The difference between vagina and vulva

If asked to name the main organs of the female reproductive system, most people would name the vagina, uterus and ovaries off the top of their heads. However, even if they are imagining the diagram in their minds, this diagram is likely to be wrong.

The reason for this lies in the common misconception that the vagina is the reproductive organ that is visible on the surface, the one that can be seen between a woman's legs. Many people do not know the difference between vagina and vulva. This is not surprising, since vulvovaginal health is usually referred to as vaginal health, and vulvovaginal hygiene is more often called vaginal hygiene. The convenience of shorter words has outweighed the need for accuracy. The difference between vagina and vulva is primarily anatomical and histological, which results in different hygiene needs and different diseases.


Anatomy of the vagina and the vulva

The vulva is the external part of our genital system. It consists of the labia majora and labia minora, the clitoris, the mons pubis, the opening of the vagina and other anatomical structures. The “double doors” - labia majora and minora – help protect the inside of the vagina from external contaminants. It also provides the moisture thanks to the glands located in the labia.


"The reason for this lies in the common misconception that the vagina is the reproductive organ that is visible on the surface, the one that can be seen between a woman's legs"


The vagina is the tube that connects the vulva to the cervix and uterus. It is an elastic tube covered with mucous tissue with its own microbial flora and a specific acidic pH, and it plays a main role in storage and transportation of sperm to the uterus and fallopian tubes for egg fertilization, and for delivery of the baby. The exact measurements of the vagina remains a subject of dispute, but it certainly varies between individuals. The mean size of the vagina is about 8 cm long, but during arousal it becomes very elastic and can be stretched to a much larger size.


Vulvovaginal hygiene

The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, which means that, in normal circumstances, there is no need to wash it from the inside. The vulva, on the other hand, should be washed regularly, at least once a day, to help protect the vagina from potential contamination.

You should never use products containing soap or harsh chemicals to wash your intimate parts, because they can damage the physiological balance of the vaginal flora and wash away it's natural protective lubricating and moisturizing components. Sometimes, the balance of the vagina flora gets disrupted, or an infection occurs and additional care is needed. In this case, it is important to recognise the symptoms and contact your doctor, in order to apply the right treatment.