The Hymen. Facts and busted myths🤯

The hymen… such an enigma revolves around this small part of a woman's body. Is it a sign of virginity and does it have such an important meaning in some cultures🤔? Let’s bust some myths and learn the real things about the hymen🤯!

The mythology of the hymen

Hymen was the Greek god of marriage. The mythology tells the tale of a young, beautiful man that saved a group of women from danger. As a reward, he married one of the girls he secretly loved and they lived happily ever after.

What is the hymen?

The hymen is a membrane located at the opening of the vagina. In early fetal life (while the fetus is still inside the womb) the vagina is first formed as a solid tube. Over time, the vagina develops, turning into an empty tubular structure that has a thin membrane at the lower end, aka the hymen. This membrane may be ruptured in the first days of life. The membrane surrounds the vagina, having one or more small openings that partially cover the vaginal orifice. Some girls are born without a hymen.

Up until now, researchers did not find any clear function for the hymen.

Types of hymen

There is no standard appearance of hymen in young girls, adolescents and women. It can have various forms, such as: hymen anularis, hymen cribriformis, hymen imperforatus and many more, depending on the coverage of the vaginal opening.

The hymen thickens and increases in elasticity as puberty begins. Over time, further modifications happen due to hormonal changes, such as pregnancy, childbirth, aging and menopause.

Busted myths

Myth #1: The hymen completely covers the vaginal orifice. False!

The hymen surrounds the vaginal orifice. If it would completely cover it, menstruation wouldn’t be possible.

Exception: There is a rare condition (birth defect), called Hymen imperforatus, where the hymen completely covers the vagina. It is usually diagnosed in adolescent girls, during their first menstruation, when blood accumulates in the vagina and uterus. It is treated by surgical incision of the hymen.

Myth #2: The presence or absence of hymen can determine if a girl or woman ever had sex. False!

There is no connection between the appearance of a hymen and prior sexual intercourse. The hymen can be ruptured in various contexts, such as: sports, insertion of menstrual products or fingers, or surgical procedures.

Myth #3: If a virgin girl bleeds during her first sexual intercourse, it means that her hymen was torn. False!

The hymen has few blood vessels, therefore, even if torn, it would not bleed significantly. The presence of blood might be due to lack of lubrication and forced penetration. Studies show that bleeding does not regularly happen during a woman’s first sexual intercourse.

Myth #4: Vaginal examination of the hymen can determine whether sexual assault happened. False!

Without any other type of evidence, no medical conclusion can be drawn just from the appearance of the hymen. Hymenal injuries usually heal fast, without leaving any sign of recent injury. Several studies about sexual assault survivors showed, that the hymen does not always have signs of damage as a result of forced penetration.

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Cultural practices related to the presence of the hymen

In many cultures, the presence of the hymen is associated with virginity. This phenomenon is an important aspect for unmarried women and their families, as their honor and