The female reproductive system is quite complex than the male reproductive system. The external portion where the reproductive system ends is called the vagina. The vaginal physiology has evolved for better functioning. It is the endpoint of the urogenital system hence it must be well protected from shock, abrasion, and infection. This is covered by two sets of lips. The smaller one is called the labia minora. In this section, we will discuss the anatomy of this pair of vaginal lips, its structure, location, and functions.
What is Labia Minora?
The vaginal anatomy is quite complex and has different shapes. The two types of lips make the entire vagina physiology. The smaller pair of lips is called labia minora. The bigger pair is called labia majora. These lips cover the vaginal openings of the urethra and the vestibule of the vagina.
It is a pair of folded skin that protects the vaginal opening and the urethral opening from any infection, insects, etc. This region is extremely sensitive and the skin is not that thick. It means that this portion can easily get injured from shock or impulse.
Structure of Labia Minora
Before learning about its structure, let us learn more about labia minora location. It is the two skin flaps present in both the sides of the vaginal opening. The size of this skin flap varies from person to person. It can be bigger in size or might not be protruding. The bigger pair of lips or the labia majora protects the smaller pair. If you carefully study the diagram of a vagina, you will understand that the smaller pair of lips looks like a thin skin flap during the unexcited stage. When excited, these lips become more prominent and thicker. The upper end of the two smaller lips meets at the clitoris.
The clitoris can be considered as the upper pole of the labia minora, the lower portion of these lips ends above the pelvic end. In general, these lips remain closed. When the legs are wide open, the labia minora structure seems to open to a small extent. During sexual intercourse, when the clitoris or vagina is stimulated, this pair of lips expand to some extent and opens up. The thickness of the skin also varies a little. This happens to give space to the penis to enter the vaginal opening. In fact, the blooming of labia minora also exposes the clitoral junction to some extent. The nerve endings of the clitoris come in direct contact with the partner’s skin and are being stimulated more.
The thin skin of labia minora is hairless and has a lot of supply of blood vessels. It also contains pressure receptors and oil glands. The cavity that is guarded by this pair of lips is called the vestibule. The estrogen level controls the moisture and wetness of this area. The oil glands keep this section of the vagina softer and plush. In fact, the oil secreted also protects these lips from abrasion and infection. At an advanced age, the labia minora structure becomes thinner and drier.
Functions of Labia Minora
As mentioned earlier, this is an evolutionary development found in most mammals. The development of two sets of vaginal lips, the majora and minora, is solely for the protection of the glandular and sensitive vagina from mechanical irritation. The urethral and vaginal openings remain inside the labia minora. This pair of smaller lips is then protected by the major bigger pair.
As you can understand from the detailed description of the diagram, the labia minora function and structure is to protect the vulvar vestibule and the vaginal openings. You know that this is the urogenital end of a woman. The openings can also get exposed to any infection. Microbial growth occurs on the lips and vaginal opening. The friendlier flora and fauna growing on the lips also protect the vagina from harmful infections. In fact, the oil glands present on the thin skin of labia minora also keeps the vaginal opening softer, moisturized, and smoother.
It means that the vestibular region is entirely protected by the labia minora. The vaginal mucus secreted during intercourse also keeps this pair of vaginal lips lubricated and helps in absorbing the shock and impact from the thrust applied by the male partner. The thickness of these lips acts as a cushion for the vaginal opening. In fact, it makes penetration painless and restricted. It absorbs the impact force and protects the vagina from irritation or abrasion to some extent. The tension on the labia minora during intercourse also aids in stimulating the clitoris and boost the level of libido among women. This process also aids in achieving orgasm in a better way.
The urethral opening is located above the vaginal opening. As there is no appendage or phallus shape to guide the stream of urine, labia minora does that for women. The stream can be guided or passed easily without causing spills.