Picture Of A Vagina

Aside from the advice offered by gynaecologist Dr Ashfaq Khan, there are some other things you should expect to see when looking at your vulva.

Picture of the Vagina

Picture Of A Vagina

The vagina is an elastic, muscular canal with a soft, flexible lining that provides lubrication and sensation. The vagina connects the uterus to the outside world. The vulva and labia form the entrance, and the cervix of the uterus protrudes into the vagina, forming the interior end.

The vagina receives the penis during sexual intercourse and also serves as a conduit for menstrual flow from the uterus. During childbirth, the baby passes through the vagina (birth canal).

The hymen is a thin membrane of tissue that surrounds and narrows the vaginal opening. It may be torn or ruptured by sexual activity or by exercise.

Vagina Conditions

  • Vaginitis: Inflammation of the vagina, commonly from a yeast infection or bacterial overgrowth. Itching, discharge, and change of odor are typical symptoms. Vaginitis is treated with antibiotics or antifungalmedication.
  • Vaginismus: Involuntary spasm of the vaginal muscles during sexual intercourse. Emotional distress about sex, or medical conditions, can be responsible. Depending on the cause, it can be treated with medicine, counseling or some other types of therapy.
  • Genital warts: Genital warts may affect the vulva,vagina, and cervix. Treatments can remove vaginal warts, which are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Trichomoniasis: Infection of the vagina by a microscopic parasite called trichomonas. Trichomoniasis is transmitted by sex and is easily curable.
  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV): A disruption in the balance of healthy bacteria in the vagina, often causing odor and discharge. Douching, or sex with a new partner can cause BV. BV is treated with antibiotics.
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV): The herpes virus can infect the vulva, vagina, and cervix, causing small, painful, recurring blisters and ulcers. Having no noticeable symptoms is also common. The virus is transmitted sexually. It can be treated, but not cured.
  • Gonorrhea: This sexually transmitted bacterial infection most often infects the cervix. Half the time, there are no symptoms, but vaginal discharge and itching may occur. It can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. It is treated with antibiotics.
  • Chlamydia: The bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis causes this sexually transmitted infection. Only half of women will have symptoms, which may include vaginal discharge or pain in the vagina or abdomen. It can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics.
  • Vaginal cancer: Cancer of the vagina is extremely rare. Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge are symptoms.
  • Vaginal prolapse: Due to weakened pelvic muscles (usually from childbirth), the rectum, uterus, or bladder pushes on the vagina. In severe cases, the vagina protrudes out of the body.

Vagina Tests

  • Pelvic examination: Using a speculum, a doctor can examine the vulva, vagina, and cervix. The strength of the pelvic muscles can also be tested.
  • Papanicolaou smear (Pap smear): During a pelvic exam, the examiner swabs the cervix and vagina. Pap smears screen for cervical or vaginal cancer.
  • Bacterial culture: A swab of the cervix and vagina during a pelvic exam may be cultured in a lab. This can identify bacterial infections.
  • Colposcopy: A microscope is used during a pelvic exam to examine closely the vulva, vagina, and cervix. Colposcopy can help identify cancer or other problems.
  • Vaginal biopsy: In the rare case of a suspicious growth in the vagina, a small piece of tissue (biopsy) may be sent to check for cancer.

Vagina Treatments

  • Antimicrobials: Antifungal medications can treat yeast infections, and antibiotic drugs can treat bacterial infections. Antiviral medicines treat infections from the herpes virus.
  • Wart treatments: A variety of methods can be used to remove vaginal warts, including freezing, chemicals, burning with a laser, or cautery.
  • Vaginal pessary: A small plastic or rubber device is placed inside the vagina to keep in place prolapsing pelvic organs.
  • Kegel exercises: Exercising the pelvic muscles (as when stopping your urine stream) may improve or prevent vaginal prolapse and urinary incontinence.
  • Estrogen: The genital organs of women both inside and out respond to estrogen. Estrogen treatment may be useful to revitalize these structures in postmenopausal women.
  • Surgery: In rare cases of vaginal or cervical cancer, surgery is required to remove the tumor. Surgery may also treat vaginal prolapse.

Show Sources

CDC: “Trichomoniasis – CDC Fact Sheet” and “Bacterial Vaginosis – CDC Fact Sheet.”

