Hesperian Health Guides

The Reproductive System in People Who Can Become Pregnant

In this chapter:

a woman wearing no clothes, sitting with her legs apart

People have reproductive parts on both the outside and inside of their bodies. These parts are called “reproductive organs” or genitals. In a person who can become pregnant, all the parts on the outside are together called the vulva. Sometimes people may use the word vagina for this whole area. But the vagina is the part that begins as an opening in the vulva and leads inside to the womb. The vagina is sometimes called the birth canal.

The drawing below shows what the vulva looks like and what the different parts of the vulva are called. Each person’s body is different. There are differences in the size, shape, and color of the parts of the vulva, especially of the outer and inner folds.

The Breasts

Breasts come in all shapes and sizes. They start to grow during puberty, usually when a person is between 10 and 15 years old. Breasts develop further during pregnancy, and make milk following birth. For some people, sexually touching the breasts can cause pleasure and vaginal wetness.

a woman's body, showing where the reproductive parts are on the inside
Inside the breasts:
illustration of the parts of the breast
Glands make the milk
Ducts carry the milk to the nipple.
Sinuses are where milk collects between feedings.
The nipple is where milk comes out of the breast. Sometimes they stick out. Sometimes they are flat.
The areola is the dark and bumpy skin around the nipple. The bumps make an oil that helps keep the nipples from drying or cracking.

This page was updated:22 Jan 2024