Planned Parenthood

Female Anatomy: Vulva, Vagina, and Breasts

Female Anatomy

Female anatomy at a glance:

  • Breasts and vulvas come in many different shapes and sizes.
  • It's normal for your vulva to have a particular smell.
  • The vagina produces fluid (discharge) that can be white or clear.
  • If you have any concerns about your vulva, vagina, or breasts, talk with an adult you trust.

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What’s a vulva?

The vulva is the whole female genital "package" — labia, clitoris, vagina, and the opening to the urethra (the hole you pee out of). The vulva gets called a lot of funny names, and it's sometimes confused with the vagina. The vagina is a passageway that connects your vulva with your cervix and uterus (womb) inside your body.


So, what does a vulva look like? All vulvas are unique. Some women get to know their bodies by using a mirror to look at their vulvas.

Vulvas, like the rest of your body, can get messy. During puberty, the vagina starts to produce a fluid (discharge) that can be white or clear and may leave marks on your underwear. Discharge is totally normal – it's your body's way of cleaning itself. The vagina also makes different types of discharge at different times, and at various points in the menstrual cycle.


Discharge may also have a slight smell, which is healthy and normal. However, if your discharge smells really bad or fishy, ask your parents about going to the doctor. If your vulva really itches, burns, or hurts badly, that's also a time that you should see a nurse or doctor.


Sometimes women try to get rid of the natural discharge and smells of the vulva using douches, deodorants, or scented sprays (often called "feminine hygiene products"). Douches and other "feminine hygiene products" can be harmful because they throw off the balance of the good bacteria found in the vagina. This can lead to infections and irritation. If you want to clean your vulva, only use mild soap and water on the outside.

What are the labia?

The labia, or lips, of the vulva are folds of skin that surround the opening to the vagina. The labia can be different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures, and are part of what makes your vulva unique.


The outer labia are two folds of skin and fatty tissue outside the inner labia. The inner labia are the folds of skin inside the outer labia that begin at the clitoris and end around the vaginal opening.


The outer labia are covered with pubic hair after puberty. The inner labia can grow and change color as you mature, be wrinkled or smooth, and sometimes stick out from between the outer labia.


Both the outer and inner labia are sensitive, and can swell and open up when you're turned on.

What’s a clitoris?

The clitoris is a part of your vulva that's devoted purely to sexual pleasure. It becomes swollen when you're aroused (aka "turned on" or "horny"). Only the tip of the clitoris can be seen at the top of vulva — the rest is hidden under a part of the labia called the clitoral hood. 

The tip of the clitoris varies in size from smaller than a pea to bigger than a lima bean. The rest of the clitoris is inside the body, and is about five inches long. The sensitivity of the clitoris is different from person to person.

The clitoris is a pretty cool body part. Like the penis, it becomes firmer and swollen during sexual arousal. Unlike the penis, the clitoris' only purpose is for sexual pleasure. It doesn't play a part in making babies like the penis and the vagina do. The clitoris is basically there just to make women feel good. And it's often SUPER sensitive: the clitoris has thousands of nerve endings in it!

While the clitoris is made for pleasure, for a lot of women, it can be too sensitive to touch directly. Masturbation can help you figure out for yourself how you like to be touched, and later you can tell anyone you have sex with what you like and don't like.

Is my vagina normal?

The vagina is the stretchable passage that connects a woman's outer sex organs — the vulva — with the cervix and uterus (where a fetus grows). It's often called the "birth canal" because it's where a fetus is pushed out of the body during childbirth. This is also where menstrual fluid (your period) leaves the body and where a penis goes during vaginal sex.

It's normal for the vagina to produce different types of discharge. When a person is turned on, the vagina can produce a slippery, clear discharge that acts like a lubricant. This lubricant makes vaginal sex feel more comfortable.

While the vagina can have a noticeable smell, an overly unpleasant smell might mean that you have an infection and you should contact a health care provider.

At birth, girls have some skin tissue called the hymen that stretches over part or all of the vaginal opening. Some girls have hymens that cover most of the vaginal opening, and some girls may seem to not have a hymen at all. The hymen can stretch open the first time something enters your vagina (like fingers or a penis), or even during sports or other physical activities.

When do breasts start growing?

Everyone's breasts develop at a different rate. You can start as early as 8 years old or as late as 16. Most girls' breasts develop between the ages of 9 and 14. Breasts may continue to grow, shrink, and change in other ways throughout a person's life.

If you get your period but your breasts and nipples haven't developed at all, see a nurse or doctor to make sure that everything is on track.

It's normal for breasts to feel sore or tender as they develop. These are growing pains, and go away when your breasts stop growing. It's also common for breasts to feel swollen or tender before and during your period.

Many girls get stretch marks on their breasts. This is because our skin can't always keep up with growing breasts. Stretch marks may start out pink or red and raised, but most eventually fade and become less noticeable.

Are my breasts normal?

Here's the main thing you need to know about breasts: they can be as different as any two people are. Almost anything is normal. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. And when they're developing, they change all the time. They develop at different rates and may continue to change size and shape throughout your life. Since breasts are mostly fat, anytime you lose or gain weight your breasts can change.

Breasts can range from teeny to enormous, and it's common for one to be bigger than the other. Many people worry about the size of their breasts, but try not to stress about them. Whether yours are big or small, all sizes are normal.

Just like with breasts, there's no one way that nipples are supposed to look. Nipples come in a range of colors, from light pink to brownish black. The color of your nipples usually has to do with your skin color. Some nipples stick out like buttons, and others are inverted and look more like slits. You might also have some hairs growing around the nipple.

Like the penis and the clitoris, nipples can get erect. Cold, friction, sexual excitement, and even nerves can cause your nipples to become hard and sort of pop out.

Later in life, if you choose, breasts can be used for breastfeeding your baby. But they can also play a totally different role, whether or not you ever have children. Breasts and nipples can be stimulated for sexual pleasure and — BONUS — you can't get pregnant or catch sexually transmitted infections by going to "second base." But if you don't like having your breasts or nipples touched, that's okay too. Talk to anyone you have sex with about how you like your breasts to be handled.

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Female Anatomy: Vulva, Vagina, and Breasts