With women’s rights being a hot button issue recently, it got me thinking: how many women really know and explore the parts that make them a woman? (Disclaimer: I’m not forgetting those in the LGBQT community who have different anatomy and identify as a woman. You do you, girl!)
So ladies…What’s down there? Grab a mirror and play along.
Externally you will see three openings:
- The urethral opening which is closest to the front of your body (where we eliminate pee)
- The vaginal opening in the middle (where intercourse occurs and also the birth canal)
- The rectal opening below (where we eliminate poop)
The urethral and vaginal openings are housed in the first skin layer, called labia majora (with pubic hair) and just underneath, the labia minora (hairless layer) that protect these openings.
Also protected by the labia just above the urethral opening is a small sensitive, nerve filled structure with two hidden "legs" that surrounds either side of the vaginal opening called the Clitoris. The head of the clitoris is very sensitive and serves in sexual function for arousal when stimulated.
The clitoris is considered the most erogenous zone on the female body. Stimulation of the more than 8,000 nerve endings here can lead to the rhythmic, quick flick pelvic floor contractions that we interpret as pleasurable. Yes, I’m talking about orgasm!
Now that you are acquainted with the anatomy use a mirror to check your own lady parts. Then do some of the following movements:
- Try a Kegel: contract pelvic floor like you are stopping the flow of urine or don't want to pass gas. You'll lifting of the pelvic area upwards
- Try a reverse kegel: bear down like trying to pass a bowel movement. You should see the pelvic area gently bulge outward
- Cough or laugh. You should observe an initial lifting up/in of the pelvic floor, with a quick relax back to normal position
Let’s take a look at the Pelvic Floor muscles.
In this image, the external skin is removed and you are now looking at the underlying muscles. These muscles are important stabilizers of the pelvis and serve many functions: bowel and bladder control, core stabilizers, involved with sexual function and support of bladder and other visceral organs.
You can check your pelvic muscles by inserting one clean finger into the vaginal opening to the level between 1st and 2nd knuckle. Assess your strength by squeezing the inserted finger (doing a kegel) by contracting your pelvic floor muscles. You should feel a ring of tension around your finger and feel a gentle pull upwards toward your head.
Assess for tension in the muscles by stretching directly to the right, left, down and diagonally up/right, diagonally up/left, down/right, down/left. No need for direct upward pressure as this is where your urethra is located. A healthy pelvic floor should feel no pain, only pressure or stretch.
I hope this helped you to feel more comfortable and aware of your female anatomy. In a study published in the International Journal of Sexual Health, scientists found that women who had a positive view of their genitals were more comfortable in their skin, more apt to orgasm, and more likely to experiment in bed. So go ahead and get to know your lady parts.
A healthy female pelvic floor has
- no pelvic pain or pain/tingling/feeling of pressure in the sexual organs,
- painless intercourse and insertion of tampons,
- the ability to stay relaxed and soft, not to be chronically tense, which leads to pelvic/back/hip pain,
- ease of voiding (of pee and poop) with no issues of frequency, bladder pain, nor straining during every BM due to constipation
- no leaking when lifting weights, laughing , sprinting for a bu
If you experience any symptoms, consult an experienced pelvic floor physical therapist for evaluation and guidance.