Female Anatomy Cheat Sheet for Successful Conversation

Nov 29, 2021

by Camille Everett

Creator of Be That Place

Handwritten notes and lunchtime chats from students kickstarted Camille's mission to help families teach sex ed at home. She is a graduate of Utah State University with a bachelor’s in Secondary Health & English Education. She loves having real conversations while devouring bowls of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

Mom handing tampon and hand mirror to teenage daughter through bathroom door

It’s not an understatement to say that many girls don’t know a lot about female anatomy. This needs to change. It’s become a real health and safety issue. And of course, this information aids in understanding how to feel sexual pleasure when the time is right, which is also important to developing a healthy sexual self.

When girls receive honest information about bodies, they’ll be better at treating all bodies with respect — including their own. It’s as important for young men to learn female anatomy as it is for young women to learn male anatomy.

Female sexual anatomy, also called the genitals, has both external and internal parts. If you would like an educational visual of the anatomy, the Visible Body Learn Site1 is a great free resource for introductions to the body systems.

External female anatomy

Vulva is the name used to describe all of the external anatomy. The vulva is what prevents infectious organisms from entering the body. 

Mons pubis is the fleshy mound of skin found in front of the pubic bones at the lowest part of the abdomen. It will eventually become covered with hair during puberty.

The labia majora are two folds of skin flaps, often referred to as the large lips, that run from the mons pubis to above the anus. The labia majora has sweat and oil glands. During puberty it will also become covered in hair.

The labia minora are two folds of smooth skin flaps, also called the small or inner lips, found inside the labia majora. They cover the opening to the vagina and the urethra (the canal that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body). 

The clitoris is a small sensory organ found externally where the labia minora meet at the top. It also continues internally on either side of the labia. It is very sensitive to stimulation and is the primary source of sexual pleasure.

Internal female anatomy

The vagina is a muscular tunnel that extends from the cervix (the bottom of the uterus) to the vaginal opening between the labia. Because the vagina’s muscles can expand and contract, it has the ability to stretch enough to allow a baby to pass through during childbirth. The vagina is the route where blood exits a girl’s body during her period and where a tampon would be placed during menstruation. The vagina is also where the penis is placed during intercourse.  

The uterus, also called the womb, is a hollow, muscular organ shaped like an upside-down pear. It is located in the lower abdomen. The cervix connects it to the vagina. The cervix is like a gate — it allows blood to exit the body from the uterus during a female’s period and it can allow sperm to enter the uterus after intercourse, but remains closed at other times. 

The uterus is capable of expanding to accommodate a growing baby during pregnancy and is strong enough to help push a baby through the birth canal during labor. When not pregnant, the uterus is only about 3-4 inches long by 2.5 inches wide.

The fallopian tubes are narrow tubes that attach the uterus to the ovaries. There are two fallopian tubes, one on each side of the uterus. When an egg leaves the ovary, it travels through the fallopian tube before entering the uterus. 

The ovaries are two oval shaped organs that are located on either side of the uterus. An ovary releases an egg into the fallopian tube during a process called ovulation, which is part of the menstrual cycle. When this egg becomes fertilized by sperm, a woman becomes pregnant. 

Common concerns about anatomy

Some of these concerns may seem like common sense to parents, but it’s not common sense to many girls. Give your daughter a heads up by turning the conversation into something enjoyable. Shop for nice cotton underwear together or surprise her with a fun feminine bag to keep in her backpack. There are lots of ways to get the conversation going. 

Vaginal discharge 

Discharge generally begins about 6 months to 1 year before a girl starts her period. Although it may not feel very pleasant in your underwear, discharge actually helps keep the vagina healthy. It can be thin and stringy or thick and sticky. Healthy discharge is clear, white or off-white and should have only a slight odor. Your daughter can use pantiliners if it’s bothersome.

If discharge ever smells strong, becomes green, gray or brown, or causes itching or burning, then it’s probably an infection. If this happens, it’s best to see a doctor. Infections that go untreated may become serious complications like pelvic inflammatory disease. Your daughter needs to know to talk to you if she notices this type of discharge.


In the shower, use water and a mild soap to wash the vulva. If soap is irritating to the vulva, just clean well with water and the fingers or a washcloth. Be sure to rinse thoroughly between the folds of the labia at the end of a shower since shampoo, conditioner and soap can get trapped in the folds. A peri bottle filled with warm water can also be used to clean the vulva between showers.

