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The Hymen

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The hymen (high-men) is a stretchy tissue that surrounds or partially covers the vaginal opening. The hymen doesn’t serve any real purpose and is considered a remnant from our evolutionary past. In other words, it’s just there.

Some cultures may refer to the hymen as the “virginal tissue”. These cultures hold the view that virgin girls will still have their hymen in tact and non-virgins will not. But there are many activities that can tear your hymen so a torn hymen doesn’t mean you’ve lost your virginity. The only way to lose your virginity is to have sex.

The hymen can be torn by intercourse, exercise, self-exploration, and tampon insertion. The hymen is also capable of stretching so it can even remain in tact after the first instance of intercourse!

When the hymen tears, some girls may notice a slight pain and some girls may not feel anything at all.

A vagina works completely fine whether the hymen is torn or in-tact.

Hymen Shapes

The hymen comes in a variety of shapes. All shapes are normal, however there are a couple hymen shapes that can block the passage of menstrual blood. In these diagrams, the shaded portions represent the vaginal opening.

normal hymen shape

Normal Hymen

The normal hymen is the most common shape. It’s in the shape of a moon and leaves most of the vaginal opening uncovered, allowing menstrual fluid to pass through.

Girls with a normal hymen should have no problem inserting a tampon and removing a tampon.

annular hymen shape
Annular Hymen

Another common shape, the annular hymen takes on a ring like shape, partially covering the vaginal opening and allows menstrual fluid to pass through.

Girls with a normal hymen should have no problem inserting a tampon and removing a tampon.

septate hymen shape
Septate Hymen

The septate hymen has a band of hymen tissue in the middle that crosses the vaginal opening like a little bridge, creating two small openings instead of one. This shape still allows for menstrual fluid to pass through.

If this band of tissue is very thin, tampon use may tear this tissue. If it is thicker, it may stretch to accommodate the tampon but you may have a bit of trouble getting the tampon in and out.

Girls with septate hymens can go through a simple surgery to remove the extra band of tissue to create a normal sized vaginal opening.

cribiform hymen shape
Cribiform Hymen

The cribiform hymen is a rare hymen shape that has many small holes. A cribiform hymen typically allows menstrual fluids to pass with no problem but will not allow for tampon insertion.

Girls with cribiform hymens are usually diagnosed and treated at birth with a simple procedure. Teens can also go through a simple surgery to create a normal hymen shape.

imporforate hymen shape
Imporforate Hymen

The imporforate hymen is a rare hymen shape that fully covers the vaginal opening. It does not allow menstrual fluid or vaginal discharge to pass through. This usually causes the menstrual blood to collect in the vagina and can cause abdominal pain, back pain, pain passing bowel movements, and difficulty peeing. It will also not allow for tampon insertion or intercourse.

Girls with imporforate hymens are usually treated at birth with a simple procedure. Teens can also go through a simple procedure to create a normal sized hymen and the backed up menstrual fluid is drained from the vagina.

That’s all there is to the hymen! If you have any questions, post a comment below.

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Hymen diagrams courtesy of: Wikimedia

About Dedy Wong

Dedy lives in Vancouver, BC and is a 2014 graduate of the University of British Columbia with a B.A. in Psychology. She is the blogger, writer, photographer, and tester for all the reviews and articles on the blog.Her menstrual cycle is around 35 to 40 days long and she has tried just about everything from menstrual cups to reusable pads.

12 comments

  1. Hi there I’m Lizzy I’m 19 and I’ve been using tampons since I was 12 I’m still a virgin the only thing I put in my vagina is a tampons no vibrato or dildos I was wondering if I have broken my hymen during that time I’ve been using tampons? I wanted to see if I did so I put something in my vagina and it was a size of a tooth brush if it goes in all the way does that mean my hymen is broke????

