Vulva

The external female genitals are the area of sexual arousal. The vulva (female pudenda) consists of two pairs of fleshy folds or lips, and a small highly sensitive organ, called the clitoris. The outer of the two pairs of lips is called the labia majora (Latin for larger lips) and the inner pair the labia minora (Latin for smaller lips). The labia minora are sometimes hidden by the labia majora and sometimes protrude beyond them. The space surrounded by the lips is called the vestibule and contains the entrance to the vagina and the opening of the urethra – the tube through which urine is passed from the bladder.

The clitoris is located at the front junction of the labia minora and is the main centre of female sexual sensation. It contains erectile tissue and when stimulated enlarges in much the same way as the male penis.

Situated on each side of the vaginal opening are small Bartholin glands, which are stimulated by sexual arousal and release a mucous-like secretion to provide lubrication for intercourse.

The pad of fat covered by pubic hair at the front of the vulva is called the mons veneris (mound of Venus), or sometimes the mons pubis (pubic mound). The area extending from the back of the vulva to the anus is the perineum. The perineum is sometimes cut by the doctor during childbirth (an episiotomy) to avoid tissues being torn, and then repaired immediately afterwards.

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(Last modified: 8th Oct 2014)

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