
At a glance:
What is the function of the hymen?
In order for the sexual organs of female fetuses to develop properly in the womb, they must be protected from penetrating amniotic fluid. This is the job of the hymen: it initially completely closes the vaginal opening of the embryo, but normally recedes shortly before birth until it has the shape of an elastic, ring-shaped hem. Since the female sexual organs only stimulate the formation of lactic acid bacteria at the onset of puberty, which protect them from germs entering the vagina, some experts are of the opinion that the vaginal corona still has a certain protective function until then.
What is the truth of the defloration myth?
The fact that a woman is deflowered (deflowered) during her first sexual intercourse with a man by his penis piercing her hymen is impossible with a normally developed vagina – yet this myth persists in many minds. It is often based on the patriarchal view that a woman has to remain untouched, i.e. sexually inexperienced, for her husband until the wedding. The myth of the intact hymen as evidence of virginity is still anchored in many cultures and religions today and can mean great psychological stress for girls. It is often part of the marriage rite that a newly wedded couple presents their relatives with a blood-stained bed sheet after the wedding night. The blood is said to have come from the tear in the hymen. However, studies show that at least half of all women do not experience bleeding during their first sex. If it is actually bleeding, there may also be minor injuries to the vaginal lining. Pain during first intercourse is often caused by cramping of the vaginal or pelvic floor muscles and / or an inexperienced and insensitive partner.
Can you tell from the hymen whether a girl has already had sex?
Just as a man cannot tell whether his sexual partner is still a virgin, the appearance of the hymen cannot tell whether a woman has already had sexual intercourse or not. There are even female babies born without a vaginal corona. Even with gynecological examinations, it is not possible to determine whether a girl is still a virgin. There are many different causes for tears or other changes to the hymen.
Conversely, an intact vaginal corona is no proof of sexual abstinence: In the gynecological examination of 36 pregnant teenagers in a US study, only two of the test subjects showed a changed hymen.
How can the hymen tear?
Whether or by what means the vaginal corona tears is very individual because every body is unique. The question of what the hymen looks like when it is torn cannot therefore be answered across the board. In theory, anything inserted into the vagina can injure the vaginal corona. Due to the high elasticity of the tissue, many experts consider it unlikely that it will tear through the use of tampons, masturbation or even during sporting activities such as gymnastics or horse riding. What is undisputed, however, is that the hymen of the woman giving birth is often injured in a natural birth. In general, large vaginal wreaths are more prone to cracking than small, narrow ones. Injuries at this point usually heal without scarring.
Can the hymen be restored?
Some medical practices specializing in plastic surgery or gynecology advertise on their websites with surgical repair of the hymen (hymenorrhaphy or hymen reconstruction, also called revirginization). The costs for this in Europe are between 500 and 4,000 euros, depending on the location.
Since hymen reconstruction does not fight discrimination against women, but rather indirectly upholds the myth of defloration, the women’s rights movement does not endorse the OP – or see it only as a last resort for girls who would otherwise be rejected by their families or even because of premarital sexual activities would have to fear a so-called honor killing. In medicine, too, there are repeated debates about the ethical justification of the intervention, among other things because it is not medically necessary, it is fraudulent and it is based on a false image of the female anatomy.
Before a young woman considers hymen restoration, she should contact a specialized counseling center (e.g. from the organization pro familia): In a Dutch study, 49 out of 73 subjects who were originally interested in hymen reconstruction decided against the operation after they had been fully enlightened about the myth of the hymen legible virginity. They were also given alternative ways of satisfying the family or future husband in other ways – for example by using fake blood or coloring vaginal tablets on the wedding night.
Like any operation, hymen reconstruction also carries the risk of complications such as wound healing disorders, secondary bleeding or infections. In addition, the result is controversial, as no one can say what the hymen of the woman in question would have looked like in an intact condition.
How does an operation to restore the hymen work?
A hymen reconstruction is usually carried out on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia. There are different surgical procedures: from gluing with tissue glue to suturing the residual hymene with self-dissolving sutures. Sometimes an endogenous or an artificial skin graft is also used. So that the mucous membrane of the hymen tears and bleeds as much as possible during the first sexual intercourse after the operation, it is optionally additionally roughened or processed with a laser. In this way, the operated woman should be able to meet ritual demands for bleeding on the wedding night. The procedure takes about 30 minutes in total.
An antibiotic and decongestant medication can reduce the risk of complications. A dressing change takes place once on the day after the operation. After a reconstruction of the hymen, certain precautionary measures must be observed (for example, only clean the intimate area with clear water, physical restraint).
What problems can the hymen cause?
A small percentage of all girls are born with a completely closed genitalia (hymenal atresia or hymen imperforatus). Since in this case vaginal secretions and later menstrual bleeding cannot drain away, a small surgical incision should be made on the hymen in the newborn (hymenal split). Sometimes, however, hymenal atresia is only noticeable after the onset of menstruation. This can lead to painful accumulations of blood in the vagina or in the abdomen and the hymenal splitting must take place as quickly as possible.
In a few girls the opening of the vaginal corona is extremely small or the organ is not shaped like a ring but a bridge, which can cause difficulties when using tampons and pain during intercourse, for example. Here, too, a small, usually outpatient, surgical procedure performed under local anesthesia is necessary. Benign growths (tumors) occur rarely on the hymen.
Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by www.lifeline.de.
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