Updated: Feb 11
Sometimes it seems like male genitals are simpler than female ones!
We can have bearded clams or coochies, fannies or pink tacos, snatches or whisker biscuits – every country has its favourites, its funnies, the cringe-worthy and the downright insulting. But they typically mean the whole general area. The whole box and dice, as the saying goes.
When it comes to managing our health and treating our symptoms, we need to get specific. We can’t risk one person thinking ‘apply vaginally’ means inserting something inside while another person thinks it means the outer skin of the area. So let’s start from the outside and work our way internally.
(BTW, 'apply vaginally' means inside. Read more below.)
The vulva is one word for many parts – the outer female genitals. This includes the clitoris and the labia that surround and protect the vagina.
The Mons Pubis or pubic mound is the fatty mound that covers the pubic bone at the front, where pubic hair grows.
The anus is the opening at the back where poop comes out. There is likely to be bacteria on the anus that you do not want transferred forward.
The perineum is the outside surface of the area from the anus forwards to the vaginal opening. Sometimes pelvic floor muscles are called perineal muscles.
The labia are often called lips, and there are two pairs that surround the vagina.
The bigger, or Labia Majora, are the outer fleshy mounds. Closer to the vagina sit the thinner Labia Minora. The area exposed when the lips are separated is sometimes referred to as the vestibule.
Although the inner labia are thinner, they are often longer and extend past the bulkier outer lips. Don’t be fooled by what you may have seen in pictures – there are media laws forbidding visible inner parts. Labia minora are considered 'inner parts' so they are digitally edited out of published images.
The clitoris is the female answer to the penis, and only its tip is visible as a small bump tucked between the forward ends of the labia. Under the surface, the clitoris has arms that reach down either side of the vagina. For many women the clitoris is a vital part of sexual pleasure, becoming engorged with blood and erect with arousal. The clitoris has its own protective cover, called the clitoral hood.
The urethral opening is the outer opening of the tube, the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder to the outside world. The opening sits inside the labia, in between the vaginal opening and the clitoris.
The vagina is the passage that menstrual blood and babies come out of. It is where a tampon (or a penis) can be inserted. It can change size considerably, becoming slightly larger when aroused and unfolding amazingly to allow the passage of a baby. “Apply vaginally” means to place the cream or capsule inside the passage that is the vagina. Sometimes on a prescription this is written as PV (Per Vaginam, Latin for ‘through the vagina’.)
The cervix is the tip of the uterus (womb) and forms the inner end of the vagina (like the cap on a mailing tube). It can be felt as a slightly rubbery mound if you care to explore your vagina with your finger. It does change with the menstrual cycle so don’t be concerned if it feels a little lower and softer when you are about to menstruate. It tends to be firmer and sit higher at mid-cycle when ovulation occurs. (The degree of cyclic change varies between people so don’t worry if yours seems to be consistent all month.)
The uterus is a hollow organ that, during the reproductive years, follows a cycle of growing a thicker lining of endometrial cells which either support a fertilized egg or are shed during a menstrual period. The uterus starts out about the size and shape of an upside-down pear, but stretches to the size of a watermelon during pregnancy.
The fallopian tubes extend out one from each side of the upper end of the uterus. They are the passage used by an egg as it travels from the ovary to the uterus. During each menstrual cycle, only one ovary releases an egg to pass down one fallopian tube. If fertilization occurs, it happens in the fallopian tube before the egg reaches the uterus.
The ovaries are two small organs (one on each side of the uterus) which contain eggs. During each fertile menstrual cycle, one egg will mature and be released. This is called ovulation. The ovaries secrete the hormones estrogen, testosterone, inhibin, and progesterone – but they aren’t our only bodily source of those hormones.
This post is the start of a new series on vaginal health. Check out the Vaginal Health blog category HERE to see if I've added more!
Want to get our weekly email and hear about new blog posts, other happenings at Forecast Wellness, and some useful health info to boot? Get on our email list here! (I won’t share with anyone else.)
There’s a Forecast Wellness Facebook page too, visit it HERE and like or follow if you’d enjoy seeing regular health tips.
Information provided on this site is intended to be educational. It is not intended to provide medical advice and does not replace advice from your health practitioner.