Female Sexuality Facts

Facts, Theories, And Information on Female Sexuality:
Internal Sexual Anatomy In Women (2)

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The Internal Female Sexual Organs - Continued

KEGEL EXERCISES

Kegel exercises were developed to help women who sometimes passed urine involuntarily when they sneezed, when they had sex, especially during orgasm, and at other times as well.

After practicing the exercises for several weeks, women reported that not only had the urination problem been eliminated, but that they had increased vaginal sensation as well.

As a result, the exercises are now used by women who want to tone up their vaginal muscles for increased. sexual pleasure as well as by women who have an involuntary urination problem.

There are some variations on Kegel exercises, but what follows is the basic pattern.

The muscles concerned are those which you contract to delay urination (pubococcygeal or PC muscles). Kegel exercises consist of contracting these muscles to a count of three, relaxing them for the same amount of time and repeating this contract-relax routine ten times.

If the exercises are done two or three times a day for six or eight weeks, the vaginal muscles should regain proper tone.

Kegel exercises can be done anytime, anywhere, sitting, standing or lying down. No-one can tell you are doing them. Progress can be checked by inserting a finger in the vagina and seeing how well the muscles tighten round it. If, once muscle tone is restored, the exercises are repeated several times a week there should be no problem with maintaining the increased level of vaginal sensation.

It is an ancient myth that a penis can get trapped in a vagina; there is in fact no way that this can happen. The vagina cannot intentionally or unintentionally clamp up on the penis to prevent withdrawal. During intercourse, women can contract certain vaginal muscles (see Kegel Exercises, above) to grip the penis more tightly.

This does not lead to locking or clamping; on the contrary, many men enjoy the sensation. Occasionally, women suffer from a condition called vaginismus, in which the muscles around the entrance to the vagina contract and make it impossible for a penis to enter.

Vaginismus is frequently accompanied by a deep-seated phobia about intercourse, and should be treated. It cannot occur when a penis is already inside.

After menopause, when the ovaries greatly reduce their production of estrogen, the walls of the vagina thin significantly. The vagina also becomes shorter and narrower, and it takes longer to produce a reduced amount of lubrication. The vagina also loses its ability to expand during sexual excitation as a woman ages.

These changes are natural and inevitable in all women as they age and pass through menopause, but it is clear that sexual interest, activity and fulfillment are basically unaffected and the patterns of sexual behavior after menopause are similar to those before.

Any problems resulting from reduced lubrication are eased by using artificial lubricants for sexual intercourse.

For centuries now, women have been socialized to regard their vaginas simply as places for intercourse, or as the areas which allow for the passage of children or the menstrual flow. The vagina was, and remains today, a mysterious, secret place, special and separate from the rest of the body.

This situation continues today, although some efforts, spurred principally by the women's movement, have begun to help women learn more about all parts of their bodies and begin to gain a sense of control and esteem about their abilities and potentials.

The result of all this avoidance, ignorance and secrecy about the vagina is that women are often very uncertain and embarrassed about themselves whenever the topic arises during medical examinations or when making love. This very real cultural and religious influence has caused women to bear an enormous burden not of their own making, has interfered with their capacity for full self-knowledge and has inhibited them from expressing themselves freely in sexual techniques which may be new to them.

The Cervix

The cervix is the narrow part of the uterus or womb which dips to the back end of the vagina. In that area the cervix has an opening called the cervical os.

This opening is very small, like the end of a small straw or stirrer, and feels like the tip of a nose or a dimpled chin. Women who use and IUD for birth control have the threads of the lUD hanging down through the cervix into the vagina.

The cervix has the ability to expand and contract to allow a baby to pass through it during birth. Menstrual fluid also passes through the cervix during the menstrual cycle, and the mucus thickness is used by those who practice natural family planning methods as an indicator of safe or unsafe times to have intercourse (this is called the Billings or cervical mucus method).

Q "What kind of test do they do to check for cancer of the cervix?"

A: "A simple painless procedure called the Pap test, whereby your physician, using a cotton swab, gently removes some cells from your cervix. The cells are then studied under a microscope to determine the presence of abnormal cells.

This test, which should be done once a year, was named after Dr George Papanicolaou, who discovered the cancerous changes in the cervix and developed the test."

Q: "Do you have to have an operation if the test shows abnormal cells in the cervix?"

A: "No, not necessarily. First of all, it is always wise to have another Pap test to be certain the first results were accurate. Secondly, abnormal cells in the cervix do not always indicate the presence of disease that requires surgery.

Unusual cells in the cervix are often due to infections or inflammation and may disappear on their own, or after short nonsurgical treatment. On other occasions, irregular cells in the cervix may be diagnosed as highly suspicious or premalignant; treatment may then be removal of the abnormal cells only.

Cold cauterization (cryosurgery or freeze burning) in the doctor's office is one method. Conization, or the removal of a cone-shaped section of the affected area of the cervix, is another method used both for further diagnosis and for treatment of some cases of cervical disease.

It requires hospitalization and anesthesia. Hysterectomy is prescribed by some physicians as the immediate treatment when cancer cells are present to any degree in the cervix, though it is not accepted by all physicians or patients as the only treatment for cervical cancer.

