Wellness and Health Promotion

Genital Health

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Sexual Anatomy

  • Sperm: Male sex cell or “gamete” which fertilizes the female sex cell.
  • Egg: Female sex cell or “gamete” which is fertilized by sperm.
  • Penis: Main component of external sex anatomy for men. Made of spongy tissue that fill with blood when aroused, which caused the penis to become erect. All penises look different but have the same basic parts.
  • Glans: The head or tip of the penis. This is where precum, semen, and pee come from the body. One of the most sensitive parts of the penis.
  • Urethra: The hole in which you pee from, located either in the penis or below the vaginal opening.
  • Testicles: Often referred to as balls. Are two ball-like glands located inside the scrotum. They produce sperm and hormones such as testosterone.
  • Scrotum: Often referred to as the ball sack. Is the sac of skin that hangs below the penis. It holds your testicles and keeps them at the right temperature.
  • Prostate: Makes a fluid that helps sperm move. It is about the size of a golf ball and is very sensitive to pressure or touch in a way that people find pleasurable. The prostate can often be stimulated by anal sex.
  • Rectum: Lowest end of intestine before the anus where solid waste (feces) is stored.
  • Vagina: Located below your urethral opening. It is where menstrual blood leaves your body, where babies exit the body, and where penetrative vaginal sex takes place. Other things such as tampons, fingers, and sex toys are also often inserted into the vagina.
  • Vulva: Refers to all sexual anatomy located outside the body including the labia, urethral opening, vaginal opening, and clitoris. The vagina is only one part of the vulva, but people often say “vagina” when they mean vulva. No two vulvas look the same but are made up of the same basic parts.
  • Clitoris: The tip of the clitoris is located at the top of your vulva where your inner lips meet. It extends inside your body, back, and sides of your vagina. It can vary in size and the tip is covered by a clitoral hood. The clitoris has thousands of nerves, and its only purpose is to provide pleasure.
  • Labia: Also referred to as “lips”. Are the inner and outer folds around the vaginal opening. The outer lips (labia majora) are typically fleshy and covered in pubic hair. The inner lips (labia minora) are inside the outer lips and extend from your clitoris to under the opening of the vagina. Labia can be short or long, wrinkly or flat, be large or small, and can vary in color from pink to brown. The labia swells when you are aroused.
  • Mon Pubis (Mound): The fleshy area above your vulva, typically covered in pubic hair after the onset of puberty, this area is meant to protect the pubic bone.
  • Cervix: Divides your vagina and uterus, located right between the two. There is a tiny hole in the middle which connects your uterus and vagina. Your cervix is what lets period blood out, sperm in, and is what dilates (stretches) during childbirth.
  • Uterus: A pear shaped muscular organ about the size of a fist, also called the womb because it is where the fetus grows during pregnancy.
  • Fallopian Tubes: Two narrow tubes that carry eggs from your ovaries to your uterus. Sperm travels through these tubes to try to fertilize your egg.
  • Ovaries: Where your eggs are stored; they also produce hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone which controls things like your period and pregnancy. Your ovaries release an egg each month (sometimes more than one) until you reach menopause.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

According to the CDC, urinary tract tnfections, or UTIs, are common infections that happen when bacteria, often from the skin or rectum, infect the urinary tract. UTIs are most common in people with vulvas. UTIs can affect many parts of the urinary tract but most often result in bladder infections. They can also result in kidney infections, which are less common but more serious than bladder infections. Symptoms of UTIs include:

  • pain or burning while peeing
  • frequent peeing
  • feeling the need to pee when your bladder is empty
  • blood in pee
  • cramping.

Kidney infections may present additional symptoms of:

  • fever
  • nausea
  • lower back pain

Risk factors for UTIs include:

  • sexual activity
  • previous UTIs
  • pregnancy
  • poor hygiene

Treatment of UTIs typically consists of an antibiotic, a physical exam, and urine tests. Any infection that persists or has severe or concerning symptoms should be brought to the attention of your doctor. You can prevent getting UTIs by routinely peeing after sex, staying hydrated, taking showers instead of baths, minimizing sprays or powders on your genital area, and making sure you are wiping from front to back.

