People's genitals look different, just like other parts of the body.
Vulvas can have different colours, sizes and can have different amount of hair growing on them. It is common to have different marks and spots on the vulva.
Nobody can tell by looking at your vulva or vagina if you have had had sex, or inserted something into your vagina.
Look with a mirror
Do you know what your vulva looks like? If you are interested, you can put a mirror on the floor, squat down over it and have a look.
Different parts of the vulva
You can see the parts of your vulva that are on the outside. Your vagina and other parts of your genitalia are located inside the body.
The vulva begins below your lower stomach. It’s a soft bump which has pubic hair growing on it if you have entered into puberty.
The pictures show where the different parts of the vulva and vagina are located (in Swedish).
The vulva begins a little below your stomach. There is a soft bump there where hair grows when you have entered puberty.
The inner and outer labia
Down below the soft bump which marks the beginning of your vulva, you will find two soft parts. These are the outer labia. The outer labia is usually a bit wrinkly and has hair growing on it. It is common that the two sides differ in size.
Inside the outer labia is the inner labia. These lengths of skin are thinner, wrinkly and wet. They turn darker in puberty. It is common that the two sides differ in size and that the inner ladia stick out from the outer labia. When you are aroused, the inner labia fills with blood and become larger and more smooth.
The different parts of the labia close together like lips, which provides protection from dirt and bacteria and keeps your vagina wet.
There is a little bump located higher up, at the point where the lips of the inner labia meet. This is the outer part of the clitoris. The largest part of the clitoris is inside your body. The entire clitoris is sexually sensitive.
The hole where urine comes out
The hole where urine comes out is below the outer part of the clitoris.
Below the hole where urine comes out is a larger hole. This is the opening of the vagina. The vagina is a soft, wet passage which leads up to the opening of the womb. There are little folds of skin inside the vaginal passage. The entire vagina is soft and can be stretched, for example, when you are aroused.
- The vagina produces a fluid which keeps it clean and wet. This is called discharge.
- A fluid also comes out of the opening of the vagina when you are aroused. The vagina gets wet, making it easier and enjoyable to be caressed and have sex.
- Blood comes out of the vagina when you have your period.
- It is within the vagina that you put fingers or a penis if you have sexual intercourse.
- Babies come out of the vagina when they are born.
The vagina leads to the womb. The opening to the womb can sometimes feel like a little knob located long, up, inside the vaginal passage. A fertilized egg settles in the womb and an embryo begins to grow when you are pregnant.
Fallopian tubes and ovaries
Above the womb are the ovaries and the Fallopian tubes. The ovaries have an enormous number of egg cells which become eggs.
The anus is located at the end of the rectum and is where faeces come out.
Much of the vulva is sensitive to touch
Much of the vulva and surrounding area is very sensitive to touch, especially when you are feeling aroused. You can feel sexual pleasure through touching different parts of your groin region. Test to find out what feels good for you.
Vulvas can look different
The vulva has finished growing when puberty ends, which is generally somewhere between the ages of 16-18 years.
The size of your vulva and how it looks has nothing to do with how enjoyable sex is. Not for you, and not for the person you are having sex with.
Wash the vulva with warm water
Wash the vulva and the opening of the vagina with warm water. Washing once a day is enough. It is ok to have a shower and wash your vulva even when you have your period. Do not use soap for washing yourself as soap can dry out your skin. If your skin gets dry, you can moisturize this part of your body with a non-perfumed oil.
There is no hymen
Many people think there is a membrane which covers the opening to the vagina. There is not. The opening to the vagina can vary in appearance, but there is no membrane.
Many people believe that the vagina bleeds the first time you have sexual intercourse. Most people do not bleed their first time. If you do bleed, it might be because the opening to your vagina is tight, potentially because you are not aroused enough.
You cannot tell by looking at the vagina, vulva or any other part of your body, if you have had sex or inserted something into the vagina. Not even a doctor is able to see this.
You make decisions about your body
Stories about the hymen and bleeding the first time you have sexual intercourse are not true. They are myths that are used to control women’s sexuality.
It is not okay for anyone else to decide when you have sex or with whom you have sex. You make decisions about your own body.
Female genital mutilation is an old tradition in many parts of the world. It is forbidden in Sweden, as well as in many other countries.
Female genital mutilation is when parts of the vulva are removed or damaged. A part of the clitoris or the inner labia can have been taken away. The labia can have been sewn together, leaving only a small hole down below for urine and menstrual blood to come out. It can also be that someone has damaged the clitoris or the area surrounding it.
Female genital mutilation can cause a range of different problems. If you have been circumcised, you might for example, feel pain in the groin region. This may cause problems and hurt when you urinate or have your period. It might not be enjoyable to masturbate or have sex. You might feel bad emotionally.
There is good help and support available if you have been circumcised and do not feel well.
If you have questions or want to be examined
Do you have questions about your vulva or vagina? Are you worried about something? If so, it is a good idea to get help so that you can get the answers to your questions.
You can go to a Youth Guidance Centre (ungdomsmottagning), a health clinic (vårdcentral), a dermatology and venereology clinic (hud- och könsmottagning), a maternity clinic (barnmorskemottagning), a women’s clinic (kvinnoklinik) or a clinic with gynaecologists. You can go to the clinic of your choice in Sweden.
It is a good idea to get help if you have any of the following:
- You are in pain or experiencing other kinds of problems.
- It itches and burns, and the labia are swollen.
- You have a discharge that smells off, a white discharge with little lumps in it, or a discharge which changes colour and turns yellow, green, brown or is mixed with blood when you don’t have your period.
- You experience a lot of pain when you have your period, or other kinds of problems when you have your period.
- You are experiencing problems caused by female genital mutilation or have questions about this.
- You have had unprotected sex and think that you might have caught a sexually transmitted disease.
- You have spots or marks that hurt or itch.
- You can feel something hard inside the skin of your labia.
If you need, you can have your vulva and vagina examined. This type of examination is called a gynaecological examination. No one else can see or know that you have had a gynaecological examination simply by looking.
This is a video about the vulva and vagina, by RFSU.