The vulva is the external part of the female genitalia. It protects a woman’s sexual organs, urinary opening, vestibule and vagina and is the center of much of a woman’s sexual response. (1) The outer and inner ‘lips’ of the vulva are called the labia majora and labia minora. The vestibule surrounds the opening of the vagina, or introitus, and the opening of the urethra, or urethral meatus. The perineum is the area extending from beneath the vulva to the anus.
Diagram reproduced with permission from The Interstitial Cystitis Survival
Guide by Robert Moldwin, MD, New Harbinger Publications, Inc. © 2000.
The pudendal nerve transmits pain messages and other sensations from the vulva. The pudendal nerve originates from the sacral spine, which is located directly below the low back area. The nerve passes through the pelvis and enters the vulvar region near the ischial spine, which is part of the hip bone. From there, it branches off into the inferior rectal nerve, perineal nerve and dorsal nerve of the clitoris. The pudendal nerve is responsible for proper functioning and control of urination, defecation and orgasm in both males and females.
Courtesy of Dawn Danby
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The National Vulvodynia Association is a nonprofit organization that strives to improve women's lives through education, support, advocacy and research funding. The NVA is not a medical authority and strongly recommends that you consult your own health care provider regarding any course of treatment or medication.