Lady Parts

I know that this post may ruffle some feathers from my more conservative readers, so I am giving you a head's up now: both videos contain non-birth related nudity.

How many women are familiar with their body's sexual organs? How many of you have seen your cervix or can name your anatomy correctly?

I wish that we, as a society, were more understanding of our bodies. I wish that American women had shows like the one below, which would give us confidence in our body, the originality of our own body and it's beauty...

And, here is a video to give you a look at what your midwife or doctor is seeing when you have a vaginal exam/pap smear.

We have amazing bodies and it is about time that we know them better!

If you are comfortable doing so, grab a mirror and have some 'personal time' getting to know your own body. Even consider asking your doc or midwife to help you see your own cervix at your next visit. It sounds loony, but it is very empowering to know your own body better.


The proper name for the outer female genitals is the vulva.

Looking downward, where your pubic hair is (or normally grows if you are a trimmer/shaver), below your belly button, there is a fatty area called the The mons veneris, Latin for "hill of Venus" (Roman Goddess of love). I have heard it called 'mounds' before, because that is very much what it looks like, your mound. :)

Further down, between your legs, you will find, first, the fatty outer folds of skin protecting the inner folds of more sensitive tissue. This outer fold of skin is called the labia majora (lay-bee-ah) or "lips." These are normally covered with hair as well.

If you were to pull your outer labia open, you would find your labia minora, (aka lips), which are not covered with hair. These inner lips have been likened to the petals of a flower, small tongues, wings of a butterfly... and other such romantic imagery. These labia minora vary in size, length, color, and texture from woman to woman. Some women have very small, barely visible labia, while other women have very long labia. They can be thick or thin, purple, pink, brown, red, smooth edged, ruffle edged, bulbous, uneven, or even. Each and every one of these variations are normal and beautiful - your own personalized body that is as original as you are. The purpose of your labia minora are two-fold: they are very sensitive and play a part in sexual arousal, as well as they protect your more inner sexual anatomy (vestibule) from bacteria/infection/desensitization.

Opening the labia minora, you will be looking at the vestibule. Where the labia minora come together at the top (below the mons), you will find a skin fold called the clitoral hood. This hood protects the tip of the clitoris from drying out and becoming desensitized. If you pull up the hood with your fingers, you will find a small, shiny bulb. This is the glans, or tip of the clitoris. If you were able to see the part of the clitoris that is hidden within your body, you would find that the clitoris is almost the same size as the average penis. This is the focus of many women's orgasms as it wraps around both sides of the inner vestibule, coming to an apex at the clitoral glans visible externally.
"The clitoris and vagina embracing the penis during intercourse as seen facing toward the woman. The outer layers of skin, fat, and muscle have been dissected away, and the penis is shown in simplified cross-section for position only. Atop the pea-shaped clitoral glans, normally the only part visible outside the body, you can see the ascending portion of the clitoral shaft. Upon reaching its apex (which Dickinson calls "the clitoral knee"), the shaft bends downward and divides into the two "legs" or crura which encircle the vaginal opening." Drawing by Robert Latou Dickinson, in "Human Sex Anatomy," 1949.

Looking within the vestibule, below the clitoral hood, you will find two openings. The first opening is the urethral opening. This opening is where you urinate from. The second opening is the opening to your vagina. The opening to the vagina differs from woman to woman as well. It is normally circular in a woman who has not given birth, whereas tends to be more irregular after birth (see below).

(the first is the vaginal opening of a woman who has not had a baby, whereas the second is the vaginal opening of a woman who has given birth).

The vagina is, on average, 3 inches deep. During arousal, it elongates and expands open, like a barrel. This is the area which, during labor and birth, is referred to as the birth canal. This vaginal barrel is made of extremely elastic tissue that have varying folds and textures.

If you were to place your finger into the vaginal opening and then do, what my kids call, the 'pee squeeze' (what you engage when you are trying to stop the flow of urine or are attempting not to urinate), you would feel the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles flex. This muscular hammock holds up the internal organs, and has an opening for the urethral, vaginal, and anal cavities - allowing you control over any matter passing in or out of those orifices. Flexing the PC muscle stimulates many nerve endings in all three openings and can cause intense pleasure and pressure if strong enough of a flex. The PC muscle helps to enable a woman to pass feces and urine, clench a penis, hold in a tampon, and relax to bring down a baby.

At the very most inner part of your vagina is something that feels a little like a nose tip. You should be able to reach it externally. This is the cervix. The cervix is the doorway from the vagina to the uterus. The cervix will gradually open to allow baby to descend. Before pregnancy, the cervix is firm and closed. Throughout pregnancy and into labor, the cervix becomes softer and more pliable. Before birth, the opening in the cervix is a small, nearly perfect hole. After birth, the opening is more vertical or oblong. There is a great site I would recommend visiting to learn more about your cervix here.

