Anatomy

Vagina

It is a fibromascular tube which gives access to the cervical canal and uterus. During sexual intercourse it envelopes the penis and during delivery the vagina is the birth canal for the infant. During these functions the vaginal walls can constrict and dilate due to the presence of smooth muscles and fibroelastic tissue. The adult vagina extends some 7-10 cm upwards and leaning towards the back. The vaginal orifice is protected by a thin mucosal fold called the hymen, which is perforated at its center. Vulva – the external portion of the female reproductive organs. It surrounds the vaginal orifice (opening) and consists of the vestibule, the hymen, the urethral opening and Skene’s gland ducts, the openings of the greater vestibular glands (Bartholin’s ducts), two sets of lips or labia – labia minora and majora, and the clitoris, the mons pubis and the perineum.

Mons Pubis

A prominent cushion of hair-bearing skin and subcutaneous fat overlying the pubic bone.

Labia Majora

Prominent folds of skin overlaying the deposits of subcutaneous fat, and characterized by the presence of pigmented and hair bearing skin just adjacent to the thighs. The labia majora originates from the mons pubis anteriorly and merges with the perineal body posteriorly.

Labia Minora

Thin folds of hairless skin located between the labia majora on either side of the vaginal and urethral openings. The skin of the labia minora is smooth and pigmented and is composed mainly of elastic fibers and blood vessels and possess a rich innervation. Anteriorly the skin folds split to enclose the clitoris, forming an anterior prepuce and a posterior frenulum, and the posterior ends are united in a sharp fold known as the fourchette.

Vestibule

The area between the labia minora and the vagina. It extends from the clitoris to the posterior fourchette. Localised within the vestibule are the openings of the vagina, the urethra, the ducts of the Brtholin’s glands and the minor vestibular glands. The part of the vestibule between the vaginal orifice and the frenulum of the labia minora forms a shallow depression termed the vestibular fossa.

Hymen

A thin and incomplete membrane of connective tissue at the junction of the vestibule and the vagina. Regular use of tampons or regular sexual intercourse will reduce the hymen to a series of irregular deviations around the vaginal opening termed carunculae myrtiformes.

Bartholin’s Glands

The greater vestibular glands situated deeply within the posterior parts of the labia majora. Each gland lies just inferior and lateral to the bulbocavernosus muscle. The main duct of each Bartholin’s gland opens at the lateral margin of the vagina in the lower half of the vestibule. The glands produce a clear secretion which is most noticeable during sexual arousal. The glands may be the site of infection and cysts formation at any age.

Minor vestibular glands

(not shown in the diagram) – tubular structures commonly occurring around the fourchette in numbers varying from 1 to more than 100, the average number being 2-10.

Clitoris

The erectile tissue that is the equivalent of the male penis. It is situated at the apex of the vestibule anteriorly. The glands of the clitoris is partly hidden by the prepuce.

View diagram of the vulva >

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