“Each woman’s vulva is unique in size and appearance including differences between the right and left labia. There is also variation in the size…”.1

Umbrella
What may the Vulva Umbrella include?

Depending on the Source (DotS) this Umbrella may include:

  • Genitals
  • Vulva/Vulval/Vulvar Discomfort/Pain
  • Vulva/Vulval/Vulvar Skin Conditions
  • Vulvovaginal Discomfort/Pain
  • “Down Below/There”
  • “Feminine Pain”
  • “Lady Parts”
  • “Private Parts”
  • “Privates”
  • “Women’s Bits”

Terminology

Can vulva mean different things to different people?

I think the term vulva can be like the terms labia, sex and vagina and mean different things, to different people, at different times, in different places.

When I use the term vulva what I mean may be different to what someone else means “down there” or what is meant in medicaltalk.

It can therefore be important when the term vulva is used to be clear about what is meant, so we may work out whether we are on the same page meaning the same thing or not.

Definition

What is the vulva?

DotS the definition of the vulva may vary. The (Australian) Jean Hailes for Women’s Health’s (JH) definition is:

“Vulva is the general name given to the external parts of the female genitals”.2

Vulva

What are parts of the vulva?

In Vulva & Vaginal Irritation: What Is the Vulva? [+ Image] the JH explain:

“The parts of the vulva include:

  • Mons pubis. The pad of fatty tissue covered with pubic hair
  • Labia majora. The outer lips, which are covered with pubic hair
  • Labia minora. The inner lips, which are hairless
  • Clitoris and its hood or covering. Positioned at the front of the genital area
  • Vestibule. Immediately surrounds the vaginal opening and the urinary opening
  • Urinary opening. Above the vaginal opening
  • Vaginal opening. Below the vaginal opening
  • Perineum. The area of skin between the vagina and the anus”.3

Different Differences

Are vulva one-size-fits-all?

No. Vulva are different.  In Vulva & Vaginal Irritation: What Is Normal? the JH elaborate on:

Vulva
“Each woman’s vulva is unique in size and appearance including differences between the right and left labia. There is also variation in the size, shape and length. These differences and variations are normal”.4

In What’s Normal: What Is Normal Vulval & Vaginal Anatomy? the (Australian) Caredownthere.com.au elaborate on:

“The vulva area is one of the most variable parts of the body, with more normal variations than noses! The range of “normal appearances” is so wide that even your family doctor may not be sure about whether you are normal “down there”. So there have always been some women who worry about how their vulvas look. To make matters worse, the internet has allowed the fashionistas who make us feel abnormal about our weight and breast size, to also make us feel abnormal about our vulvas. Is nothing sacred? If everything is working well down there, then it must be normal! So try not to worry about your vulval size or shape: if it works for you, who cares what anyone else thinks?”5

Vulval Problems

Can vulval problems be skin problems?

In Essential Information: Some Facts About the Vulva – Where Do Vulval Problems Belong Medically? [+ Image] Caredownthere.com explain:

“The vulva is part of the skin and most of the things that go wrong there are skin conditions that happen on other parts of the skin. This includes common skin problems like dermatitis, psoriasis and allergic reactions. Some of the skin conditions that involve the vulva are not common on other parts of the skin, and this includes a condition called lichen sclerosus”.6

Female Genital Mutilation

What is female genital mutilation (FGM)?

DotS the definition of FGM may vary. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition is:

  • “Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.7

In Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): Overview the (United Kingdom) NHS (National Health Service) explain:

“Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but there’s no medical reason for this to be done. It’s also known as female circumcision or cutting, and by other terms, such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan, among others”.8

How common is FGM?

In Female Genital Mutilation: Key Facts the WHO elaborate on:

  • “More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated”.9

In Female Genital Mutilation: Who Is At Risk? the WHO also note:

“FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and adolescence, and occasionally on adult women. More than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually”.10

Mirror, Mirror

VulvaHow can women detect any changes in the appearance of their vulva?

The JH explain:

“Because it is difficult for women to see their own vulva, many women do not know what their vulva looks like and/or what is normal for them. If you don’t know what your vulva looks like, it is a good idea to use a mirror so you can look and become familiar with what is normal for you. It is then easier to detect any changes in appearance, such as changes in colour, bumps, thickening or thinning of the skin or dry, cracked skin”.11

Labia Library

What is the Labia Library?

