What’s The Difference Between A Vagina And A Labia?

Hi Heather,

Okay, this is going to sound weird, but I don’t understand what’s going on down there. I read about the vagina and the labia, and I don’t know the difference. I thought your vagina was just everything down there? What is the labia? How are they different?


Believe it or not, this question doesn’t seem that weird. In most schools, sexual education doesn’t teach students enough about what’s happening with their bodies. Oftentimes, it teaches almost nothing about vaginas or female sexuality. You’re not the only person who is confused about what’s going on down there, or wondering the difference between the vagina and the labia. So, don’t feel bad!

To get the best answer possible, I turned to my friend Dr. Sherry Ross from the site HelloFlo (a monthly period package you need in your life ASAP). She said, “What we think of as the vagina actually includes the outer labia majora (lips), inner labia minora (lips), clitoris (clit), clitoral hood, opening to the urethra, and opening to the vagina.” What does this mean? The labia are the lips. The vagina is what’s happening inside – in technical terms, it’s the muscular gland going from the outside of your genitals to the cervix. You’ll find that a lot of people use “vagina” to mean everything happening down there, which is confusing and not accurate. It’s an easier way to talk about our lady parts without sounding like a gynecologist, but it can become complicated if you never got to understand exactly what each part of your genitals is.

Don’t blow off this kind of education! Talking about your vag might seem taboo and scary and weird, but it’s not. Aside from that, it’s really important for you to know your body, especially what’s going on down there. Dr. Ross agrees, saying, “You need to get up close and personal with your lady parts. I suggest getting a medically labelled photograph of a women’s vagina first. Then, get a mirror where you can see first-hand what yours actually looks like. Sit comfortably, open your legs wide, and use your fingers to gently see what’s happening, with a mirror in front of you. I often show my young patients the details of their vagina during a pelvic exam. Using a mirror for your close up will help show you how beautiful your vagina is!”

So yes, now you know the difference between the vagina and labia, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check things out on your own. Get to know yourself. It will help medically, sexually, and just for your own interest. Good luck!

What’s on your mind? Heather can help! Send her your question at heather@gurl.com You can also reach our buddies at HelloFlo with questions about your body or health. Just ask Dr. Flo at HelloFlo!


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