Vulva Anatomy: Do You Know Where Your Urethra Is? Are You Sure?
One of the most important steps in taking care of your pelvic health is understanding your vulvar anatomy. If you aren’t yet totally familiar with all the parts of your vulva, here's the super simple anatomy guide you've been looking for.
Why Vulva Anatomy is Worth Knowing
There are so many reasons to learn about and be able to identify each specific part of your vulva anatomy:
- You'll know what it looks like when things are healthy and well — and what it looks like when something is off.
- You can see all of the ways your vulvar anatomy adjusts and changes as you move through life stages.
- You'll gain a better understanding of the individual parts of your body that are impacted by your symptoms.
- You’ll be better able to communicate with your healthcare team while advocating for your pelvic health and wellness.
Check out the simple diagram below. It's even more helpful to grab a mirror, place it between your thighs, and visually identify the specific anatomy on yourself.
The Parts of Your Vulva
Your vulva refers to all of the external genitalia unique to those assigned female at birth. It includes everything from your mons pubis down to your perineal body.
Commonly covered in pubic hair (unless you've removed it), the mons pubis is the soft area of fatty tissue that lies over your pubic symphysis joint — the joint at the center of your pubic bone. The mons pubis provides protection to your pubic joint during sex or any other activity where this area of your body might get bumped. (The diagram above doesn't label the mons pubis but it's the curved mound just under the word "Origin.")
The labia majora or "outer lips" run down the right and left sides of your vulva. They start at your mons pubis and end beneath the vaginal opening, where they form what is known as the posterior labial commissure.
The labia majora are also made of fatty tissue and provide cushion to your pelvis when you sit. Tare naturally covered in pubic hair and become engorged during sexual activity. In the illustration above, the labia majora are drawn open so you can see the inner anatomy, but they will typically rest closed to cover the rest of your vulvar anatomy.
The labia minora are the inner labial folds that start above the clitoris (forming the clitoral hood), and then move down the right and left sides around the vaginal opening.
The labia minora come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and are a variety of colors ranging from pink to purple, to brownish-black depending on your skin tone. They are smooth, hairless, and also become engorged and fold outward when aroused during sexual activity.
If you pull open your labia majora, just underneath where the labia comes together at the top is your clitoris. Although you can only see a small portion of it from your vulva, the clitoris is actually 3-4 inches in length, and an interesting wishbone shape that spans through multiple planes in your body.
It is made up of several parts including a glans (the part you can see), a prepuce or hood, a suspensory ligament, a corpora (body), and a set of cruras, roots and bulbs.
Your clitoris is packed full of blood vessels and nerves to allow for maximum sensitivity and engorgement during sexual activity, and it is covered by a little hood of tissue (formed by the top portions of the labia minora) to protect this highly sensitive organ.
Just inside of the labia minora is an area known as the vestibule. It is a smooth tissue that contains the vaginal opening and urethral opening.
Just under the clitoris, is the small opening of the urethra. This is where urine leaves your body.
The vagina is the flexible and muscular tube that runs from the vaginal opening, up to the cervix. During arousal, the vagina can lengthen to allow for penetration if desired.