WebMD Medical Reference: “What’s Normal, the First Time?”

WebMD Blog: “Can a Vagina Be Too Big?”

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth: “Vaginal Prolapse.”

What does a normal vagina look like? A no-nonsense guide to vaginas and vulvas

Two half of fresh red cut grapefruit on pink background, to symbolise what a normal vagina can look like

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What makes a normal vagina, or vulva for that matter, has been a topic of discussion for decades. Even though a huge proportion of the world’s population has one, conversations about vaginas are often confined to doctors’ offices and discreet groups of friends.

If you see a vagina or vulva that doesn’t look like your own, or you feel that yours has changed in appearance recently, it may be concerning and you may start to wonder if your vagina is still normal. The good news is, even if it’s changed or looks different to another one, is probably completely fine.

While the world has changed so much in the way we speak about intimate subjects, conversations around vaginal health – including topics like vaginal dryness and other vaginal discomfort issues – are still held in private. It’s important to start demystifying our genitals for everyone’s sake and have open and honest conversations about vaginal health with ourselves, our doctors, our friends, and partners.

What is a normal vagina?

First thing’s first, there’s no such thing as a normal vagina – or vulva for that matter. Much like every other part of the human body, everyone’s genitalia looks different.

In general though, Ashfaq Khan, consultant gynaecologist at Harley Street Gynaecology (opens in new tab) says, “Both vagina and vulva should feel soft as vaginal skin is usually well moisterized. There shouldn’t be any abnormal discoloration.”

What’s the difference between a vulva and vagina? “If you’re wondering whether you have a normal vagina, you’re probably thinking about the vulva, which is the correct name for the external genitalia,” says Lynn Enright (opens in new tab) , author of Vagina: A Re-Education. “This includes the pubic mound, the inner and outer labia, clitoris, urethral opening and the vaginal opening.”

Whereas, “our vagina is inside our bodies and it’s the muscular tube that leads from the vulva to the uterus.”

This confusion is very common, though, she says, despite efforts in the body and sex positivity movement to educate. “We’re not comfortable with the word ‘vulva’. It’s not a word we hear very often and its lack of popular usage definitely relates to society’s struggle to address female sexuality on the whole.”

We instead use the word ‘vagina’, even though it’s technically incorrect. “It’s still such a taboo to say ‘vulva’ as we don’t like to talk about female genitalia except in relation to male sexuality,” Enright says. “The vagina is something that a penis can go into, and a baby can come out of, so we’ve become more comfortable with that word.”

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What does a normal vulva look like?

Whether you’re referring to the vulva or the vagina, everyone’s looks different. “There is actually a great variation,” Enright reveals, “The range of what vulvas look like is similar to what faces look like. Everyone looks slightly different. But we’re just not told that. It’s perfectly normal for your vulva to look different and there is a variation from woman to woman.”

In fact, a 2019 project (opens in new tab) by photographer Laura Dodsworth for the BBC highlighted just how different vulvas are from woman to woman. The project showcased photos of 100 vulvas to show the range of ‘normal’ among women.

Aside from the advice offered by gynaecologist Dr Ashfaq Khan, there are some other things you should expect to see when looking at your vulva.

The anatomy of a vulva

  • Labia – folds of skin around the vaginal opening. The inner labia can be longer or bigger than the outer labia and vice versa. They can also be slightly different in color, and the color can change as you get older. The inner labia can also look different after childbirth.
  • Clitoris – located at the top of the vulva where the inner lips come together. The tip of the clitoris is visible, but it extends inside your body. It has thousands of little nerve endings that become swollen when you’re aroused (exactly like a penis). It’s there for pleasure purposes only, and it can range in size. Some women have a clitoris the size of a pea, while others are larger – both are normal.
  • Urethral opening – located just below the clitoris is the urethral opening when urine comes out.
  • Vaginal opening – below the urethral opening you’ll find the vaginal opening. This is where childbirth occurs, where menstrual blood leaves the body and where a penis, one of the best sex toys, or fingers are inserted. The hymen is located near the vaginal opening, it comes in a variety of shapes and many people believe that it ‘breaks’ after a woman has sex for the first time. This is entirely untrue and there’s a range of evidence, including a report by Georgetown University School of Medicine (opens in new tab) , that suggests the hymen can still be visible after sex and even childbirth.
  • A difference in color – the skin of the vulva can sometimes be a different color from the skin on the rest of your body.
  • Hair variations – some people will have more hair in the vulva area than others.