Yeast Infections

According to the CDC, yeast infections, or Candidiasis, are common infections caused by a type of fungus called yeast (Candida). Yeast infections are most common in people with vulvas but can present in people with penises as well. Symptoms of yeast infections include:

  • vaginal issues or soreness
  • pain during sex
  • pain or discomfort when peeing
  • abnormal discharge (chunky, brown/yellow, or foul smelling)

Most yeast infections are mild and can be treated easily but some can be severe and present with redness and swelling. Risk factors for yeast infections include:

  • pregnancy
  • using hormonal contraceptives (I.e., birth control pill, hormonal IUD)
  • having diabetes or a weakened immune system
  • recently taking antibiotics.

Yeast infections are typically diagnosed with a discharge sample and can be treated with antifungal medication that is either taken orally or applied topically to your genitals. More severe yeast infections should be brought to your doctor’s attention because different treatments may be required. You can prevent yeast infections by wearing cotton underwear, proper hygiene, and ensuring that you are taking antibiotics correctly if you are on them.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

According to the CDC, bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common and treatable vaginal condition that happens when there is too much of a certain bacterium in your vagina. BV is the most common condition in people with vulvas from ages 15-44 that are sexually active. BV is not contagious. Douching and having multiple sex partners can upset the balance of vaginal bacteria which can also increase your risk of contracting BV. Having BV can increase your chances of getting an STD and should be treated promptly. Many people with BV do not present with symptoms but can experience:

  • thin white or gray discharge
  • pain/itching/burning in or around the vagina
  • strong fish-like odor (especially after sex)
  • burning while peeing.

BV can easily be treated with an antibiotic. Talk to your doctor immediately if you have symptoms and ensure regular pap smears and gynecological appointments to test for BV.

Ejaculation Issues

Problems with ejaculating is the most common issue among people with penises. People can have issues with ejaculating prematurely or ejaculating in general. Common causes of ejaculation issues include:

  • anxiety about sex performance
  • guilty feelings
  • depression
  • stress
  • relationship problems
  • erectile dysfunction

It may happen when one becomes too excited or stimulated or if their penis is sensitive. Behavioral methods are helpful to treat ejaculation problems such as:

  • The start and stop method:
    • Your partner will stimulate the penis until you are about to have an orgasm, then stop the stimulation for about 30 seconds, then start again when you regain control of your response, you repeat this process 3-4 times before you allow yourself to have an orgasm.
  • The squeeze method:
    • When you feel like you are about to orgasm, have your partner gently squeeze the head of your penis for about 30 seconds until you begin to lose your erection. You repeat this process a few times until you allow yourself to orgasm.
  • Thought distractions:  
    • Thought distractions means to think of mundane topics (such as your favorite sports team) while sexually stimulated to prevent ejaculating prematurely.

Psychological assistance, such as finding a psychologist, psychiatrist, or sex therapist may be helpful with ejaculation issues as they can often be due to emotional issues (I.e., relationship problems, anxiety, depression). Talk to your doctor if your ejaculation issues persist, as they can help you develop techniques to address them.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) causes people with penises to be unable to get or keep an erection during sexual activity. ED is common among middle-aged and older people with penises but can present at any age. ED does not refer to occasional issues with having an erection, lack of interest in sex, or trouble ejaculating. Diabetes is the most prominent risk factor for ED. Aging can also increase one's risk for ED. Causes of ED include:

  • damage from high blood pressure or blood sugar
  • taking certain depression, high blood pressure, or allergy medication
  • prostate cancer treatments
  • pelvic or spinal cord surgery
  • tobacco or alcohol use
  • sleep disorders.

Almost 95% of people with penises can be successfully treated for ED with methods such as medication, testosterone, injections or implants, and a vacuum device for more severe cases.

Genital Health – Linked Citations

CDC – Antibiotic Prescribing and Use – Urinary Tract Infection. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html

CDC – Fungal Diseases – Candidiasis https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html

CDC – Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) – Fact Sheet. https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm

Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. (2022). Female & male reproductive organs and sexual anatomy. Planned Parenthood. From https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/health-and-wellness/sexual-and-reproductive-anatomy

Rippey, P. (2021, August 11). Premature ejaculation - causes and treatment. Familydoctor.org. From https://familydoctor.org/condition/premature-ejaculation/

Last Updated: 6/27/22