Short glossary of the female genital system
Vagina, vulva, uterus…? You don't know exactly what all these terms mean and you use them interchangeably? No worries ! We take stock with you, with a tender thought for our middle school biology lessons which tended to cause palpable tension in the classroom.
The vulva, the outer part of the female genitalia
The vulva is made up of two pairs of labia, the visible part of the clitoris and two orifices - the vagina and the urethra which allows urine to be evacuated. The labia majora are two folds of flesh covered with skin. Between these are the labia minora which are particularly sensitive. They join in their upper parts to form a hood hiding the glans of the clitoris.
The clitoris is the organ dedicated to pleasure. It is only for that! Its outer part is tiny but still visible to the naked eye. This is just the tip of the iceberg: the clitoris extends inside the body in the form of arms that partially surround the vagina.
The vagina, a place of passage
The vagina is the organ that connects the inside of the body to the outside world. It extends over approximately 9 cm and begins at the level of the ostium, an orifice protected by the labia minora. It ends at the cervix, a very narrow passage that leads to, you guessed it, the uterus.
During menstruation, blood flows through the vagina. Likewise, this is where we slip our internal periodic protections (cup, tampons, etc.) or certain means of contraception (contraceptive ring, female condom, spermicide, etc.). This is also where babies come out - and no, they are not born in the cabbage, a myth collapses! And to create babies, the penis of the future dad is inserted into the vagina.
The uterus is the organ intended to receive the foetus. Its walls are continuously covered with a vascularized mucosa in order to receive one or more eggs. This is evacuated each month when there has been no fertilization: these are the rules. Once completed, the process begins again and again, until menopause.
As big as a pear, this pouch grows during pregnancy to reach 20 times its original size. The uterus is mainly made up of muscles and can therefore contract with more or less pain . These contractions take place during menstruation to evacuate blood, during childbirth to open the cervix, but also during an orgasm.
Located in the lower abdomen, on either side of the uterus, the ovaries have two main roles. First of all, it is in this organ that the oocytes, eggs in the making, are produced and stored. Each month, one of them is expelled into the fallopian tubes to go in search of a sperm to his liking.
The ovaries are also part of the endocrine system because they secrete several hormones: testosterone but especially estrogen and progesterone. These last two play an essential role in the functioning of the menstrual cycle .
There you go, you know everything! It remains to dare to say “vagina” or “vulva” out loud without blushing. Indeed, the female anatomy often remains taboo. To help change things little by little, there's no need to display The Origin of the World by Gustave Courbet in your living room, using the right words is already a start!