The Vulva . . . The External Genital Area

The vulva the external genitalia of the female includes the mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, vestibule and vestibular glands of the vagina. Except the mons pubis and labia majora . . . these surfaces are lined by a moist stratified squamous epithelium. This natural moisture keeps the vulva area comfortable and functioning well (much like the eye needs moisture for comfort/function). Below is a more detailed overview of each part of the vulva.

Keira SomaMons pubis – The rounded prominence caused by a pad of adipose (fat) tissue lying over the symphysis pubis in the female; it serves as a cushion between the female and her partner during sexual intercourse; it is lined by dry epidermis with a covering of genital hairs.

Labia majora – The larger and lateral pair of folds of tissue which form the lateral borders of the vulva; they are lined by dry epidermis with a covering of genital hairs.

Labia minora – The smaller and medial pair of folds of tissue which form the lateral borders of the vulva; they are lined by a moist stratified squamous epithelium.

Clitoris – A small mass of highly sensitive erectile tissue, which will enlarge during sexual arousal, situated at the anterior apex of the vestibule of the vulva; it is lined by a moist stratified squamous epithelium; stimulation of this structure is important in contributing to female orgasm; it is the developmental analog to the penis in the male.

Prepuce clitoris – The loose fold of skin covering the glans clitoris which is formed by the juncture of the labia minora; it is lined by a moist stratified squamous epithelium.

Glans clitoridis – The small central column or papilla of highly sensitive erectile tissue (corpora cavernosa), which will enlarge during sexual arousal due to an Autonomic Nervous System reflex; it is situated at the anterior apex of the vestibule within the prepuce clitoris of the vulva; it is lined by a moist stratified squamous epithelium.

Vestibule – The space within the vulva which is behind the glans clitoris and between the labia minora, containing the openings of the vagina, urethra, and the ducts of the greater vestibular glands; all surfaces are lined by a moist stratified squamous epithelium and within the tissues are a number of minute mucous glands, the lesser vestibular glands, opening on the surface of the vestibule between the orifices of the vagina and urethra.

External urethral orifice – The opening to the urethra which is located within the vestibule of the vulva, posterior to the clitoris and anterior to the opening of the vagina; it is the outlet for urine from the urinary bladder.

Paraurethral glands – Any of several small glands that open into the female urethra near its opening.

Greater vestibular glands – Either of two compound tubuloalveolar mucus secreting glands situated in the lateral walls on each side of the vestibule of the vagina: Bartholin’s glands, vulvovaginal glands.

Perineum – The region between the thighs; and between the vulva and the anus.

The term vagina is often incorrectly used to refer to the female genitals generally. The vagina is a specific internal structure, whereas the vulva is the whole exterior genitalia.

The appearance of the vulva and the size of the various parts varies a great deal from one woman to another, and it is also common for the left and right sides of the labia to differ in appearance.