Beyond the cervix is the uterus. Uteri are large bags of muscles that run both horizontally and vertically. This is the place where you will/did carry your baby and where your body stores blood before the onset of every menstruation (period).

Trailing off on both the right and left of the uterus are fallopian tubes. These tubes connect your uterus to the ovaries, where you have stored all of the eggs you will ever have in a lifetime.

Outside again, below the vaginal opening, toward the anus, is a stretch of skin called the perineum. The perineum is another stretch of tissue that is very sensitive in many women. This tissue is very elastic and, during labor and birth, stretches to accommodate baby's entrance to the world.

So, there you have it. The beautiful anatomy of a woman's sexual (and childbearing) anatomy. Knowing the miraculous nature of your body, the intricate and intimate parts that are so often never known, is empowering.


Dylan said...

Thanks for this! Haven't had a chance to look a the video yet (I'm at work) but have already learned a lot just from reading. I've always been curious about what's what :-)

Kim said...

My wonderful midwife and her student helped me see my cervix at my "break-up visit" (6 week discharge appointment) during the PAP. It was fascinating! My hubby and I use FAM for birth control, so I am quite familiar with the way my anatomy FEELS, but seeing it was really neat!

mamapoekie said...

Totally sharing this, thanks

Pam said...

I have found your blog through the Piedmont Area Doula Association that I am part of. I LOVE IT!!!! I have a blog as well. I would love to share some of your ideas and links. I could not get your e-mail to work. Here is mine pkenney0707@yahoo.com

Thanks so much!!!!!!
Doula Mama Pam

mommymichael said...

You might enjoy http://www.beautifulcervix.com

It started out as one woman charting and photographing her cervix during one complete cycle, and grew to having women volunteer up pictures. It's an excellent resource for women wanting to know what to look for when charting their cycles.

I took several pictures during this past pregnancy, and at my 6 week appt of the pap smear. You can see in several that I'm slightly dilated, and have an "ectropian" cervix - very vascular os.

Anonymous said...

How can that lady possibly lie so still during the speculum exam? It's not that I'm ashamed or unaware of my body, but I cannot keep my legs open for an exam no matter what I do! For this reason, I don't get pap smears, and I don't let my midwives do any vaginal exams on me during pregnancy. I tell myself I should just relax, but I can't. My legs stay involuntarily clamped together. Any suggestions? I don't have problems being intimate with my husband, but even the thought of having someone I don't know all that well stick their fingers or an instrument into me makes me panic. Any suggestions on how to overcome my vaginal exam phobia? I'm commenting anonymously because this is obviously a private issue. Hope you understand.

Nicole D said...

Anon -

I completely understand! It is an involuntary (meaning you can't help it) reaction. If you cannot help it, you cannot help it.

Have you talked to your midwives about letting you insert the speculum yourself? Or you trying to hold and guide their hands?

Another thing that you could consider trying is hypnotherapy, to WORK THROUGH anxiety issues, not block them.

I am so sorry to hear that you are going through this, I can 'hear' frustration in your post, but please believe that there is nothing to be frustrated or upset about - you have every right, every validation for feeling and reacting this way, vaginal exams are not a natural or normal act to perform on another person and lack intimacy (thankfully) and relationship (usually)... which is why they are a 'clinical' exam.

Let me know if you try any of these things and if they work or not. I, myself, did my own vaginal exams in labor for a similar reason.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your ideas. I hadn't thought about asking to insert the speculum myself. I have had to have a couple of vaginal ultrasounds during my pregnancies, and the ultrasound techs always asked if I wanted to insert the probe myself, so I did, and that did make things easier (although still uncomfortable--more emotionally than physically). I think the probe is also easier for me because it feels...well, more familiar than a speculum.

I know it would help me some, too, if my husband was in the room during an exam, so maybe I'll have to try that if an exam becomes necessary.

Cyndel said...

I knew nearly all of this (I just didn't know about the clitoris splitting and 'wrapping around' the vaginal opening) but it was awesome seeing the videos especially the second one with the view of the cervix! Awesome thanks!

Anonymous said...

So I have this white, painless, hard knot on my labia minor and I dont know what it is? any suggestions?

Nicole D said...

anon -

This is very normal. Usually, it is a sweaty pore that is clogged with smegma. You can drain it by gently pressing down and in on either side of it.. or you can let it resolve itself. If it becomes red, hot, or painful, seeing your midwife or OB can be helpful as they can drain it for you as well.

They are generally harmless and usually resolve themselves with no issues. :)

Laura said...

It's really sad and telling that both of those videos you included have been removed "as a vilation of YouTube's policy on nudity or sexual content."


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