Does the menopause affect the vulva?

Yes, you may notice that your vulva looks different when you start to experience menopause symptoms. “Skin becomes thin due to lack of estrogen, as a result, the vulva can become sensitive, shrink and wrinkle. The vagina can also bleed easily during intercourse, causing pain during sex. In general, the skin can become sore, sometimes painful,” Dr Khan says. “There may also be some skin color changes with pigmented spots on the vulva.”

This happens because of the reduction in estrogen production, Enright explains. “Estrogen is quite essential for our skin and the tissues over our body,” she says. “You make less estrogen when you’re older, which means your skin becomes dryer all over.”

It doesn’t just affect the vulva and vagina, however. Even when you first start to experience symptoms of perimenopause, you may notice changes. “The skin around the urethra becomes thinner, meaning urinary stress incontinence can happen,” Enright says. “We have to realize again that our vulva is just another part of our body. Like the rest of our body, the skin around the vulva ages.”

Popular menopause treatments like hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help relieve symptoms of vaginal atrophy and urinary incontinence. If this is something you’re experiencing, visit your doctor.

And of course, there are the more visible, external differences when it comes to vulvas during menopause as well. “Hair might go white, and there might be less hair there the older we get. It’s a completely natural part of aging,” she says.

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Vagina: A re-education by Lynn Enright: $16.81 (opens in new tab) / £7.79 (opens in new tab) | Amazon

Lynn Enright is a journalist and the author of the book, Vagina: A re-education. Lynn’s book dispels common myths around vaginas and what a ‘normal vagina’ is.

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When is a vulva not ‘normal’?

While everyone’s vulva and vagina is different, there are some red flags to look out for when it comes to intimate health. These are the major ones, according to consultant gynaecologist Dr Ashfaq Khan:

  • Vaginal or vulval skin shows whitish, reddish or brownish discoloration
  • You feel or notice any lump
  • A lesion that discharges blood, pus, or even clear discharge appears
  • The texture of the vagina or vulva feels different, i.e. too thick or too thin
  • You start to notice your vagina is sensitive, causing pain during sex
  • Your vagina is itchy or sensitive

“Always visit your doctor if you are diagnosed with an HPV infection or have an abnormal cervical cancer test result, and if you notice any warts or other similar, visible infections,” he adds.

Why haven’t we been talking about vaginas and vulvas?

Why have vaginas been such an out-of-bounds topic for so long? Male genitalia is well documented – in TV, books, and in our culture in general. Yet female genitalia is kept much more hush-hush, leaving many women wondering what really is normal.

“Ask the average woman to draw you a vulva and she’ll more than likely struggle,” says Enright. “Ask her to draw you a penis, and she’ll sketch you a broadly accurate, if rudimentary, representation with minutes.”

Enright has a theory as to why this is. “We live in a society where straight, cisgender men have more privilege, are more dominant, and have been the ones running the medical profession for centuries. That has made a difference.”

She explains, “Medical diagrams [of vulvas and vaginas] are quite neat and symmetrical. And then, in porn, vulvas are quite neat and symmetrical. I think girls can get a shock when they really look at their own vulva for the first time and realize it looks different to the ones they see in porn – even porn for women – or medicine. That happens because they’re not empowered with the information in the first place.”

As with all aspects surrounding our vaginas and vulvas, the main way to tackle the stigma is to talk about them. This way we can make sure that younger generations understand what is normal. “Talk about it with whoever you can feel comfortable talking about it with. It might be a medical professional, it might be a friend, it might be a feminist group. Educating ourselves and eradicating shame are two ways we can tackle the lack of information or the misinformation that has surrounded the vulva,” Enright says.

Inside the vagina: What it looks like

The vagina is a flexible tube that joins the uterus to the vulva. Vaginas are usually around 3 inches long, but they can vary widely in color, size, and shape.

Getting to know what the inside of a vagina looks like and what is normal for each individual can help people feel more familiar with their body. It can also help with identifying abnormal changes.

Here, we look at the anatomy of the vagina and how to do a self-exam. We also discuss symptoms that can indicate a health issue with the vagina and explain when to see a doctor.

