Vagina: Location, function, common diseases?

Vaginal health is an important part of a woman's overall health. Even vaginal problems affect fertility, sex drive. In addition, vaginal problems can also stress women out, affect relationships, and affect your self-confidence. Therefore, it is important to know the overview of the vagina, its functional location, and the influencing factors. In addition, women also need to know which vaginal signs should see a doctor. 


1. What is a vagina?

When talking about the vagina, some people think it is similar to the vulva - the external female genitalia. But in reality, these two agencies are different.

The vulva is the part of the external genitalia that includes:

Vagina: Location, function, common diseases?

The vulva – External female genitalia

  • Clit.
  • Vaginal vestibule (the opening into the vagina).
  • Urethra.
  • Lips big, lips small genitals.

Meanwhile, the vagina is a muscular tube lined with nerves and mucous membranes. It's like a channel. One end is the vaginal vestibule, and the extension connects to the uterus and cervix. Therefore, the vagina has the function of allowing menstruation to exit. It is also a place for intercourse and childbirth.

2. The structure and function of the vagina?

2.1 Vaginal vestibule

Vaginal vestibule, or vaginal opening, is the entrance to the vagina. The vaginal vestibule is located between the anus and the urethra. The opening of the vagina is where menstrual blood comes out of the uterus. This is the opening for sex and for the birth of a baby.

2.2 Vaginal wall

The vaginal wall is made up of muscle and covered by a mucous membrane. The structure resembles tissue in the mouth. The vaginal wall contains layers of tissue with many elastic fibers. The surface of the vaginal wall forms many wrinkles (folds). Wrinkles to create space to allow the vagina to expand during sex or childbirth.

Vagina: Location, function, common diseases?

The tissues of the vaginal wall change and are affected by estrogen during each menstrual cycle. The cells in the outermost layer of the vaginal wall store glycogen. During ovulation, this layer of cells is shed. Glycogen is broken down by bacteria and helps maintain pH levels. This condition helps protect the vagina against harmful bacteria and fungi.

2.3 Hymen

The hymen is a thin membrane that surrounds the opening into the vagina. In fact, hymens come in different shapes and sizes. However, the most diverse is the half-moon shape. This shape allows menstrual blood to drain out of the vagina.

When a woman first has intercourse or inserts something into the vagina, the hymen can tear. The hymen can also tear during strenuous exercise.

In some women, rarely, the shape and type of the hymen can interfere with menstrual flow, or intercourse. Consists of:

Holeless hymen: A hymen without stoma will completely cover the opening into the vagina. This condition is to prevent menstrual flow from escaping. To resolve, the membrane will need to be repaired with minor surgery.

Super-small hole hymen: With this membrane, although there are holes, the hole is too small, almost covering the vaginal opening. With this membrane, a minor surgery will be required to make the opening wider.

Hymen with septum: Will include a band of tissue in between creating two openings, and may require minor surgery to repair.

3. What problems can affect the vagina?

The vagina is a closed muscular tube that extends from the vulva – the outside of the female genitals – to the cervix (cervix).

Several factors can affect vaginal health, including:

3.1 Sex

Unprotected sex can lead to sexually transmitted infections. Vigorous intercourse or trauma to the pelvic region can also lead to vaginal trauma.

3.2 Certain medical conditions and problems

For example , endometriosis , a pelvic inflammatory disease , can cause pain during sex. Scars from pelvic surgery and some cancer treatments can also cause this condition. In addition, when arbitrarily using some antibiotics increases the risk of vaginal yeast infections.

3.3 Contraceptive and feminine hygiene products:

Barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, diaphragms, and spermicides, can irritate the vagina. Using sprays, deodorants, or douches can irritate the vagina or make existing irritation worse.

3.4 Pregnancy and childbirth

If you become pregnant, you will stop menstruating until your baby is born. During pregnancy, vaginal discharge often increases. In some cases, an episiotomy — an incision that cuts the vaginal vestibule to create a larger opening for the baby to come out — is needed.

