The vulva is the “package” of external female genitals, which includes the labia majora and labia minora, the clitoris, and the openings to the vagina and urethra. In everyday language, many people mistakenly call the vulva the vagina; however, these terms refer to two different parts of a woman’s body. You should wash your vulva with soap and water just like you do the rest of your body. Most experts caution women against using douches, fragrances, or anything other than soap to clean the vulva.
Vulvas can vary greatly in appearance. Some women have larger or smaller labia, or the two sides of the labia may be asymmetrical. Vulvas can be different colors and have different textures. This variability is perfectly normal – each vulva is as unique as the woman it belongs to.
Your vulva will periodically flush itself out with a naturally-produced discharge. This discharge may have an odor, and this is considered normal and healthy. However if it smells bad or the odor changes in color or texture, this may be a symptom of illness. Some other common symptoms may be itching, burning, tenderness, sores, or bumps.
Please refer to common conditions involving the Vulva below to learn more. And, as always, call your gynecologist if you have questions or concerns about any symptoms you may be having.