Your vagina is an important part of both your internal and external reproductive anatomy. It’s a powerful passage that plays a role in sex, menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth. Regular pelvic exams and Pap smears, and safer sex practices can help keep your vagina healthy and infection-free.
Your vagina is a stretchy, muscular canal that’s an important part of your reproductive anatomy. Many people refer to “vaginas” as a stand-in for all the reproductive parts associated with being assigned female at birth (AFAB). But your vagina is just one essential organ that’s part of your reproductive and sexual health.
Your vagina is an essential part of your external genitals, or your vulva, which allows you to experience sexual pleasure. And, it’s an important part of your internal reproductive system, which makes pregnancy and childbirth possible.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
People who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) have vaginas. AFAB people include cisgender women — people who are AFAB and identify as women — and some transgender men and nonbinary individuals. Some intersex individuals have cervixes, too.
Your vagina enables you to experience sexual pleasure, channels period blood outside of your body, and plays a role in both pregnancy and childbirth.
Sometimes, a vagina sometimes is compared to a self-cleaning oven because it cleans itself without any outside help. Your vagina is host to a variety of bacteria and fungi that keep it healthy. These tiny organisms coexist in a delicate ecosystem, sometimes called your microbiome or vaginal flora. When you have the right balance of these organisms in your vagina (especially a lot of Lactobacilli, the “good” bacteria in your vagina), your vagina is infection-free. An imbalance of bacteria or an overgrowth of fungus can lead to infection.
Many people confuse “vaginas” and “vulvas,” but your vagina and vulva aren’t the same. Your vagina is a canal-like organ located inside of your body that opens outside of your body. It’s a powerful passage that leads from your uterus (inside of your body) to your vulva, which includes your external reproductive organs, or genitals.
Your vagina extends from your cervix, a neck-like piece of tissue that connects your vagina to your uterus. Your vagina ends as a hole outside of your body, called your vaginal opening. Your vagina is between your bladder (which holds your urine, or pee) and your rectum (which holds your poop).
Your G-spot is located just a few inches inside of your vagina, on the front wall. Many people find it pleasurable when this area is stimulated (with a finger or penis) during sex.
Your vagina ends at a hole called your vaginal opening, which is part of your vulva. Your vulva includes folds of skin on both sides of your vaginal opening. The outer folds are called your labia majora. The inner folds are called your labia minora (inner lips). Your clitoris (clit) is located where your inner lips meet toward the top of your vulva. Your vaginal opening is located where your inner lips meet toward the bottom of your vulva. Sometimes, your inner lips wholly or partially cover your vaginal opening. You may have to part your inner lips with your fingers to feel your vaginal opening.
Your vaginal opening is one of three essential holes in your vulva area that link your body’s internal and external functions. Your urethral opening is at the top. Your vaginal opening is in the middle. And your anus is at the bottom.
The average vagina (unaroused) is a little over 3.5 inches deep. But your vagina’s size depends on various factors, including your age, weight and whether or not you’ve gone through menopause. Surgeries involving your pelvic cavity may shorten the overall length of your vagina, too.
Your vagina is an elastic organ that can increase in depth up to a certain limit. When you’re aroused, the organ that connects your vagina to your uterus (cervix) tilts upward, lengthening your vaginal canal in the process. Your vagina can stretch to fit a penis, finger or sex toy. Still, the experience can become uncomfortable if an inserted object makes contact with your cervix. Communicate with your partners about what’s pleasurable for you.
Your vagina consists of several types of tissue and cells that secrete fluids that keep your vaginal walls moist, elastic and healthy. The cells in your vagina are especially responsive to the hormone estrogen. Your body produces higher amounts of estrogen in your reproductive years than during menopause. Less estrogen following menopause can cause your vaginal walls to thin and dry. Over-the-counter lubricants and estrogen-replacement therapy can help with vaginal dryness post-menopause.
Many conditions affect your vagina, but the most common problem is vaginitis, a variety of disorders that cause vaginal inflammation and/or infection. The most common conditions that fall under this larger umbrella are:
Other conditions include:
You may experience a variety of symptoms depending on your specific condition. Differences in your vaginal discharge, especially, usually mean you have an infection.
Antibiotics (gels, creams, pills) or antifungal medications can treat most causes of vaginitis. Vaginal changes related to decreases in estrogen, like vaginal atrophy, often improve with hormone therapy.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your vagina plays a vital role as part of both your internal and external reproductive parts. Vaginas help make pleasure, pregnancy and childbirth possible. Take care of your vagina by practicing safer sex to reduce your risk of infection. Avoid douching, which can disrupt the self-cleaning powers of your vagina. See your healthcare provider for regular pelvic exams to ensure that your vagina stays healthy.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/08/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.