The vagina is an elastic, muscular organ that connects the uterus with the outside reproductive organs. It is important to remember that the appearance of our intimate area is very individual – genitals can differ in shape, size, color, texture and the overall appearance. Learn more about the anatomy of the vagina so that you can understand fully how this fascinating part of female body functions.
The vagina is connected to the vulva, which includes the outer lips, inner lips, clitoris and the external openings of the urethra and vagina. Sometimes people mix up vulva and vagina – the easiest way to remember is that the vulva is what you see when you observe your intimate region with a mirror. The vagina is situated inside the body and the only way to examine it is with a speculum, which is what a gynecologist does during an exam. For a more detailed look at the differences read The difference between vagina and vulva.
The vaginal opening is hidden by two types of labia – major and minor. These are the outer lips of the vulva, protecting the vagina from infections and also providing stimulation during intercourse since they are very sensitive. Hidden by the labia is the clitoris. This pea-sized soft tissue is probably the most sensitive part of the female body –the clitoris is considered to be the equivalent of the penis. Stimulation of the clitoris causes arousal and can lead to an orgasm, making the clitoris a very important organ for sexual pleasure. When aroused, your clitoris (and your labia) may become enlarged because of increased circulation.
Right under the clitoris is where the urethra opening is. Urine coming from the bladder travels through the urinary tube and exits at this opening. The opening itself is closed by a circular muscle that allows us to hold the urine in until we get to the toilet. Sometimes this muscle can weaken, causing urinary incontinence.
Under the urethra is the vaginal opening. This is where the penis penetrates the vagina, where the tampon or vaginal suppositories are inserted, and where you should apply vaginal moisturizer in case you are using it. The inside of the vagina is covered with soft tissue that varies in moisture depending on the menstrual cycle and other factors such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, etc. This tissue contains many glands that create secretion or discharge, which is necessary for lubrication and protection from infections. Vagina allows for the menstrual blood to flow out from the uterus and thanks to its elasticity, it stretches enough for a baby to be delivered from the uterus.
Around the vaginal opening is a thin membrane called the hymen. This membrane is usually ruptured during first sexual intercourse, sometimes causing mild bleeding.
The vagina, as well as other reproductive organs are kept in its place by the muscles of the pelvic floor. These muscles prevent prolapse and incontinence and can be strengthen by Kegel exercises.
The other end of the vagina is connected to the cervix or the neck of the womb. Cervix has a very small opening that prevents tampons or a penis during penetration to enter the womb. On the other hand, the cervix expands enormously during delivery to allow the baby to pass from the womb through the vagina and into the outside world.