Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

External Genitals

July 2, 2023

The external genitalia of women consist of several structures collectively called the vulva. These include:

  1. Mons pubis
  2. Clitoris
  3. External urinary meatus
  4. Labia minora
  5. Hymen
  6. Openings of vestibular gland ducts
  7. Orifice (opening) of vagina
  8. Labia majora

The mons pubis is a skin-covered pad of fat over the symphysis pubis. Pubic hair appears on this mound of fat at puberty and persists throughout life.

Extending downward from the elevated mons pubis are the labia majora, literally “large lips.” These elongated folds, which are composed mainly of fat and glands, are covered with pigmented skin and pubic hair on the outer surface and are smooth and free from hair on the inner surface. The labia minora—literally “small lips”—are nestled medially between the labia majora and are covered with thin skin. These two small lips join anteriorly at the midline.

The space between the labia minora is the vestibule (Figure 23-14). Several genital structures are located in the vestibule. The glans or head of the clitoris, which is composed of erectile tissue similar to that found in the penis, is located just behind the anterior junction of the labia minora. The deeper erectile tissue of the clitoris branches into two bulbs, one of which can be seen under a labium majus in the cut-away on right side of the specimen in Figure 23-14.

FIGURE 23-14​Vulva. ​External female genitals and related structures, shown from an inferior view.

Situated between the glans clitoris and the vaginal opening is the external urinary meatus.

The vaginal orifice is bordered by a thin fold of mucous membrane called the hymen. Occasionally, the hymen partially blocks the vaginal opening. The ducts of the vestibular glands open on either side of the vaginal orifice, medial to the labia minora.

The term perineum is used to describe the area between the vaginal opening and anus. This area is sometimes cut in a surgical procedure called an episiotomy to prevent tearing of tissue during childbirth.