What is the female reproductive system?

Jan L. Shifren, MD
Reproductive Endocrinology
The appearance of a woman's genital organs is as individual as her face or body type. However, certain basic structures are common to all women. The following parts make up the outer genitals, collectively called the vulva:

Mons pubis: The fatty mound of tissue that covers the pubic bone. Often called the "mons."

Outer lips (labia majora): The fleshy folds of skin, fat tissue, and smooth muscle that enclose the vaginal opening. Pubic hair, which may be plentiful or sparse depending on the individual, grows along the outer edges of the labia.

Inner lips (labia minora): A second set of thinner tissue folds, closer to the vaginal opening. Unlike the pubic hair-studded outer lips, the labia minora have a smooth surface and are rich in tiny blood vessels and nerve endings.

Clitoris: The most sensitive part of a woman's genital anatomy. This small mound of tissue is located at the point where the upper ends of the labia minora meet, above the vaginal opening. It's constructed from the same tissue as the head of a man's penis (the glans). A soft fold of tissue called the clitoral hood covers the pea-shaped protrusion.

Perineum: A stretch of hairless, sensitive skin that extends from the bottom of the vaginal opening back to the anus.

Unseen within a woman's body are these structures:

Vagina: A 3- to 5-inch tube of highly elastic tissue that extends from the vaginal opening to the cervix, at the base of the uterus. Just inside the entrance of the vagina is a ridge of muscles. Normally, the vaginal walls rest against one another. During childbirth, however, the vagina stretches wide enough to allow the baby to pass through. The vagina is lined with a layer of cells that secrete fluid to keep the inner surfaces moist. Blood vessels are plentiful within the vaginal walls, but most of the nerve endings are clustered in the outer third of the vagina.

Cervix: The knoblike tip of the uterus that forms the opening to the uterus from the vagina. Some women find pressure against the cervix enjoyable during intercourse.

Uterus: A muscular, fist-sized organ shaped like an upside-down pear. The primary job of the uterus is to harbor a growing baby during pregnancy. Uterine muscles contract during orgasm, producing a pleasurable sensation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.