Simple Guide to Female Reproductive Anatomy
Written by Justyna Wiraszka
Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Do you know all of the components of your reproductive system? If someone asked you where your urethra was, or if you were asked about the purpose of your cervix, would you know the answer? Knowing your body is key to good health and well-being. The reproductive system can be an intimidating topic. What is considered a very private and sensitive topic reminds many of a biology lesson rather than the miracle of life or a healthy sexual experience.
In a survey on the subject of people’s knowledge about a woman’s anatomy carried out by The Guardian, out of nearly 200 participants, 171 of which women, around 37% mislabelled the clitoris.
Additionally, only 46% correctly identified that women have three cavities, that is the vagina, anus and urethra. While fully comprehending all aspects of our bodies can be a challenge for many, a consequence of the lack of understanding of the body could have detrimental consequences; i.e. it could result in the inability to evaluate one's health situation accurately. If we do not pay attention to the signals our body is sending us, we might miss symptoms of a disease. Even when we receive a diagnosis or a treatment, it might be harder to comprehend due to the lack of understanding of our body. Having knowledge about your reproductive system can give you the power to take care of your body and health in the best possible way.
Today we would like to introduce you to a simple guide to female reproductive anatomy. Let’s dive in.
Confusingly, when people say "vagina" they usually mean "vulva". This is because the vulva is the name for the external sex organs, including the labia Majora, labia Minora, the urethra, the vestibule and the clitoris. As you age your vulva can change the way it looks. Pigmentation of the vulva can get slightly darker. Additionally, the vulva can lose elasticity, becoming shorter and narrower due to lack or lower levels of estrogen.
Labia Majora and Labia Minora
The Labia Majora and the Labia Minora are sometimes referred to as "the outer and inner lips". Their job is to protect the sensitive parts inside.
The Clitoris contains around 8,000 nerve endings, making it very sensitive and a source of sexual pleasure for many. It is positioned beneath the clitoral hood and above the urethra.
Urethra is a tube and is responsible for removing urine from the body. For many, locating this little hole (urethral hole) can be tricky but just for the record it is located under the clitoris. Importantly there is a difference between male and female urethra. Male urethra can reach about 18 to 20 cm, as opposed to women’s one being only 4cm long.
The vestibule sits below the urethra and is the opening to the vagina.
The Vagina, also known as the birth canal, is a muscular tube, about 9cm long, that connects the vulva and the cervix. PH is a scale which indicates how acidic or basic substances are. A healthy vagina has a pH ranging from 3.8-4.5. This acidic environment serves a purpose - it offers the vagina protection as it creates a shield that prevents bacteria and yeast from causing infections.
The cervix is the skinny part of the uterus that extends down to the vagina. The cervix stays closed except when it dilates to give birth and when it releases blood and other fluids during your period. Interestingly your cervix can change shape and size throughout your life. As an example, it may rise during ovulation to be ready for conception or dilate up to 10 centimeters during childbirth.
The uterus, also known as the womb, is the thick-walled muscular organ located above the cervix. The uterus is capable of expansion and is the place where a growing fetus lives. Approximately every 28 days, if there is no pregnancy, the uterus sheds will shed its lining. This is also known as "a period".
The fallopian tubes are those two tubes that look like antennae sticking out the top of the uterus. The fallopian tubes connect the ovaries and the uterus. Every month the ovaries expel an egg and it floats down the fallopian tube to the uterus.
The ovaries are oval organs that are situated at the end of the fallopian tubes. Their main function is to produce eggs and the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The anti-Müllerian hormone is produced by cells surrounding the egg in the ovarian follicles, or egg sacs. AMH is an important hormone related to fertility. It can reflect the number of eggs present in the ovaries, called the ovarian reserve.
Reproductive anatomy is not a straightforward topic for many, but without a doubt it is an important one. Even though it may seem complex at first, it is important to familiarize yourself with it. Knowing your anatomy can enable you to care for your body in the best way possible. When you notice something is not right you can speak to a specialist regarding any problems you may experience.
Healthline Editorial Team. Everything You Need to Know About Maintaining Your Vaginal pH Balance. https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/vaginal-ph-balance#normal-ph
Published July 11, 2019. Accessed March 2022.
Healthline Editorial Team. Female Reproductive System. https://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/female-reproductive-system#1
Published January 21, 2018. Accessed March 2022.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Female Reproductive System: Internal Organs and External Organs. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/infographics/female-reproductive-system
Published January 2022. Accessed March 2022.
Geddes L. Most Britons cannot name all parts of the vulva, survey reveals. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/may/30/most-britons-cannot-name-parts-vulva-survey#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20survey%20of,three%20%E2%80%9Choles%E2%80%9D%20down%20below. Published May 30, 2021. Accessed March 2022.
Johnson T. Your Guide to the Female Reproductive System. https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/your-guide-female-reproductive-system
Published December 4, 2020. Accessed March 2022.