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Human female internal reproductive anatomy.

The vagina, (from the Latin for "sheath" or "scabbard" ) is the tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body in female placental mammals and marsupials, or to the cloaca in female birds, monotremes, and some reptiles. Female insects and other invertebrates also have a vagina, which is the terminal part of the oviduct.


Human vagina


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Schematic frontal view of female anatomy.
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Schematic vulva anatomy.

The human vagina is an elastic muscular tube about 4 inches (100 mm) long and 1 inch (25 mm) in diameter that connects the vulva at the outside to the cervix of the uterus at the inside. If the woman stands upright, the vaginal tube points in an upward-backward direction and forms an angle of slightly more than 45 degrees with the uterus. The vaginal opening is at the back (caudal) end of the vulva, behind the opening of the urethra. Above the vagina is Mons Veneris.The inside of the vagina is usually pink, as with all internal mucous membranes in mammals.

(In common speech, the term "vagina" is often used improperly to refer to the vulva or female genitals generally; strictly speaking the vagina is a specific internal structure and the vulva is the exterior genitalia only. Calling the vulva the vagina is akin to calling the mouth the throat.)

Length, width and shape of the vagina may vary. When a woman gives birth and during sexual intercourse, the vagina widens and lengthens up to 2-3 times.

Vaginal lubrication is provided by glands near the vaginal opening and the cervix and also seeps through the vaginal wall (which does not contain any glands).

The hymen—a membrane situated behind the urethral opening—partially covers the vagina in many organisms, including some human females, from birth until it is ruptured by sexual intercourse, or by any number of other activities including medical examinations, injury, certain types of exercise, introduction of a foreign object, etc.

Functions of the vagina

From a biological perspective, the vagina performs the following functions:

Sexual intercourse

File:Vaginal opening.jpg
Vaginal opening.

The vagina admits the male penis for sexual intercourse and ultimately male sperm for the fertilization of ova for reproduction. (See: sexual intercourse)

The concentration of nerve endings particularly close to the mouth of the vagina causes pleasure to be experienced during sexual activity. The opening of the vagina is home to the clitoris, which is located at the anterior of the vaginal opening; for most women, the clitoris is the main source of sexual pleasure (although it can be too sensitive for direct stimulation in some women). Some women have a very sensitive erogenous zone called "the G-spot" inside their vagina (in the anterior of the vagina, about five cm. in from the entrance), which can produce very intense orgasms if stimulated properly, possibly responsible for the disputed female ejaculation. Not all women have a g-spot that is responsive to stimulation, however.

Giving birth

During live birth, the vagina provides the route to deliver the fetus from the uterus to its independent life outside the body of the mother. During birth, the vagina is often referred to as the birth canal.


The vagina provides a path for menstrual fluids to leave the body. In Western societies, tampons and sanitary towels may be used to absorb these fluids.

Sexual health and hygiene

Other than the penis, fingers or sexual devices, many women insert tampons during menstruation. These must be regularly changed - every four hours at most. Other objects inserted include diaphragms (placed against the cervix, blocking it from sperm), spermicidal cream and lubicrant. Additionally, some women use vaginal douches, which serve to cleanse the vagina with a gentle soap intended to remove odor. These days, such treatment is advised against by doctors, as it may upset the balance of bacteria in the vagina, rather than helping it. Thus, the vagina itself needs no particular treatment in the name of basic hygiene.

The vagina is examined during gynecological exams, often using an instrument called a speculum, which keeps the vagina open for visual inspection or taking of samples (see pap smear).

Various disorders can affect the vagina, including vaginal cancer and yeast infections. See vulvovaginal health.

The vagina and popular culture

Sexual organs being stigmatised in practically all human cultures, it is not surprising that Western society treats the subject as somewhat taboo. A one-person play by Eve Ensler known as The Vagina Monologues was a rare example of the word appearing in mainstream culture. The popular TV series Sex and the City contains many discussions about the vagina and its health.

See also

External links


Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  • Pink Parts - "Walk through" of female sexual anatomy by noted sex activist and educator Heather Corinna (illustrations; no explicit photos)

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