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Vulva and Vagina: Parts of the Female Genitalia Explained

Many people use the word “vagina” to describe females’ sex organs. The anatomy in this area is quite complex, and there are actually many parts of female genitalia. Read on to learn the medical terms for various vagina parts, as well as their functions. 

Vagina parts and what they do

Vagina vs. vulva: What’s the difference?

Some people use the words “vagina” and “vulva” interchangeably, but they refer to two very different parts of the anatomy. Vulva is the medical term for the external parts of the female genital area. There are many tissues in this area, and they each have different functions. The vagina is a specific part of the internal female anatomy. 

Parts of the female external sexual anatomy

There are many parts of the vulva, including the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, clitoral hood, urethral opening, and vaginal opening.

Labia majora

The labia majora, also called the outer lips, are the folds of skin that enclose other parts of the external sexual anatomy. They help protect these tissues. 

The labia majora are fleshy, hair-covered tissues. They protect the labia minora and other external vagina parts. The shape and size of these tissues can vary from one person to another. It’s common for the labia majora to be darker than the rest of your skin.

Labia minora

The labia minora are also called the inner lips, and this tissue plays a role in sexual stimulation. 

The labia minora are located inside the labia majora, and their appearance can vary. In some people, they’re very small. During sex, these tissues swell and become more sensitive.

Clitoris

The clitoris is located at the top of the labia minora. The visible portion of the clitoris looks like a pea-sized nub, but it’s actually much larger.

With a lot of nerve endings, the clitoris is a very sensitive tissue. Unlike other vagina parts, its only purpose is pleasure. The visible portion of the clitoris is only a small part of this tissue. The clitoris has a spongy shaft that extends into the body.

Clitoral hood

The clitoral hood is a flap of tissue that covers the clitoris. Its main role is to protect the clitoris, but it also produces lubricant. 

The clitoral hood covers the clitoris and protects it from irritants. Since the clitoris is so sensitive, the clitoral hood also helps protect it from excessive stimulation. Glands in the hood produce a lubricant that helps the tissue glide across the clitoris.

Urethral opening

The urethral opening is part of the renal system — along with the kidneys and bladder — and it’s nestled among the external female sexual anatomy. This opening can be found between the labia minora.

Urethral opening is located between the labia minora, just above the vaginal opening. The female urethral opening is short, which can make urinary tract infections more likely.

Urine is made by the kidneys and stored in the bladder. When it’s time for urine to leave the body, it travels through a tube called the urethra and exits through the urethral opening. This opening is located between the labia minora, just above the vaginal opening. The female urethral opening is short, which can make urinary tract infections more likely. 

Vaginal opening

One of the important parts of the vagina is its opening, which doctors call the vaginal introitus. This opening is located beneath the urethral opening.

In some people, the vaginal opening is partially covered by a thin tissue called the hymen. People who have this tissue may tear it when they use tampons, play sports, or have sex for the first time. 

Parts of the female internal sexual anatomy

The vagina is the most well-known part of the internal female sexual anatomy, but there are plenty of other parts in this area. The cervix, uterus, endocervical canal, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and fimbriae are some of the other parts of female internal organs.

Vagina

The vagina is a muscular tube. It extends from the vaginal opening to the cervix. 

The vagina is very elastic, and its size varies depending on what’s happening to it. Unstimulated, the vagina is between 2.75 and 3.25 inches long and narrow enough to hold a tampon in place. During sex, it can stretch to between 4.25 and 4.75 inches long. During childbirth, the vaginal tissues can expand enough to accommodate a baby. 

Uterus

Also known as the womb, the uterus is a pear-shaped organ located above the vagina that plays an important role in reproduction and menstruation.

Ligaments hold this organ in place. The lower part of the uterus is called the cervix, and the top of the uterus is called the fundus. The main part of the uterus is known as the body. During pregnancy, the fetus grows in the uterus. During menstruation, the lining of the uterus is shed and passes through the cervix.

Cervix

The cervix is a muscular, cylindrical tissue at the bottom part of the uterus, and it separates the uterus from the vagina.  

To protect the uterus from infections, the cervix is usually coated with a thick mucus. During some points of the menstrual cycle, the mucus thins, which lets sperm pass through.

To protect the uterus from infections, the cervix is usually coated with a thick mucus. During some points of the menstrual cycle, the mucus thins, which lets sperm pass through. The cervix opens slightly during menstruation, and it widens significantly during childbirth.

Endocervical canal

The endocervical canal is a tunnel that passes through the cervix. This tunnel has several purposes. 

The endocervical canal allows passage between the uterus and the vagina. During menstruation, the uterine lining passes through this canal and out through the vagina. Sperm may pass through the canal and into the uterus. In addition, this canal produces mucus that lubricates the vagina.

Ovaries

Located on each side of the uterus, the ovaries are small organs that produce eggs. Several million eggs are already in the ovaries when you’re born. Throughout your lifetime, the egg supply becomes depleted. The ovaries also produce hormones that control the menstrual cycle, such as estrogen and progesterone. 

Fallopian tubes

The fallopian tubes, also called uterine tubes, are ducts that help eggs travel out of the ovaries and into the uterus.  

During ovulation, an egg is released from the ovary. It travels into the fallopian tube, and if sperm is present, it may get fertilized. Most fertilized eggs continue their journey down the fallopian tube and into the uterus, though some implant in the tube. These pregnancies, called ectopic pregnancies, aren’t viable and are treated with surgery.

Fimbriae

The fimbriae are small strands of tissue located at the end of each fallopian tube. They help eggs make their way from the ovaries to the uterus because the ovaries and the fallopian tubes aren’t directly connected. 

Conclusion

Many people refer to women’s entire sexual anatomy as “vaginas,” but there are many different parts of female genitalia. If you ever have any questions or concerns about your sexual anatomy and its functions, your doctor can be a great resource.

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