Anatomy of the Vulva
By SweetSpot Labs®
“Vulva” refers collectively to the external female sex organ. This region, while known colloquially as the “vagina,” in fact includes multiple structures that play roles in urination, sexual behavior, menstruation and childbirth. While the appearance and size of the vulva’s constituent parts can vary greatly from one woman to the next, the basic structures and their functions are the same.
The labia is the most visible of the vulva’s constituent structures. The labia consists of two pairs of lips at the entrance to the vagina. The labia majora, or “large lips,” extend on either side of the vagina, can be covered in hair, and either partially or fully hide the other parts of the vulva. The labia minora, or “small lips,” are two soft folds of lips within the labia majora, on either side of the vagina.
Each side of the labia minora has tiny glands known as Bartholin’s glands, which secrete small amounts of fluid when a woman is sexually aroused, providing lubrication.
The clitoris is found where the labia minora meet at the front of the vulva, and may be partially or entirely covered by a “hood” or tissue homologous to the foreskin in males. This organ is rich in nerve tissue and thus suited to sexual stimulation.
In between the clitoris and vagina is the urethral opening, or meatus. Urine is excreted here after passing from the bladder through the transport tube known as the urethra.
Finally, the vaginal opening, or vestibule of the vagina, provides an opening to the muscular canal extending from the cervix to the outside of the body.
In the absence of proper vulvar care, this region is subject to problems as varied as its anatomy. One of the most common ailments is vaginitis, which refers broadly to inflammation of the vagina and vulva caused by infection, including yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis(BV). Other potential problems include vulvodynia, or pain of the vulva, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases such as trichomoniasis and cancer of the vulva.
On the whole, most problems are best avoided by taking appropriate preventative measures on a daily basis. Vulvar hygiene is, perhaps, the most crucial consideration. Proper hygiene involves keeping the vulva clean using gentle cleansers, avoiding spray perfumes, douches, and other potential irritants, and cleansing front to back after a bowel movement to prevent the spread of bacteria. Clothing choice is also important. It is recommended that women wear cotton panties, avoid synthetic materials, and be sure to change out of wet clothing as soon as possible. Finally, practicing safe sex with partners who are hygienically conscious guards against a range of unwanted consequences.
That the vulva is so commonly and improperly referred to as the vagina testifies to a general tendency to simplify, if not overlook, the structure, function and proper care of this part of the female body. SweetSpot Labs’® products are carefully formulated to best address this physiology, promoting vulvar health- not by the treatment of unwanted problems after they occur- but through an appreciation of the complexity and uniqueness of the vulvar area.
Disclaimer: Content provided in this essay regarding health or health matters has not been evaluated or approved by a board certified physician. Although we believe that all of the information contained in this essay is entirely correct and factual, we are not doctors and highly recommend consulting a physician regarding any medical problems or treatments.