3.5 Psychological problems

Anxiety and depression can contribute to vaginal arousal levels. It also contributes to discomfort or pain during sex. Trauma — such as sexual abuse — can also lead to sex-related pain.

3.6 Hormone levels

Changing hormone levels can affect your vagina. For example, estrogen production decreases after menopause and during breastfeeding. Loss of estrogen can cause the lining of the vagina to thin (vaginal atrophy). The result will be pain during sex.

4. What health problems can the vagina have?

Conditions that can affect the vagina, include:

4.1 Sexual problems

For example, persistent or recurrent pain just before, during, or after sex. Pain during sex can be caused by involuntary spasms of the muscles of the vaginal wall. Additionally, vaginal dryness, which often occurs after menopause, can also cause pain during intercourse.

4.2 Sexually transmitted diseases

Sexually transmitted infections that can affect the vagina include: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts, syphilis, and genital herpes (genital herpes). Signs of the disease may include: Unusual vaginal discharge, an itchy rash or acne or genital sores.

>> Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are diseases that occur after sex. Chlamydia trachomatis (Chlamydia) is one of the causative agents of disease in both men and women. The disease can cause dangerous complications.

4.3 Vaginitis

An infection or a change in the balance of vaginal yeast and bacteria can cause vaginitis . Symptoms include: Unusual, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, itching, and pain. Common types of vaginitis include: Bacterial vaginosis, fungal infections, and trichomoniasis.

4.4 Weakness of pelvic floor muscles

If the supporting ligaments and connective tissues that hold the uterus and vaginal walls in place become weak. This results in the uterus, bladder, rectum, or vaginal wall being able to recede. Consequences can cause urine leakage during coughing and sneezing (urinary leakage).

4.5 Other rare conditions

Vaginal cysts can cause pain during sex. Vaginal cancer – which can present as vaginal bleeding after menopause or sexual intercourse – is also a rare condition.

5. What vaginal signs need to see a doctor?

Consult your doctor if you notice:

  • Color change (yellow, green, brown, dark gray, etc.), foul-smelling vaginal discharge or excessive discharge.
  • Red or itchy vagina
  • Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods, after sex or after menopause.
  • A mass or bulge in or near the outside.
  • Pain during intercourse.

You may not need to see your doctor every time you experience vaginal irritation and discharge. Especially if you've been diagnosed with a vaginal yeast infection before and you're experiencing similar signs and symptoms. However, if you choose to use an over-the-counter medication and your symptoms don't go away. Please consult your doctor.

6. What to do to keep the vagina healthy?

You can do the following to protect your vaginal health and overall health. Consists of:

  • Safe sex: Using condoms or maintaining a monogamous relationship will minimize the risk of STIs. If sex toys are used, clean them after each use.
  • Vaccination:  Women should be vaccinated against HPV, the virus linked to cervical cancer. In addition, if possible, vaccination against hepatitis B and C is also really necessary. Having sex can also spread hepatitis.
  • Do Kegel exercises: Kegel exercises can help tone your pelvic floor muscles if you have uterine prolapse, urine leakage, or pelvic floor muscle weakness.
  • Know what medications to use vaginally : If you use over-the-counter medications. Please make sure that the type of use is benign and buy from reputable places. If you are unsure of certain medications to use vaginally. Please consult your doctor before use.
  • Limit alcohol and don't smoke:  Long-term alcohol abuse can impair sexual function. In addition, substance abuse can also cause poor physical and mental health.

The vagina is an important part of a woman's reproductive organs. In particular, vaginitis is a common disease in women. When there are health problems related to the vagina such as abnormal white discharge, bad odor, discoloration, itching and pain during sex. Women should visit a gynecologist to protect their reproductive health.

In addition, it is necessary to maintain vaginal health, including: Using condoms (when needed), monogamous relations, vaccination against cervical cancer, hepatitis and limiting alcohol and tobacco.

Written by: Hoang Yen , Medical consultation: Doctor Nguyen Trung Nghia

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