Vaginal and vulval problems
What are the vagina and cervix?
During penetrative sex, the penis is in the vagina and sperm are squirted out over the cervix at orgasm (cum). Many of the sperms find their way through the hole in the cervix and up through the uterus. At the top of the uterus, there are two Fallopian tubes, which carry eggs from the ovary to the uterus. The sperm swim up into the Fallopian tubes. If an egg is there, one of them will fertilize it and a baby has begun.
The vagina is about 7–9cm long, but it is very, very stretchy. It has to be stretchy to allow a baby to pass along it during childbirth. During childbirth the hole in the cervix enlarges to allow the baby to pass through.
What is the vulva?
- On the outside, there are the outer lips, which are usually fleshy and covered with hair and skin.
- If you spread the outer lips apart, you will see the inner lips. These are usually thin. Like all parts of the body, they come in all shapes and sizes. In some women, the inner lips are completely enclosed by the outer lips. In other women, the inner lips hang down further than the outer lips; this is absolutely normal.
- The area inside the inner lips round the vaginal opening and the urethra (pee hole) is moist and pink. The medical name for this area is the vestibule.
- The clitoris is at the top, where the outer lips meet.
What is the clitoris?
Getting help for a vaginal or vulval problem
- most vaginal and vulval problems can be dealt with easily
- if you do have an infection, it needs to be treated promptly
- doctors are used to examining the genital area – it is just like any other part of the body to them
- if you do not want to see your family doctor, you can go to your local genitourinary medicine clinic, or talk to the nurse at your doctor’s surgery.
Thinking about the problem
Before seeing the doctor, think carefully about what the actual problem is. Is it pain or is it itching? Do you have a discharge? Are you worried that someone could have given you an infection? Are you worried that your vulva does not look normal? Remember, your doctor cannot help you if he or she does not know what the problem is!
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Monday, December 3rd 2012
"Perfectly normal vulvas come in all shapes and sizes," says GP and comedian Dr Phil Hammond, "each different and beautiful in their own way." Click on the video below for his reassuring commonsense on the subject.
Useful contacts for Vaginal and vulval problems
Click to see all the contacts that you may find useful in relation to vaginal vulva problems
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