The diagram below shows the placement of the vagina in the vulva, visible externally.

an infographic showing the vulva

The diagram below shows the inside of the vagina, and how it connects to the uterus.

an infographic showing the vagina and uterus

The vagina is an elastic tube that connects the uterus and cervix to the vulva. The vagina is about 3 inches long.

The shape of a vagina can vary from person to person. Some vaginas are oval like an egg, while others can be more cylindrical.

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The opening of the vagina is between the urethra, through which urine leaves the body, and the anus.

The vaginal opening is where blood leaves the body during menstruation, a penis enters during sexual intercourse, and a baby leaves the body during birth.

The hymen is a thin layer of tissue that surrounds and partially covers the vaginal opening. Sexual intercourse or exercise can stretch or tear it.

The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina. A small hole in the cervix allows menstrual blood and sperm to pass through. During childbirth, the cervix dilates.

The vagina expands through arousal and sexual stimulation. During sexual arousal, the uterus and cervix lift upward, elongating the vagina. People refer to this process as tenting.

The Bartholin’s glands are on either side of the vaginal opening. People cannot usually see or feel these glands. During arousal, the glands release fluid that lubricates the vagina.

The Gräfenberg spot, or G spot, sits a few inches inside the vagina at the front. During arousal, the G spot swells.

The area visible externally, the vulva, is what many people refer to as the vagina. However, the only part of the vagina visible outside of the body is the vaginal opening. The vulva includes the labia minora and majora, or the “lips,” which protect the vaginal opening. Learn more about the vulva here.

A person can carry out a self-exam of their vagina to check for any unusual changes that may indicate a health issue. Self-exams are helpful alongside regular gynecologist pelvic examinations and cervical screening.

People can carry out a self-exam of their vagina when they are not menstruating. For a self-exam, they will need:

  • a handheld mirror
  • a small light or torch
  • pillows, for comfort

People can carry out a self-exam by following these steps:

  1. Wash the hands with soap and water.
  2. Remove clothing from below the waist.
  3. Lean against a wall or pillows to support the body.
  4. Bend the knees, keeping both feet flat on the floor and the legs wide apart.
  5. Hold the mirror and light in front of the vagina.
  6. Use one hand to spread the opening of the vagina.
  7. Place a finger inside the vagina and gently feel the walls of the vagina, which will feel similar to the roof of the mouth.
  8. Feel for any lumps, bumps, or raised areas that could be sores or unusual growths.
  9. To feel for the cervix, it may help to move to a squatting position.
  10. Gently insert the finger deeper into the vagina to feel the cervix, which may feel similar to the tip of the nose.

Vaginal discharge can change slightly in consistency and color during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause. Healthy discharge is usually clear to white or pale yellow, and it can have a mild odor.

If a person notices any significant change in their vaginal discharge, this could indicate an underlying issue. The individual can see their doctor for a checkup and report any other symptoms.

A range of conditions can affect the vagina and how it looks and feels inside. Signs and symptoms of conditions affecting the vagina may include unusual discharge, pain, or visible changes.

Here are some health conditions that may affect the inside of the vagina:

Vaginitis

Vaginitis is an inflammation or irritation of the vulva or vagina. There are many causes, including sexual activity, reduced estrogen levels, or douching. Symptoms of vaginitis include:

  • a red, itchy, or sore vulva or vagina
  • an itching or burning sensation in the vagina or vulva
  • pain during sex
  • frequent or stinging urination
  • abnormal discharge

Vaginismus

Vaginismus is a sudden tightening of the muscles surrounding the vagina that occurs when a person tries to insert something into it. Vaginismus is an automatic response of the body over which the person has no control.

  • trouble inserting a tampon into the vagina
  • difficulty with vaginal penetration
  • a burning sensation or stinging pain during sex

Sexually transmitted infections

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause symptoms in and around the vagina. Many of these STIs may appear without noticeable symptoms, or they may seem similar to other conditions, such as vaginal infections.

Due to the overlap in symptoms between different STIs, it is not usually possible to diagnose one based on the symptoms alone. Therefore, anyone who experiences symptoms in this part of the body should visit a healthcare professional to undergo diagnostic tests.

