Fiona McMahon PT, DPT Pronouns (She, Her, Hers)
Do you speak pelvic floor? I do. There is so much going on in the pelvic floor, that unless you are thinking about it every day, it can be difficult to find the right words to describe exactly what you are feeling where. Today we are going to focus on individuals with female anatomy.
Your Genitals: Your 3 V’s
When we refer to female reproductive organs many times we say vagina to describe the whole kit and caboodle down there. The truth is the vagina is just part of it. There’s much more going on.
Vagina: The vagina is the passageway from the uterus to the external world. It can expand to accommodate a penis, toy, or allow for the passage of a baby. It can do this shape-shifting because it has folds called rugae, which can stretch out like an accordion to allow the vagina to stretch as needed. Neat, huh? We call the opening the introitus, but we may also interchange it with simply, “vaginal opening”. Either is fine. The introitus can be an area of pain with penetration, so in Pelvic Floorland, we use that term a lot.
Vulva: The vulva is usually what people are referring to when they say vagina. The vulva encompasses all the external genitalia. Including the labia majora and minora (the lips), clitoris, vagina, and urethra.
Vestibule: The vestibule is the area in between the labia minora (small lips) and vagina. This is another special area, that can become painful with certain conditions
Other Vulvar Components
Urethra: This is the exit of the urinary system and is where pee comes out. Between the anus, vagina, and urethra there are three holes “down” there.
Clitoris: This part is pretty cool. The clitoris provides sexual sensation. Did you know it averages four inches in length! Externally we can only see a small bit of it. We call that part the glans. Covering the glans, is the clitoral hood, which helps to protect it. Most of the structure of the clitoris is not viewable from the outside. Branching off the glans and traveling underneath the labia are the bulbs of the clitoris and the cura. These elements are erectile and fill with blood during arousal.
Labia Majora: The labia majora are the outer pair of lips when looking at the female vulva. They protect the delicate tissue of the vulva.
Labia Minora: The labia minora are the smaller set of lips and are contained within the labia majora. The labia minora can come in all different shapes and sizes and still be completely normal. Some women have long labia minora which extend past the labia majora, while others may have shorter labia minora which stay tucked within the labia majora. Variation is normal between women.
Having the words to describe where the pain it can be useful to both your pelvic floor physical therapist as well as your doctor. Stay tuned for future additions of “Do you speak pelvic floor?” where we will discuss male genital anatomy as well as the muscles of the pelvic floor itself.
Pelvic floor physical therapists are specialists in this area and have been added in the last decade, to urological and gynecological guidelines as the first line of treatment for various pelvic and sexual pain and weakness disorders.
ACOG Guidelines on Pelvic Pain:
AUA Guidelines for Pelvic Pain