3.3.3  Vestibule

The vestibule is the area between the labia minora, and consists of the clitoris, urethral opening and the vaginal opening.

The clitoris is a short erectile organ at the top of the vestibule, which has a very rich nerve supply and blood vessels. Its function is sexual excitation and it is very sensitive to touch. Its anatomical position is similar to the position of the male penis.

If the clitoris and labia minora are removed by female genital cutting, the vaginal opening will not expand easily during childbirth due to the scarring where tissue has been removed. This can result in difficulty in labour and delivery, including severe bleeding and rupture of the scarred tissue, sometimes even causing a fistula — a hole torn in the wall of the vagina.

  • Female genital mutilitation that involves the labia minora and clitoris is usually performed without an anaesthetic. What will be the consequence of this for the female?

  • There will be severe pain due to the nerve supply to this area, which can lead to fainting (becoming unconscious).

Also, the labia minora and clitoris have a rich blood supply, so cutting them leads to severe bleeding, which may cause fainting and shock.

The urethral opening is the mouth or opening of the urethra, which is a small tubular structure that drains urine from the bladder. In Study Session 22, at the end of this Module, and in your practical training classes, you will learn how to insert a small tube (called a catheter) into this opening to drain urine from the bladder. This may be necessary during emergency care for a pregnant woman, or during labour and delivery, if she cannot pass urine for herself because the tissues of the vestibule have swollen and squashed the urethra flat.

The vaginal opening is the entrance to the vagina. It is where you will begin to see the ‘presenting part’ of the baby as it stretches wider open near the end of labour.

3.3.2  Labia majora and labia minora

3.3.4  Perineum and hymen