Vulva and Vagina: no, they are not the same thing!

Normally there is no difference between the terms vulva and vagina, which are used more or less indifferently to indicate female intimacy. In reality, the two terms indicate two different areas.

This article was written in collaboration with the staff of doctors and specialists who collaborate with this site

The female genitals are commonly referred to as the vagina or vulva. In reality they are not synonyms but two different and distinct terms that refer to as many components of the much more complex female genital system .

How many women, however, know exactly what the terms “vulva” and “vagina” refer to and know the distinction between these different genital parts? It may sound strange to you but it is not so obvious that each one knows exactly her body.

In this post we will talk about:

  • What is the difference between vulva and vagina
  • How is the vulva made
  • How the vagina is made
  • The vulva and vagina are only part of the female reproductive system
  • How vulva and vagina change in menopause
  • How to maintain genital health in menopause

What is the difference between vulva and vagina

The term “vulva” indicates the external part of the female genitals , the one that is visible right under the so-called “Mount of Venus”. On the contrary, the term “vagina” refers to the internal part of the female genitals , the hidden one. The vagina is the “channel” that connects the vulva (external) to the uterus , located much deeper in the abdomen.

To “mark” the border between the external and internal organ is a very thin membrane, the hymen , destined to tear during the first intimate intercourse.

How is the vulva made

The vulva is made up of:

  • the labia majora (the outermost ones)
  • the labia minora (inner ones)
  • the clitoris , a small organ formed by erectile tissue.

Also part of the vulvar area is the so-called “Mount of Venus” , the triangle-shaped region, slightly protruding, located in correspondence with the pubis.

How the vagina is made

The vagina generally indicates the channel that leads from the vulva to the ovaries, tubes and uterus, the central organ of the female reproductive system , because it is the channel that allows you to establish a pregnancy and give birth naturally. As such, it is composed of a bundle of muscles and membranes whose elasticity is, in fact, functional to the passage and expulsion of the fetus during childbirth.

The vulva and vagina are only part of the female reproductive system

The vulva and vagina are just two of the anatomical components of the female reproductive system, which also includes:

  • the ovaries: they are located on the sides of the uterus (they are connected to it through the  tubes ) and produce sex hormones, which are essential to ensure a regular menstrual cycle .
  • the uterus : it is connected to the vagina through its lower part, called the “cervix”. It is located between the bladder  and the  rectum . Together with these two organs, the uterus is supported by a bundle of muscles called, due to its supporting function, the pelvic floor .

It is a fundamental muscle band for a woman’s well-being, which is important to keep toned, with specific exercises for the pelvic floor , especially in menopause.

  • the fallopian tubes: they are similar to two tubes and connect the inside of the uterus with the space surrounding the ovaries. Every month they welcome the egg released during ovulation which, if it is not fertilized and does not establish a pregnancy in the uterine cavity, it will rupture giving rise to menstruation.

How vulva and vagina change in menopause

Just as it is physiological that with the passage of time, and also as a consequence of hormonal changes related to menopause , the pelvic floor muscles can lose tone, in the same way the female genital system changes after 50 . With it, the vulva and the vagina also undergo modifications .

How the vulva changes:

  • The large and small lips are thinning: the progressive thinning of the intimate tissues is a natural process that affects both the external and internal female genitalia
  • The clitoris tends to shrink : this involution, together with other contributing causes, could make the search for pleasure more difficult

How the vagina changes:

  •  It decreases the natural lubrication of the tissues, that mechanism of production of gelatinous secretions that gives the vagina the ability to self-hydrate.

This condition is linked to the decline in estrogen production and results in vaginal dryness more common , which in turn can lead to pain during intercourse , blood loss and infections .

For 1 in 2 menopausal women, these disorders are a “spy” of a pathological condition that can cause injury to both the vulva and the vagina : Vulvo Vaginal Atrophy . This is our page to learn more about Vulvo Vaginal Atrophy .

  • The pH is changed : normally acid, between 4 and 4.5, in menopause the vaginal pH can increase to become neutral (equal to 7). This alteration of the normal level of acidity, which is a protective factor from bacteria, decreases the ability to act as a “barrier” and can make the vaginal environment more exposed to the risk of infections.

How to maintain genital health in menopause

The periodic checks to the gynecologist are a powerful tool for preventing to take care of your health, it understood as intimate and sexual health.

Having a gynecologist follow you over the years, especially close to menopause , is even more important. A constant relationship with the specialist, in fact, allows you to keep your state of health under control (as it is desirable that you have done for the entire duration of your fertile life) but also to know the specific guidelines to take care of yourself in a moment in your life as a woman in which looking after your well-being is even more important.

You can also ask the gynecologist for advice on intimate hygiene but above all you can, without any embarrassment, report any changes, discomfort or annoyance. In fact, only the doctor can make a precise diagnosis on the health of your private parts and, if necessary, identify the most suitable treatments for you.

 

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