First, the Facts

  • The female genital tract includes the vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus (womb), fallopian tubes and ovaries.
  • The vulva is the area surrounding the openings of the vagina and urethra. It includes the vulval lips (labia) and clitoris.
  • The outer vaginal lips are usually fleshy and covered with hair and skin. If you spread the outer lips (labia majora) apart, you will see the inner lips (labia minora). Vaginal lips come in all shapes and sizes.
  • If you feel forwards from the opening of the vagina, you will feel the clitoris just before the inner lips join together. Most of the time the clitoris is soft and hidden under the hood but, during sexual arousal, it swells with blood and sticks out.
  • The vagina is a muscular tube, about 7–9 cm long, that runs from the vulva to the cervix. It is very, very stretchy.
  • The cervix, which is sometimes called the neck of the womb, is quite firm and lies at the bottom of the uterus. The cervix has a hole in the middle to allow menstrual (period) blood to pass out from the uterus into the vagina. If you put two fingers into the vagina and push upwards, you will be able to feel the cervix. It feels quite large and round, and has a firm consistency. During labour, it softens and then opens to allow the baby to be born.
  • The uterus is a muscular organ, usually about the size of a pear, that sits in the pelvis. It is here that the foetus develops during pregnancy. The lining of the uterus is called the endometrium. This thickens during the menstrual cycle in preparation for a fertilized egg, and is shed during menstruation (a period) if the egg is not fertilized.
  • The two ovaries sit on either side of the uterus. As well as producing eggs, they produce the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone until the menopause occurs.
  • The Fallopian tubes connect the uterus to the ovaries. When an egg is released from one of the ovaries it is collected by the Fallopian tube. Once in the tube, it may be fertilized by a sperm that has swum up from the vagina through the cervix and uterus.

Vaginal or Vulval Problems

For information on vaginal and vulval problems, see our pages on itching, pain, discharge, fishy smell, dry vagina, vulval colour and vaginal lips. Most vaginal and vulval problems can be dealt with easily, and if you have an infection it needs to be dealt with promptly. Doctors are used to examining the genital area; it is just like any other part of the body to them, so talk to your doctor, get it sorted, and move on!


The female genital tract, part 1

The female genital tract, part 2

The female genital tract, part 3


First published on:
Reviewed and edited by: Dr Laura Gush
Last updated: May 2021

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