Here are some answers to common questions about the female anatomy, including the vulva, vagina, and breasts.
What’s a vulva? The vulva is the whole female genital “package” — including the labia, clitoris, vagina, and the opening to the urethra. This part of the female anatomy gets called lots of funny names — coochie, woo-woo, and “down there.”
What does the vulva look like? Because women’s genitals are hidden, some people don’۪t know the proper names of these body parts. The female genitals include outer labia (lips), inner labia (lips), clitoris, clitoral hood, opening to the urethra, and opening to the vagina.
What does “labia” mean? The word labia means “lips” in Latin. The outer labia are two folds of skin and fatty tissue on each side of the opening to the vagina.
What’۪s a clitoris? The clitoris is located beneath the point where the inner labia meet and form a “hood” over the clitoris. Like the penis, the clitoris becomes stiff and swollen during sexual arousal. Unlike the penis, the clitoris is designed only for pleasure.
What’s a hymen? The hymen is a thin, fleshy tissue that stretches across part of the opening of a girl’۪s vagina. Hymens have at least one opening that will allow menstrual flow out of the body. The hymen can be stretched open the first time a girl has vaginal intercourse. Women may experience some pain or bleeding the first time they have vaginal intercourse if the hymen is stretched. Some people, and some cultures, believe that a woman whose hymen has been stretched open is no longer a virgin. But having a hymen and being a virgin are not the same thing. There are other ways that a woman can stretch her hymen, including using tampons, insertive masturbation, riding a bicycle, or doing gymnastics. And some girls are born with so little hymenal tissue that it appears they have none.
Is the vulva supposed to smell? And am I supposed to have discharge?
During puberty, you might begin to notice discharge that can be white, clear, yellow or greenish. This is the self-cleaning feature of your vagina. Also when we’re ovulating or turned on, our vaginas produce discharge. The vulva has a characteristic scent, and if it’s healthy the smell is not unpleasant. If your vulva smells really bad, fishy, yeasty, or has any other strong, unpleasant odor, see a health care provider. An unpleasantly smelly discharge can be a sign of an infection that should be treated right away.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was adapted from PlannedParenthood.org, a website that provides education about reproductive and sexual health.