The vagina, (from Latin, literally "sheath" or "scabbard" ) is the tubular tract leading from the uterus to the exterior of the body in female placental mammals and marsupials, or to the cloaca in female birds, monotremes, and some reptiles. Female insects and other invertebrates also have a vagina, which is the terminal part of the oviduct. The Latinate plural (rarely used in English) is vaginae.
In common speech, the term "vagina" is often used inaccurately to refer to the vulva or female genitals generally; strictly speaking, the vagina is a specific internal structure and the vulva is the exterior genitalia only.
The human vagina is an elastic muscular canal that extends from the cervix to the vulva. Although there is wide anatomical variation the average vagina is 6 to 7 inches (15.24 to 17.78 cm) in length; its elasticity allows it to stretch during sexual intercourse and during birth to offspring. The vagina connects the vulva (which is outside the body) to the cervix of the uterus (which is inside the body).
If the woman stands upright, the vaginal tube points in an upward-backward direction and forms an angle of slightly more than 45 degrees with the uterus. The vaginal opening is at the back (caudal) end of the vulva, behind the opening of the urethra. Above the vagina is Mons Veneris. The vagina, along with the inside of the vulva, is reddish pink in color, as with most healthy internal mucous membranes in mammals.
Length, width and shape of the vagina may vary. When a woman gives birth and during sexual intercourse, the vagina temporarily widens and lengthens.
The hymen (a membrane situated at the opening of the vagina, which is also known as a maidenhead) partially covers it in many organisms, including many human females, from birth until it is ruptured by sexual intercourse, or by any number of other activities including medical examinations, injury, certain types of exercise, introduction of a foreign object, etc. However, it should be noted that sexual intercourse does not always cause the hymen to be broken, and so (for example) it is not true that a woman with an intact hymen must be a virgin or vice versa.
Functions of the vagina
From a biological perspective, the vagina performs the following functions:
- Providing a path for menstrual fluids to leave the body
- Sexual activity
- Giving birth
The concentration of the nerve endings that lie particularly close to the entrance of a woman's vagina can provide pleasurable sensation during sexual activity, when stimulated in a way that the particular woman enjoys. Usually when aroused, a woman creates a liquid that comes out the vagina and is used for natural lubrication so the penis can slide in without friction. This activity may include heterosexual intercourse, during which a male partner's penis is placed within the vagina, manual stimulation (either self, or partner), or other stimulation such as tribadism.
An erogenous zone referred to commonly as the G-spot is supposedly located at the anterior wall of the vagina, about five centimeters in from the entrance, however many doctors deny its existence and some of the more precise tests designed to search for a nerve rich area on the vaginal wall have turned up negative. Some women claim to experience very intense pleasure if the G-spot is stimulated appropriately during intercourse or other sexual activity. A G-Spot orgasm may be responsible for female ejaculation, leading some doctors and researchers to believe that G-spot pleasure comes from the Skene's glands, a female homologue of the prostate, rather than any particular spot on the vaginal wall.
During childbirth, the vagina provides the route to deliver the baby from the uterus to its independent life outside the body of the mother. During birth, the vagina is often referred to as the birth canal. The vagina can stretch greatly to ensure successful delivery of the baby.
Sexual health and hygiene
Template:Main The vagina is a self-cleaning organ and needs no special treatment. Doctors discourage douching, which upsets the balance of vaginal flora and may cause infection and other problems. [Citation needed]
The vagina and popular culture
Western society treats the term and subject of the vagina as somewhat taboo. A one-person play by Eve Ensler known as The Vagina Monologues is a rare example of the word appearing in mainstream culture, although the play continues to remain the target of censorship conflicts.