In the Labia Library the (Australian) Women’s Health Victoria elaborate on:

“The Labia Library is about showing you that, just like any other part of the body, labia come in all shapes and sizes. They’re also really important in sex and they keep your vagina healthy. Women’s Health Victoria has developed the Labia Library to bust a few common myths about how normal labia look. There’s also a photo gallery that shows you just how unique everyone’s labia are”.12

Vulval Clinics

Are there clinics for vulval conditions?

DotC (Depending on the Country) there can be clinics for vulval conditions with gynecologists, dermatologists, physiotherapists and other staff specializing in this area. These clinics may be called:

  • Genito-Urinary Medicine Clinics
  • Multidisciplinary Vulva/Vulval/Vulvar Clinics
  • Vulva/Vulval/Vulvar Clinics
  • Vulvovaginal Clinics

Health Care Provider

What if I am worried about something down there?

If you are worried about something – anything – down there, it may be in your best interest to choose to talk to your health care provider about this. The JH explain:

“If you are worried about the odour of your vulva and vagina, and/or have other symptoms such as itching, burning, irritation, soreness, painful sex or painful urination, you should see your doctor”.13

Health Topics A-Z

Where may I find Health Topics related to Vulva?

In Health Topics A-Z you may find:

Links

Where may I find Links related to Vulva?

Your Country may have Links similar to:

Sources

Where may I find the Sources quoted?

You may find the Sources quoted at:

Sources

  1. Vulva & Vaginal Irritation: What Is Normal? Last Updated: 04 March 2020 | Last Reviewed: 24 February 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/vulva-vagina-ovaries-uterus/vulva-vaginal-irritation Accessed: 04 May 2020
  2. Vulva & Vaginal Irritation: What Is Normal? Last Updated: 04 March 2020 | Last Reviewed: 24 February 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/vulva-vagina-ovaries-uterus/vulva-vaginal-irritation Accessed: 04 May 2020
  3. Vulva & Vaginal Irritation: What Is the Vulva? Last Updated: 04 March 2020 | Last Reviewed: 24 February 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/vulva-vagina-ovaries-uterus/vulva-vaginal-irritation Accessed: 04 May 2020
  4. Vulva & Vaginal Irritation: What Is Normal? Last Updated: 04 March 2020 | Last Reviewed: 24 February 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/vulva-vagina-ovaries-uterus/vulva-vaginal-irritation Accessed: 04 May 2020
  5. What’s Normal: What Is Normal Vulval & Vaginal Anatomy? Caredownthere.com.au https://www.caredownthere.com.au/_pages/normal.html Accessed: 04 May 2020
  6. Essential Information: Some Facts About the Vulva – Where Do Vulval Problems Belong Medically? Caredownthere.com.au https://www.caredownthere.com.au/_pages/information_vulva.html Accessed: 04 May 2020
  7. Female Genital Mutilation: Key Facts. 03 February 2020. World Health Organization https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation Accessed: 04 May 2020
  8. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Overview. Page Last Reviewed: 20 May 2019. NHS (National Health Service) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/female-genital-mutilation-fgm/ Accessed: 04 May 2020
  9. Female Genital Mutilation: Key Facts. 03 February 2020. World Health Organization https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation Accessed: 04 May 2020
  10. Female Genital Mutilation: Who Is At Risk? Updated: 03 February 2020. World Health Organization https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation Accessed: 04 May 2020
  11. Vulva & Vaginal Irritation: What Is Normal? Last Updated: 04 March 2020 | Last Reviewed: 24 February 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/vulva-vagina-ovaries-uterus/vulva-vaginal-irritation Accessed: 04 May 2020
  12. Labia Library. Women’s Health Victoria http://www.labialibrary.org.au/ Accessed: 04 May 2020
  13. Vulva & Vaginal Irritation: Odour. Last Updated: 04 March 2020 | Last Reviewed: 14 February 2014. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/vulva-vagina-ovaries-uterus/vulva-vaginal-irritation Accessed: 04 May 2020
Topic Last Updated: 04 May 2020 – Topic Last Reviewed: 04 May 2020
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