5 Vulva Facts You Should Know
Get ready to learn all about the vulva as we answer the question ‘what is the vulva?’, bust misconceptions and uncover the truths about the vulva we wish everyone knew. Whether you’re a verified vulva expert or a knowledge-thirsty novice, grab a coffee, get comfy and join us on this voyage of learning all things vulva.
What is a Vulva?
Vulva is the name for the female external genitalia including the clitoris, labia (vaginal lips), and the opening to the vagina. The vulva does not include the cervix, womb, or other internal parts of the female reproductive system. Now we know the definition of the vulva, let’s dig into our first fact.
1. The Vulva is NOT the vagina
The most common misconception of all is to call the vulva the vagina, the vagina is the specific name for the internal canal leading to the cervix. The vagina does not include the clitoris, labia or any other external parts. It might seem like splitting hairs, but continued misconceptions about our reproductive health only continue to perpetuate misunderstanding in an area that has been traditionally under-researched and stigmatized. We’re proud we know the difference between a vulva and a vagina and we’re going to tell anyone who’ll listen (and even those who won’t) all about it.
2. Vulvas come in all shapes and sizes
Vulvas are like snowflakes, no two are exactly the same. The size, shape and color of vulva can vary considerably from woman to woman. Often the vulvas seen in mainstream porn all look a certain way and this has influenced a move towards how we as society portray the vulva, with some of us questioning if ours looks normal or not. Cosmetic surgery to the vulva has been on the rise in recent times, with some women opting to reduce the size of their labia. We believe in every individual’s right to control their body, but we also want to reiterate that there is no ‘normal’ standard of how a vulva should look and we want to celebrate diverse and beautiful vulvas everywhere!
Jack Pearson, Natural Cycles’ in-house Medical Expert, has eight years experience in reproductive health with a background of working in one of the UK’s busiest fertility clinics. We asked him what he wished every woman knew about the vulva:
“Women come in all different shapes and sizes and your Vulva is included! Labia length and overall Vulva size and shape vary so there really is no ‘normal’. In very rare cases, long labia may affect a woman’s quality of life. If you’re worried, speak to your healthcare professional.’
3. The clitoris is an iceberg
Found at the top of the vulva, the clitoris is located at the point where the inner labia meet (known as the clitoral hood). While it may look small, the part of the clitoris we can see on the vulva is just the tip of the iceberg and the rest of the organ spreads internally and can be as long as 5 inches (12cm)! On top of that, the clitoris has over 8,000 nerve endings, that’s double the nerve endings found in the penis, and like the penis the clitoris becomes erect, due to increased blood flow, when aroused.
Despite these facts, the clitoris has been sold short by history. Famously, the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, considered clitoral orgasms to be immature compared to vaginal orgasms. Yep, we’ll just let that sink in for a minute… In reality, most women climax through clitoral stimulation, which leads us on to our next vulva fact!
4. Sexual pleasure doesn’t just mean penetration
A recent study uncovered that only 18% of women experience orgasm through vaginal penetration alone. This is quite a shocking statistic when you consider how sex is portrayed in popular culture and how the female orgasm in particular is often shown to happen through penetrative sex. In fact, the vulva offers a plethora of pleasure, and limiting sex to penetration restricts our reproductive knowledge generally, as well as continuing the myth that there is one recognized form of sex. In reality, we are all different and a diverse definition when talking about sex is the best way to include all preferences of pleasure.
5. Knowledge is power
Last but not least, this one goes out to the nerds and the knowledge-hungry. Access to accurate advice and information is key to making informed choices about our bodies and our birth control. Knowledge is power and when it comes to the vulva, it’s no exception. We recommend speaking to a healthcare professional if you have questions or concerns regarding your own reproductive health, but there are small things we can all do every day that also help broaden our horizons. Learning more about your body helps debunk societal misconceptions and prevents the spread of myths.
We hope you’ve learned something new about the vulva! At Natural Cycles, we’re committed to closing the knowledge gap where the wider contraceptive landscape is concerned. Not only is Natural Cycles the first and only FDA Cleared digital birth control, but it’s also personalized to you. With in-app messages, reminders, and notifications, you can keep track where you are in your cycle and learn unique insights about your body, all while preventing pregnancy 100% hormone-free.