It is important for women to recognize the widespread differences of opinion among physicians about treating the cause of abnormal cells in the cervix.

Several medical opinions should be obtained and fully understood before proceeding with any type of cervical surgery."

The Uterus

In a woman who is not pregnant, the uterus or womb is about the size of a closed fist (three to four inches long and three inches wide) and is shaped like an upside-down pear.

Fully expanded in pregnancy it measures 11-12 inches in length. The narrow end or neck of the uterus is the cervix, which dips into the back of the vagina, and ends with the cervical opening or os.

The upper portion of the uterus is its larger part, and it is here that the baby grows and is nourished during pregnancy.

The uterus is very thick walled and unusually elastic, as it has to expand and hold a growing baby, and then return to approximately its usual size after the birth of the baby. The uterus contains three special layered linings of tissue and muscle. The innermost layer of very special tissue is the endometrium.

After puberty, this lines the main body of the uterus ready to provide a nesting place with immediate nutrition for a fertilized ovum at the earliest moments of pregnancy. If a woman is not pregnant this lining is not needed, so it separates from the uterus and leaves the body as the menstrual flow or period. This process is repeated monthly.

Immediately, a new lining begins to appear as a replacement in the event a pregnancy occurs during the woman's next cycle. Except during pregnancy this rather regular series of events continues uninterrupted from puberty until menopause.

The second, middle, lining of the uterus is the powerful muscular The uterus is located in such a way that there is plenty of room for it to expand upward as well as sideways during pregnancy.

The bone structure of the area provides a kind of cradle for the expanded uterine layer called the myometrium, which gives the uterus its great strength and elasticity. This layer contracts during the birth process and forces the baby out of the uterus into the vagina. The third layer of the uterus is the perimetrium, which contains the other two layers, the myometrium and the endometrium.

The uterus is held in position within the pelvis by several sets of ligaments (the broad ligament, the round ligament, and the uterosacral ligament).

During sexual excitation, the uterus lifts itself, increases in size, and remains enlarged until orgasm or until stimulation stops. Orgasm results in a rapid return of the uterus to its usual size. The reason why the uterus expands and lifts is that much more blood flows into its walls during sexual excitement.

Q: "What is endometriosis?"

A: "Endometriosis is the growth of special womb-lining tissue in places other than the womb. The endometrium is a tissue lining the uterus that is there to nourish the fertilized egg, and for reasons not fully known this kind of tissue sometimes grows in places other than the uterus, such as the ovaries, Fallopian tubes or intestines. If that happens it is a problem because it causes pain and interferes with the fertilization and pregnancy process.

Women who have endometriosis and want to have children are usually urged not to wait too long before trying to get pregnant, as the disease is usually progressive and worsens in time. Symptoms vary, but pain during menstruation and pain in the reproductive organs are common signs.

Medical treatment is essential. Endometriosis is different from endometritis. Endometritis is an irritation of the lining of the uterus and may be due to many things, including the presence of an IUD birth control device. Endometritis can be treated without difficulty, unlike endometriosis."

Q: "A woman friend of mine told me she had a 'tilted' uterus. Is there such a thing?"

A: "Yes. Sometimes women are born with their uterus tilted forward or backward. This condition is called a tipped or displaced uterus. It may never cause any problems, but it can occasionally lead to difficulties in getting pregnant and it may be the cause of lower back pain.

A physician, after making a diagnosis, may try to tip tile uterus to its correct position by inserting one hand through the vagina to the uterus, placing the other hand over the pubic area and slightly moving the uterus until it is in place.

Another possibility is for the physician to insert a special device which has enabled many women to become pregnant after years of failure. Surgery to correct a tipped uterus should be the last corrective step taken, and only after all other attempts have failed."

Q. "I have a prolapsed uterus. Is this the same as a tipped uterus?"

A: "No. A prolapsed uterus means the uterus has moved through a supporting wall or structure into a place where it does not belong. A prolapsed uterus is caused by the weakening of the structures and walls that support the uterus and hold it in place. A typical prolapsed uterus will drop the vagina.

Prolapse is generally found in older women and can occur during pregnancy after several pregnancies have weakened supporting ligaments.

A prolapsed uterus causes pain and therefore interferes with general functioning, including enjoyment of sex. Also, a prolapsed uterus can lead to difficulties in conception. Surgery or an internal support is generally necessary to reposition the uterus and to strengthen the natural supports."

It has been suggested that during orgasm the uterus sucks up semen ejaculated by the man during sexual intercourse to help the sperm travel up to the Fallopian tubes. The only movements of the uterus during the sex response cycle are a lifting due to excitation and contractions due to orgasm. There is no sucking action.

During and after menopause, the reduced supply of estrogen causes the uterus to decrease in size. Also, it no longer enlarges in response to sexual stimulation as it once did. This, too, is a result of the lower estrogen level in the woman's body. However, the feelings of sexual excitation, orgasm and fulfillment are not interfered with and a woman can enjoy intercourse during and after her menopause as much as she did before.

Next: internal sexual anatomy 3