Some STIs that affect vaginal health include:

Genital warts

  • a small collection of flesh-colored bumps around the genitals or inside the vagina, which may have a cauliflower-like texture
  • bumps around the mouth and lips
  • an itching and burning sensation or discomfort

Trichomoniasis

If people have trichomoniasis, they may experience:

  • foamy, yellow-green discharge
  • foul smelling discharge
  • spots of blood in the discharge
  • discomfort when urinating
  • itching, redness, or burning around the genitals

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea shares symptoms with vaginal infections. Although some people with this STI will not experience any symptoms, those who do may notice :

  • a burning sensation or pain when urinating
  • an increase in vaginal discharge
  • bleeding between periods
  • painful bowel movements
  • itching or soreness around the genitals

Chlamydia

Chlamydia does not always produce symptoms, but when it does, these may include :

  • abnormal discharge
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • pain in the rectum
  • bleeding between periods

Vaginal infections

An overgrowth of yeast and bacteria in the vagina can cause infections, including:

  • bacterial vaginosis
  • vaginal candidiasis
  • thrush

Symptoms of a vaginal infection include:

  • gray, green, or yellow discharge
  • a burning or stinging sensation when urinating
  • pain or bleeding during sex
  • swelling, pain, or redness of the vagina
  • itching sensation of the vagina
  • unusual or foul smelling vaginal odor
  • odorless discharge that resembles cottage cheese

Vaginal cancer

Vaginal cancer can cause symptoms if it spreads deeper into the walls of the vagina or the surrounding areas. Symptoms include:

  • vaginal bleeding after sex
  • abnormal discharge
  • feeling a lump in the vagina
  • painful sex
  • pain when urinating
  • pain in the pelvis, lower abdomen, or back
  • constipation
  • swelling in the legs

In some cases, a person may have vulvar cancer, which can also cause painful sexual intercourse, bleeding, and pain, among other symptoms. However, both of these cancers are rare.

Vaginal prolapse

Vaginal prolapse happens when the uterus, bladder, or bowel descends into the vagina. Vaginal prolapse can occur as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, or an existing medical condition.

Higher stages of prolapse can cause symptoms, which include:

  • a lump inside or protruding from the vagina
  • a heavy or dragging sensation in the vagina
  • aching pain in the pelvis or back
  • a frequent need to urinate or difficulty urinating
  • recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

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The vagina is an elastic tube that connects the uterus and cervix to the vulva. The shape, size, and color of the vagina can vary among individuals.

Anyone who notices any unusual symptoms, such as growths, in or around their vagina should see their doctor or gynecologist for a checkup. Signs of a health issue may include:

  • discharge with an unusual color, such as green, gray, or dark yellow discharge
  • discharge with a foul smelling odor
  • foamy discharge
  • lumps or bumps inside the vagina
  • pain when urinating or during sex

People can also carry out a self-exam of their vagina to check for any unusual changes or growths. However, self-exams should not replace regular pelvic examinations with a healthcare professional.

Last medically reviewed on March 16, 2020

  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Infectious Diseases / Bacteria / Viruses
  • Women’s Health / Gynecology

How we reviewed this article:

Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Are my vulva and vagina normal? (n.d.).
    https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens/puberty/my-vulva-and-vagina-normal
  • Chlamydia — CDC fact sheet. (2014).
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/stdfact-chlamydia.htm
  • Genital warts. (2019).
    https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/genital-warts
  • Gonorrhea — CDC fact sheet. (2014).
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/stdfact-gonorrhea.htm
  • Is my vagina normal? (2018).
    https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/vagina-shapes-and-sizes/
  • Self exam: Vulva and vagina. (2014).
    https://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book-excerpts/health-article/self-exam-vulva-vagina/
  • Signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer. (2018).
    https://www.cancer.org/cancer/vaginal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html
  • Trichomoniasis — CDC fact sheet. (2020).
    https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm
  • Vaginal candidiasis. (2019).
    https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/genital/index.html
  • Vaginal prolapse. (n.d.).
    https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/vulva-vagina/vaginal-prolapse/
  • Vaginismus. (2018).
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginismus/
  • Vaginitis. (n.d.).
    https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/health-and-wellness/vaginitis
  • What are the parts of the female sexual anatomy? (n.d.).
    https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/health-and-wellness/sexual-and-reproductive-anatomy/what-are-parts-female-sexual-anatomy

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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