It’s best to wear cotton underwear or at least underwear that has a cotton crotch. Other fabrics as well as tight fitting clothes, can trap a lot of sweat and bacteria which causes odor. To keep the odor down, change out of wet or sweaty clothes quickly. This includes swimsuits, spandex, and exercise clothes.

Itchy or red vulva

If the vulva becomes red or itchy, it could be laundry detergent trapped in the underwear. Be sure to use the correct amount of unscented laundry detergent and rinse really well in the wash when cleaning underclothes.

Bubble baths or lounging in soapy bath water can cause the same issue. 

Some girls are just really susceptible to irritation from chemicals. It’s definitely not fun to feel itchy or sore in the genitals. It may take some investigative work to figure out what’s causing the problem, but it’s worth the work.

An itchy and red vulva can also be caused by an infection. Especially if there is pain in the genitals or pain when urinating, you’ll want your daughter to get seen by a doctor.

Vaginal health

Vaginas were designed to keep themselves clean and healthy. Soap and douches shouldn’t be used in the vagina.

If your daughter thinks she’s experiencing an odor issue, go through the hygiene steps above. She can also talk to her pediatrician about it to see if she has a mild infection that needs to be resolved. 

Vulva Appearance

Both the labia minora and labia majora come in different sizes, shapes and colors and it is normal for them to change during puberty. There is not a vulva that looks more sexually appealing than another one. They are simply all different, and that’s ok.

Safely using feminine supplies

There are lots of different feminine supplies on the market. While pads and pantiliners are pretty straightforward, your daughter does need to understand how to use tampons safely.

Tampons should be changed regularly, about every 4-8 hours. They should never be used more than once, even if they look clean. A female should use the smallest size tampon capable of absorbing the menstrual flow.2 Because they shouldn’t be left in for that long, it may be wise to use a pad when sleeping.

If any part of a tampon ever gets stuck inside the body, it would be wise to have a doctor help get it out. One easy way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to just quickly make sure the full tampon is intact when it’s pulled out.

It’s rare, but tampons can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome which is a disease that can cause fever, shock and problems with several body organs.3 It can also lead to death, just like it did in a friend of mine. Simply put, it’s important to use tampons correctly.

Gynecology Checkups

Most doctors recommend girls get their first gynecology checkup between ages 13-15. This is a good time to make sure the body is developing as it should. The doctor will check the breasts and the external genitals, which will take only a minute or two.

The pediatrician will generally do these types of exams as part of a yearly well-child visit. As your daughter gets older, you may want to ask her opinion on the gender of her doctor to keep these visits as positive as possible.

Girls should know that the doctor is happy to answer any questions or concerns. Even a simple question like, “What should a girl like me know to stay healthy?” would be a great start to a conversation.

A pelvic exam is a more thorough checking of the whole reproductive system. Unless there’s a specific reason to do one, usually these types of exams happen around age 21. 

Pictures of the genitals, aka sexting

It’s normal to be curious about how the genitals are changing. Keeping a hand mirror close by in the bathroom can help out. Be sure that your daughter knows to never take pictures of her genitals even for her own curiosity. 

Also help her know that she shouldn’t blindly type body parts into Google search. She’ll get back way more than she wanted, and she’ll probably be disturbed by the results. There are many sources of information that are both respectful and informative.1 Help her find these sources.

Sexting, sending pictures of genitals to another person, most typically through texting, is not a wise choice. Neither is forwarding sexual images you might receive. There are very real legal consequences to these actions, especially for minors.4

It’s natural for adolescents to be curious about their changing body. Let them know that you are open and happy to talk about anything they’d like. These conversations may feel simple, but they are life-changing for young minds.

  1. www.visiblebody.com
  2. “The Facts on Tampons — and How to Use Them Safely.” U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/facts-tampons-and-how-use-them-safely#:~:text=Tampons%20are%20not%20intended%20to,the%20lowest%20absorbency%20tampon%20needed. Accessed 24 March 2021.
  3. “Toxic Shock Syndrome.” MedlinePlus, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000653.htm. Accessed 24 March 2021.
  4. Victor C. Strasburger, Harry Zimmerman, Jeff R. Temple, Sheri Madigan. “Teenagers, Sexting, and the Law.” Pediatrics. May 2019, 143 (5) e20183183; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2018-3183