Real talk, looking at yourself while squatting over a mirror can feel weird. But that’s only because we’re taught that our vulvas (note: your vulva is all of the external female anatomy, your vagina is the internal canal) are “private” areas.

This is true in the sense that you have complete control over who or what you allow down there. But it’s your body and knowing what your anatomy looks like — and what it’s supposed to look like — is an important part of staying in charge of your reproductive health.

What does a normal vulva look like?

Research has shown that 50% of women worry about whether their vulva looks “normal”, 20% of women don't know what it's supposed to look like, but 1 in every 7 women has considered getting plastic surgery on it.

And it’s no wonder — the female anatomy is glossed over in sexual education and rarely mentioned again once you're out of school. For some people, the only info they get about what vulvas look like is from porn, which can give a very disillusioned sense of what's normal.

The truth is that vulvas (and vaginas) come in a range of shapes, sizes, and colors and each one is unique. Some people have labia that hang down, some have clitorises that are barely visible (but still powerfully pleasurable), some have a mix of brown and pink skin...you get the picture. A normal vulva is a healthy vulva, not one that looks a certain way.

Feel free to grab a mirror as you read this

Checking out your vulva while you learn about all of its different parts can help you become more familiar with your anatomy—and there’s a lot to learn.



External Anatomy

As the term implies, the external female anatomy includes the genitals that are outside the body. Collectively, this region is called the vulva. The vulva includes the outer and inner lips of the labia (labia majora and labia minora), clitoris, and the openings to the urethra and vagina ~the whole enchilada~. This entire area is often mistakenly referred to as the vagina — what you can see externally is simply the vaginal opening. You’ll learn more about the vagina later in the internal anatomy section.

Mons (or Mons Pubis)

Let’s start at the top. Your mons, or mons pubis, is the mound of soft fatty tissue where the majority of your pubic hair grows. This tissue covers the joint of your pubic bones and continues down to form your outer labia (called labia majora).

Labia Majora (outer labia)

Your outer labia are also made of fatty tissue and are covered with pubic hair. Also called the outer lips, the labia majora are the outer folds of skin surrounding the vaginal opening. They are usually larger than the labia minora, but it is not uncommon for the inner lips to be the same size or larger than the outer lips. The labia majora can vary in color—pink, crimson, reddish brown—all of which are considered normal. They can also vary in length from short to long and may appear smooth or wrinkled. The outer lips serve as a protective layer to shield the genitals from dirt and bacteria.

Labia Minora (inner labia)

If you pull your outer labia open, you’ll see your inner labia. These inner labia are just as important as your outer, though they look much different. Labia minora contain sensitive nerve endings which help with sexual pleasure (yas!) and the keep harmful bacteria out of your vaginal opening. Basically, they’re an added layer of protection (and pleasure). The inner labia connect under your mons to form your clitoral hood, which we’ll talk about in a minute.

Inner labia, like all other parts of your vulva, look different from person to person. Some people have inner labia that hang down past their outer labia, while others have labia that are so small you can barely see them. One person could even have inner labia that looks different on each side — totally normal!

Clitoris + Glans

Right below your mons, your inner labia connect to form your clitoral hood. This hood is connected to your glans, which is the very tip of your clitoris (the part you can see outside of your body). The clitoral hood protects your very sensitive (think: over 8,000 nerve endings!) clitoris.

Many people think that the tip of the clitoris is all there is to it, but that’s not the case. In fact, your clitoris is almost as big as a penis but it extends back into your body, making a wishbone shape, called your crura. Each side of your crura is about 3 inches long and is made up of erectile tissue that plays an important role in sexual pleasure and orgasm. Your clitoris is the only part of your body that is made entirely for your sexual pleasure.

Pretty amazing, right?

Urethral Opening

Below the clitoris is your urethral opening, which is barely visible. This is the outer opening of your urethra, a thin tube that leads to your bladder. The hole is where urine comes out.

Vaginal Opening

When people say “vagina”, what they often mean is their “vulva”, which is the female anatomy we’re talking about here. The word vagina really refers to the internal canal (where penises or toys go in and babies come out). Below your urethral opening is your vaginal opening, where you insert things like your menstrual cup. The vaginal opening expands and contracts but, despite what some people say, they don’t stay stretched.

