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What you Need to know about your Vagina and Vulva

Have you ever looked at your body and wondered, “Is this normal?” If so, you’re not alone. This article describes some need-to-know facts about your body. Hopefully, it will also help put your mind at ease.

When discussing anatomy people often use playful terms, like “lady bits.” Although using cute names is okay, knowing the medical terms for your intimate body parts is important too. Why? Knowledge is power. When you know the proper medical terms for your anatomy, you may feel more comfortable asking your health provider questions or discussing issues. Plus, when it comes to gender diversity, using terms like “lady bits” can be harmful. Not everyone with a vagina identifies as a woman, and some people born with a penis identify as a woman. So, using the correct medical terms to describe our anatomy is not just more accurate, it’s also more inclusive.

The Basics

For people born with vaginas, our anatomy is made up of both external (outer) parts and internal (inner) parts.

The external (outer) parts are called vulva. Vulva consist of labia (lips), the clitoris, the vaginal opening, and the opening of the urethra (the hole urine comes out of). Vulva come in all shapes and sizes. They are like flowers, beautiful and rarely perfectly symmetrical.

Fig. 1 – External Parts of Your Anatomy

There are two sets of labia: outer and inner labia. About half of vulva have outer lips longer than the inner, and about half have inner lips longer than the outer lips. People often make the mistake of referring to their vulva as their “vagina.”. The vulva is on the outside, and the vagina is on the inside. To learn about other external parts, click here.

The internal (inner) parts of anatomy include the vagina. The vagina is a short tube that connects the vulva with the cervix and uterus. During puberty, those with a uterus will begin menstruation (getting periods).

The vagina is where babies and menstrual blood leave the body. It is also where some people put fingers, penises, sex toys, menstrual cups, or tampons. The vagina is stretchy and expands when someone is turned on, gives birth, or has sex. You don’t need to worry about using special soap to clean your vagina, as the vagina cleans itself. Wash it the way you do the rest of your body. To learn about other parts of the internal anatomy, click here.

Knowing the correct names of your body parts and their function can help you appreciate your body, talk with your health provider, find trustworthy information, and learn what’s normal for you.

To learn more about your body and how to take care of it, check out these resources:

Author: Stephanie Paz is a Tigua Indian of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Texas at El Paso and is working towards a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Promotion from New Mexico State University.

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