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What's Up with That? Female Anatomy

What's Up with That?
Female Anatomy



What's the difference between girls and boys?
What's on the outside?
What's on the inside?
What about breasts?
What if one of my breasts is larger than the other?
Are breast implants safe?
What if my breasts are too large?
What are other differences between boys and girls?


What's the difference between girls and boys?
Each gender has unique parts that identify us as male or female. Girls are different because they have breasts, external genitals, and internal reproductive organs. Boys have a different male anatomy that makes them male. back to top

What's on the outside?
If you want to know what's going on down there, try taking a look with a small hand mirror while you're lying on your back with your knees spread. (Okay, we know this sounds weird, but it will take the mystery out of the whole thing. And you might want to lock the door.)

Your outer sexual organs are made up of a couple of different parts. First, you have two folds of skin, the labia majora, that protect your genitals. During puberty, the labia and the mons (mound) above it will get covered with pubic hair. The hair grows in the shape of an upside-down triangle.

Under the labia majora is a second, smaller set of folds called the labia minora. Between those folds are the clitoris, the urethra, and the vagina.

The clitoris is a small bump closest to the front of your body. It contains a lot of nerve endings that, when they are touched or rubbed, will increase the good feelings you get during sex. The sole purpose of your clitoris is to give you sexual pleasure. Underneath the clitoris is the small opening of the urethra. The urethra connects the bladder, where urine is stored, to the outside. The opening is where the urine comes out when you pee.

Slightly below the urethra is the opening to the vagina. It doesn't look like the opening of a passage that can accommodate an entire baby, but it can stretch very wide. In some girls, the opening of the vagina is partly covered by the hymen. The hymen is a small piece of skin. For some girls, the first time they have sexual intercourse, the hymen will be stretched or torn. That's why some girls have pain during their first intercourse, and some girls may notice a little bit of blood after. Other girls don't have a noticeable hymen, though, so don't worry if you can't see it, or if you don't notice anything the first time you have sex. back to top

What's on the inside?
The genitals that you can see on the outside are just a small part of your reproductive organs. The vagina connects to the uterus, also known as the womb. The uterus is where your period comes from, and it's where a baby grows when you're pregnant. Ordinarily, your uterus is smaller than your fist, but during pregnancy it can get more than 1000 times bigger.

At the bottom of the uterus is the cervix. This is the part that keeps the uterus almost completely closed. There is a small opening for blood to flow out and for sperm to swim through. Your health professional can see your cervix during a pelvic exam.

Your ovaries are small, almond-shaped organs that lie on either side of your uterus. The ovaries produce the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. The ovaries also produce an egg each month as part of the menstrual cycle. The opening of a fallopian tube surrounds each ovary, and the egg falls into one of the fallopian tubes. The fallopian tube connects to the uterus. After intercourse, sperm swim through the uterus and up the fallopian tubes. If a sperm meets an egg on the way down and fertilizes it, a new pregnancy starts. back to top

What about breasts?
In our culture, there's a lot of emphasis on breasts as sexual symbols, which leads many girls and women to worry about the size of their breasts. There is no standard size for breasts. Everything from AA to EEE (or smaller or bigger) is normal. The size of your breasts doesn't affect your ability to have a satisfying sex life, or your ability to breast-feed your children.

Breasts actually serve two purposes. Most people know that breasts are sexual organs, but breasts also provide the first and best food for babies. After you have a baby, your breasts will start producing breast milk. Breast milk is the ideal food for babies because it's nutritionally perfect. It's always the right temperature, and it's always available in the right amount. back to top

What if one of my breasts is larger than the other?
You shouldn't worry if you notice that one of your breasts is bigger than the other. If you look closely, you'll see that one side of your body is not the perfect mirror image of the other. It's true for your hands and feet, and it's also true for your breasts. Having a difference in the size of your breasts is actually quite common. Usually, the difference is pretty small, but it can be a cup size or more. back to top

Are breast implants safe?
Because they're so worried about their breast size, some girls and women get breast implants to make their breasts look bigger. Breast implants are sacs filled with a salt solution. Surgery is used to place the implants under the breasts. That pushes the breasts forward and makes them seem larger. It's major surgery that has to be done in a hospital with general anesthesia. A plastic surgeon makes an incision in the skin under the breast or in the armpit and inserts each implant. It takes several weeks to fully recover from the surgery.

There have been rumors that breast implants can cause health problems. But scientific studies have not shown any more problems in people who have implants than those who don't. Women who have breast implants can even breastfeed their children. It's still a big decision to get breast implants, because it involves major surgery and you'll live with the implants for a long time. If you're thinking about getting breast implants, talk to your health professional about the age at which you should do it and the safety of the procedure. back to top

What if my breasts are too large?
Girls and women who have very large breasts are often very uncomfortable. Their bra straps cut into their shoulders and they can develop serious back problems from the weight of their breasts. A woman who has very large breasts can have a breast reduction. A plastic surgeon makes a large incision under each breast and removes some breast tissue. Breast reduction is major surgery. It is done in a hospital and you need to have general anesthesia. It's more complicated surgery than putting in breast implants. So it can take even longer to recover (several weeks). Women who have breast reduction surgery usually cannot breastfeed their children. If you're thinking about getting a breast reduction, talk to your health professional about the age at which you should do it and the safety of the surgery. back to top

What are other differences between boys and girls?
Beyond the obvious differences in anatomy, there are other differences between boys and girls. These differences are also caused by the male hormones (mainly testosterone) and the female hormones (estrogen and progesterone). Boys have lower voices, are taller and heavier on average, and have more muscles. Boys also have darker, thicker facial hair (a beard), and darker, thicker hair on their arms, legs, and chests. back to top

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