Perineum

We’ve worked our way from the mons all the way back to the perineum, the short stretch of skin that starts at the bottom of the vaginal opening and goes back to the anus. This part of your body has a lot of nerve endings and can feel good when stimulated and acts as a connector.



Internal Anatomy

The internal female anatomy includes the parts you can’t see (obviously), but where all the reproductive action happens – the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Whether or not a baby is present, the hormonal functions of these organs will always impact daily life.

Vagina

This is the muscular tube that connects the external genitals to the cervix of the uterus. The vagina is approximately 2 to 4 inches long and can double in length when a woman is aroused. The walls of the vagina can be described as layers of wrinkles or folds of tissue. Menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the cervix, and exits the body through the vagina. Mucus is generated to keep the vagina moist, enable lubrication for sex, trap semen for conception, and to cleanse the vagina after menses. How much mucus the vagina generates during a cycle varies; it usually increases about two weeks prior to menstruation. The discharge is a natural occurrence and helps maintain the health of the vagina by removing bacteria that may have entered through the vaginal opening. The characteristics of discharge — amount, color, and texture — also vary from woman to woman. The most unique feature of the vagina is its elasticity. It can accommodate a penis, the head of a baby, and of course, a menstrual cup!

Hymen

Located just inside the opening to the vagina, the hymen — also known as the vaginal corona — is a thin membrane of tissue that partially covers the vaginal opening. In many young girls and women, it is difficult to identify the hymen or differentiate it from the vaginal opening tissue. And in other women, the corona has never been intact. The absence of a hymen is not a sign of lost virginity since it can be broken during many non-sexual activities, like sports. The corona tends to erode over time due to hormones, natural discharge, and vaginal sex.

Pubic Bone

The pubic bone is actually the joint where the two halves of the pelvis meet and is inside the vagina about 1 to 2 inches. Being able to identify the curve of the pubic bone from within the vagina is important for the proper placement of a menstrual cup. A menstrual cup needs to be positioned just beyond the pubic bone so it doesn’t expel

G-Spot

The Grafenberg spot, more commonly known as the G-spot, is located on the front wall of the vagina (abdomen side) just past the pubic bone and has a somewhat spongy feel. It may be difficult to find if your fingers can’t reach, but keep in mind that it may be elusive to pinpoint. However, for many women it is an erotic zone that has the potential to contribute greatly to their sexual arousal.

Pelvic floor

The pelvic floor, or pelvic diaphragm, is located underneath the pelvis and can be described as a sling of muscles and connective tissue spanning the pelvic opening. The pelvic floor provides support for the uterus and vagina as well as other organs in this area of the body including the bladder, intestines and rectum. The muscles and tissue hold these organs in place and allow them to function correctly.



Reproductive organs

The female reproductive system has two functions: The first is to produce egg cells, and the second is to protect and nourish the offspring until birth.

Uterus

The uterus is a pear-shaped, muscular structure where a fetus develops during pregnancy. Every month, the female reproductive system goes through ovulation. It’s when a tiny egg says buh-bye to your ovaries and travels down one of your fallopian tubes towards the uterus. Pretty cool, huh? It get’s better.

If the egg isn’t fertilized (aka you’re not pregnant), it doesn’t attach to the beautiful walls of the uterus. Instead, the uterus sheds extra tissue lining and your unfertilized egg eventually makes its way out through your vaginal tube. Boom, you have your period. (where’s my menstrual cup?).

Fallopian Tubes

The fallopian tubes extend from either side of the uterus. It is through these tubes which an egg released during ovulation must travel to the uterus. If an egg is not fertilized, it passes through the cervix and vagina as part of the menstrual flow.

Ovaries

The ovaries are positioned on either side of the uterus. They produce and store eggs. The ovaries are approximately the size of a grape and have a lumpy appearance.

Cervix

The cervix is the narrow, neck-like passage that forms the lower end of the uterus. If you search for it with your finger, it feels a bit like the tip of your nose. Menstrual blood leaves the uterus through the cervix where it passes through the vagina. Semen travels through the cervix to enter the uterus. And in pregnant women, the cervix stretches or “dilates” to allow the fetus to pass through during vaginal delivery. The position of the cervix varies for every woman and its position can change during the menstrual cycle as well as throughout a woman’s life. Being able to determine the position of the cervix is important for the correct placement of a contraceptive diaphragm or menstrual cup.