Think about it this way, if you do have symptoms that are causing you concern, you are going to want to know how to describe things to your OBGYN.

So, let’s start with the difference between your vulva and your vagina. An easy way to think about the difference is inside vs outside.

The vagina is inside.
The vulva is outside.

The vagina is the part of your body from which you menstruate, have sex and give birth. It’s the canal that connects the outside of the body to the cervix and uterus.

The vulva is the outside part of your genitalia that you can see. People often say “vagina” when they actually mean vulva.

So, when it comes to describing everything on the outside including:

  • your labia majora and labia minora (often called lips)
  • your vaginal opening
  • your clitoris
  • your urethra

You will want to use the word vulva. Many girls and women worry about the appearance of their vulva, particularly whether or not it looks ‘normal’. This is especially the case when it comes to the size and symmetry of the inner and outer labia (lips).

It’s important to remember, there’s no such thing as ‘normal’ when it comes to vulvas and vaginas – they’re as unique as our fingerprints. We all have the same parts, but the size and appearance of those parts varies a great deal. Don’t believe us? Check out the great wall of vulvas here and have a look for yourself. They’re all different and they’re all normal!

Hormonally’s hope is for everyone to love their genitals but we recognize this isn’t possible for everyone. If you are not sure about yours, or don’t feel like your genitals quite align with who you are, have a look at these sites for more support.

The Trevor Project

The Tribe Wellness Community

Trans Lifeline

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Vulvas of all shapes and sizes

Let’s start with the parts on the outside that you can see – your vulva.

The vulva includes 4 key parts:

Labia (or lips)

These are the visible folds that conceal your urethra, clitoris and vaginal opening.

There are outer and inner parts to the labia. The labia majora refers to the outside folds and the labia minora refers to the inside folds. Some people’s labia minora may be visible whereas other people’s may be concealed. As we’ve explained though, when it comes to your labia there’s no right or wrong.


Is a sexual organ in its own right!

You can find the clitoris at the top of your vulva above your urethra. It’s protected by something called the clitoral hood. Although the clitoris may look tiny – a small ‘nub’ that gets a little bigger when you are aroused or your clitoris is stimulated, the size of your clitoris is actually much bigger than you may think. Filled with thousands of nerve endings, your clitoris extends beyond what’s visible. The clitoral ‘root’ is thought to be located right behind the anterior vaginal wall.


This is the tiny hole that you pee out of, and it’s positioned just below the clitoris. Women have a relatively short urethra, compared to men. This means we unfortunately are more prone to urinary tract infections (UTI’s) because bacteria can more easily travel up the urethra to reach our bladders.

Opening of the vagina

Below your urethra toward the bottom of your labia is the opening to the vagina, which is the start of a stretchy muscular canal inside the body.

More about the vagina:

  • most of the vagina is inside the body so you can’t see it
  • it’s about 2.5 inches long (just over 6cm). This length can stretch when you’re sexually aroused
  • it produces its own lubrication to help make penetrative sex more comfortable and enjoyable
  • it’s self-cleaning and doesn’t require you to douche or use scented products!

The vagina connects to your cervix.

More about the cervix:

  • the cervix is a narrow opening that leads to your uterus (womb). Your womb or cervix is where a pregnancy happens
  • the cervix allows period blood to be released and sperm to enter the body
  • it’s narrow in order to stop things entering the uterus

Because your cervix is narrow, you shouldn’t worry about ‘losing’ things like a tampon inside you. Your cervix is there to stop that from happening.

  • your labia might be plump, or flat
  • the inner lips may protrude further than the outer lips
  • your vaginal opening may be obvious or not at all
  • your clitoris may be big, small or tucked out of sight
  • your vulva could look symmetrical, but more often than not, you could have lips on one side larger or more pronounced than the the other

Just like us, our vulvas come in a range of skin colors and our pubic hair will be as varied as the hair color and texture on our heads.

So should we drop the word ‘normal’ when talking about vulvas and vagina’s? Absolutely.

The only time it may be useful to use the word normal in the context of your vagina, is when we are talking about discharge. This is the fluid that exits your vagina between your periods.

Discharge is the main way your vagina cleans itself and usually carries a light non-offensive smell. The amount and appearance of your discharge will change throughout your menstrual cycle.

Discharge can get thicker, thinner, or change in color a little.

Vaginas produce discharge to flush out harmful bacteria. Our vaginas are happy when there’s a good balance of bacteria present. However, things like our period, having sex, or monthly hormonal fluctuations can affect this balance. As a result you notice thicker discharge or a more pronounced smell.

Knowing what your discharge looks and smells like will help you to spot the times when it does change. Sometimes, strong smelling discharge, or discharge that has a greenish tinge, change can be a sign of an infection and is your body’s way of letting you know when you may need to seek treatment.