A guide to female anatomy

Pregnancy
Female anatomy includes the external genitals, or the vulva, and the internal reproductive organs, which include the ovaries and the uterus.

One major difference between males and females is their reproductive organs. Anatomy specific to females generally relates to sexual function, reproduction, and hormone control.

Males and females have physically different sexual anatomy, but all sex organs come from the same bundle of cells during fetal development. A baby’s biological sex is determined at the moment the father’s sperm meets the mother’s egg.

This article will look in detail at the structure and function of the female internal and external organs.

Below is a 3-D model of female anatomy, which is fully interactive.
Explore the model using your mouse pad or touchscreen to understand more about female anatomy.

External anatomy

The external female anatomy includes the pubis and the vulva. The following sections discuss these in more detail.

Mons pubis

The mons pubis, or public mound, is the fleshy area on the pelvic bone where females typically grow pubic hair.

Vulva

a female wondering about her anatomy
Female reproductive organs are very different to those of males.

The vulva refers to the external parts of a female’s genitals. It consists of several parts, including the labia majora, the labia minora, and the glans clitoris.

The list below provides more detail on these parts:

  • Labia majora. These are the fleshy outer lips on either side of the vaginal opening. The word “labia” is Latin for “lips.” These outer lips usually grow pubic hair.
  • Labia minora. These are the inner lips. They sit inside the outer lips but can be varying sizes. In some females, for example, the inner lips extend beyond the outer lips.
  • Clitoris. The glans clitoris sits at the top of the vulva, located where the inner lips meet. It is usually around the size of a pea, though size varies from person to person. Only the tip of the clitoris is visible, but it has two shafts that extend into the body by as much as 5 inches. The clitoris contains many nerve endings that are very sensitive, especially during sexual stimulation.
  • Clitoral hood. The clitoral hood is the fold of skin that surrounds the head of the clitoris. It protects the clitoris from friction.
  • Urethral opening. The opening to the urethra sits above the vaginal opening. The urethra connects to the bladder, and the opening is where urine exits the body.

Internal anatomy

The internal female anatomy begins at the vagina, which is the canal that leads from the vulva to the uterus.

The cervix separates the vagina from the uterus, and the fallopian tubes connect the ovaries with the uterus.

The following sections discuss these organs in more detail.

Vagina

As mentioned above, the vagina is the canal that connects the vulva with the uterus. The opening to the vagina is part of the vulva.

The vagina can vary in size, but the average length is about 2.5 to 3 inches. That said, it expands in length during arousal.

It also contains special structures called Bartholin’s glands. These are two “pea-sized” glands that sit on either side of the vaginal opening. These glands are responsible for secreting lubrication to keep the vaginal tissues from becoming too dry.

Cervix

The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus. It is a cylinder-shaped area of tissue that separates the vagina from the rest of the uterus.

During birth, the cervix dilates to allow the baby to move through the vagina.

Uterus

a mature pregnant woman on beach
The uterus holds the fetus during pregnancy.

The uterus is located in the middle of the pelvic cavity. This muscular sac will house the fetus during pregnancy.

During a female’s monthly menstrual cycle, the lining of the uterus thickens with blood in preparation for the release of an egg from one of the ovaries. This is to prepare a nourishing environment for a fetus if pregnancy occurs.

If pregnancy does not occur, the uterine lining sheds. This is called the menstrual period. It occurs every around 28 days, though cycle length varies between females.

The upper portion of the uterus is connected to the ovaries by the fallopian tubes.

Ovaries

The ovaries are egg-shaped organs attached to fallopian tubes on the left and right sides of the body. Each ovary is roughly the size of an almond. Most females are born with two ovaries that produce eggs.

In addition to producing eggs, the ovaries also produce hormones. Namely, they release estrogen and progesterone.

Fallopian tubes

The fallopian tubes connect the ovaries to the uterus. When the ovaries release an egg, the egg travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus for potential fertilization.

If a fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube, doctors call this an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency because the fallopian tube can rupture.

Hymen

The hymen is a membrane of tissue that covers the external vaginal opening. Not all females have a hymen, however.

The hymen can rupture as a result of pelvic injury, sports activity, pelvic examination, sexual intercourse, or childbirth. The absence of a hymen does not mean that a female has been sexually active.


Breasts

a woman breastfeeding in the street.
The breasts supply milk to the infant after childbirth.

Many people consider breasts “accessory organs” to the female reproductive system, as they are responsible for supplying milk to an infant after childbirth.

The major external components of the breasts include the:

  • Nipple. The nipple is the rounded area where milk drains to feed a baby. They have many nerve endings that can make them an area of sexual stimulation. Nipples do not always protrude. Some females have flat or inverted nipples.
  • Areola. The areola is the pigmented area that surrounds the nipple. It is circular and varies in size from person to person. It contains small glands, called Montgomery glands, that secrete lubrication to keep the nipple from drying out, especially when nursing.
  • Breast tissue. The breast is the area of skin on the chest that is composed of fat, muscle, and ligament tissue, as well as an intricate network of blood vessels and glands. These areas are specialized for breastfeeding. Breast tissue size varies greatly from person to person, often due to a combination of individual genetics and body mass.

Internally, the breasts are primarily composed of fat. The amount of fat can determine breast size. However, breast size has no bearing on the amount of milk someone is able to produce.

The internal anatomy of the breasts include the:

  • Alveoli. These are milk secreting cells grouped into clusters inside the breasts.
  • Lactiferous ducts. These are special channels that open on the nipple’s surface. Breast milk exits through these ducts to nourish a baby.
  • Lobules. These are collections of alveoli in the breast that secrete milk. The lobules drain into lactiferous ducts, then into lactiferous sinuses that promote milk flow from the nipple.
  • Mammary glands. These are responsible for producing breast milk.

Summary

The female body contains many organs that work together to achieve a variety of functions.

The shape and size of many of these organs naturally vary from person to person. However, if a female is concerned that any part of their anatomy might not be “normal,” they can talk to their doctor.

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