  2. Hey Dedy! I’m a girl from Indonesia, and tampons are not common here. I just got a box of tampons, the super absorbency one. And yes, it’s pretty big. I know that when you’re on your heavy flow, your vagina opens wide, butI just can’t put it inside my vagina, and it’s a tampon without the applicator. I can see through my vagina that there are 2 marble like tissue, and between them is the place where my vagina goes. And I’ve been trying to get the tampon in, but it hurts! My friend recommends me to use the one with the applicator, but thy don’t have it here. Are the two marble like tissue the hymen, or is it just normal. If it’s normal, why can’tI put a tampon in? Please understand that in Indonesia, they don’t usually sell those gels that can easily make you succeed in putting on tampons ;) Or maybe I should just use the applicator ones first, and then the non-applicator ones.
    Sorry for asking too many questions,
    thank you ☺️

  3. Hey Dedy! I’m a girl from Indonesia, and tampons are not common here. I just got a Natracare tampon, the super absorbency one. And yes, it’s pretty big. I know that when you’re on your heavy flow, your vagina opens wide, butI just can’t put it inside my vagina, and it’s a tampon without the applicator. I can see through my vagina that there are 2 marble like tissue, and between them is the place where my vagina goes. And I’ve been trying to get the tampon in, but it hurts! My friend recommends me to use the one with the applicator, but thy don’t have it here. Are the two marble like tissue the hymen, or is it just normal. If it’s normal, why can’tI put a tampon in? Please understand that in Indonesia, they don’t usually sell those gels that can easily make you succeed in putting on tampons ;)
    Sorry for asking too many questions,
    thank you ☺️

  4. I’m having trouble loading my vaginal opening yet I have my periods basically every month, could I have a crybiform hymen??

  5. Your blog is too lovely! I love the detailed and thorough answers you give. Unfortunately I have high anxiety and have been wondering could I ever even have sex with my bf With my kind of hymen, but other then that I feel I’m ready and he is ready whenever I am. I’ve looked for hours trying to understand how mine is, I don’t know how to describe it well, but my period flow is med/ heavy so blood comes out fine/ normal. Where, I spread my lips I see this long slit (pink skin/ flesh as soon as you try to open the lips, when the lips are closed/ not pulled apart the pink thing can be seen hiding inside. I have tried to insert a tampon but I am scared for penetration of any sort but I’m willing to try for my bf. I’ve had to stick tubes up their for previous yeast infections it wasn’t painful but I didn’t like the pressure, also Pap smears are the worst, they don’t hurt me at all but it’s not pleasant I squirm and have panic attacks and breathe rapidly right on the table. It’s so bad the doctor tells me to just take a cotton swab and try to get my own sample for them. My bf slightly fingers me it doesn’t ever hurt but it he goes slightly deep it feels a bit uncomfortable but not painful.i feel like I am very tight possibly. If I could describe my vagina it’s like (||) the lines in the middle represents the pink thing. I am scared I have a septate hymen and need surgery please in anyway you can reassure to ease my anxiety and fear.
    As for your guess would you say it’s a normal vagina? Thank you so much <3

    • Hello Nicole,

      sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to your comment!

      That’s good news that your period comes out normal. That’s a sign that your hymen opening is big enough for a regular period.

      It’s a good idea that you’ve asked your doctor but I think your doctor should be helping you retrieve the sample if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.

      To be honest I’m not quite sure why you are having this experience so you should definitely contact your doctor again.

      Also if you have a septate hymen, don’t worry so much because I hear that it is a very simple procedure and not very painful at all :).

      Your friend,
      -Dedy
      The Period Blog

  6. Thanks for the information
    Maybe people look at this blog in different angles, points,for different purposes at different times
    For different reasons

    Even I don’t now how a tampon feels
    But some day I hope to

    Thanks Miss Dedy
    Always
    With love
    Alexvia

  7. Does the irregular hymens indicate we did something we shouldn’t do
    And can people be born with irregular hymens
    How is it possible

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