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 [vah-ji´nah] (pl. vagi´nae)
1. any sheath or sheathlike structure.
2. the canal in the female that extends from the external genitalia (vulva) to the cervix uteri. The adult vagina is normally about 8 cm (3 in) long and slopes upward and backward. Internally, the bladder is in front of the vagina and the rectum in back. The vagina receives the erect penis in coitus; spermatozoa are discharged into it, swim through the cervical canal, and enter the uterus. The vagina is also the passage for menstrual discharge, and it functions as the birth canal.

The interior lining of the vagina is mucous membrane; muscles and fibrous tissue form its walls. In pregnancy, changes occur in these tissues, enabling the vagina to stretch to many times its usual size during labor and childbirth. In a virgin, the opening of the vagina is usually, but not necessarily, partially closed by a membrane, the hymen. Usually the hymen breaks at first intercourse; occasionally it ruptures during physical exercise.

In a normal state, the lining of the vagina secretes a fluid that is fermented to an acid by the bacteria that are usually present. This acidity probably helps to protect the vagina from invasion by other organisms. Douching as a regular practice should not be employed except when recommended by a health care provider.
Vaginal Examination. Since cancer of the female reproductive organs is a relatively common occurrence and is curable if detected early, physicians recommend that women of reproductive age and beyond have a periodic vaginal or pelvic examination. Such an examination is also necessary during pregnancy and labor and in the postpartum examination 6 to 8 weeks after childbirth. This is a simple procedure that is rarely uncomfortable if the woman understands its purpose.

The patient lies on her back on a special table with her legs raised and spread by stirrups. The examiner inserts a speculum to spread the vagina open and thus is able to observe the cervix and the lining of the vagina directly, and may take smears for microscopic examination to detect infection or cancer of the vagina or cervix. (See also papanicolaou test.)

After removing the speculum the examiner inserts rubber-gloved fingers into the vagina and places the other hand on the abdomen. In this way it is possible to palpate the female reproductive organs, including the uterus and ovaries, between the hands. These organs are otherwise difficult or impossible to examine.
Patient Care. The patient should be prepared physically and emotionally for a vaginal examination. Since relaxation and cooperation of the patient are important to the success of the examination, she should be given a brief explanation of the procedure and encouraged to ask questions before the procedure is begun. The patient is draped with a top sheet so that the legs are covered and only the vulva is exposed. Privacy must be assured immediately before and during the examination. Equipment such as gloves, lubricant, vaginal speculum, and supplies needed for collecting specimens should be assembled before the examination is begun. After the examination is completed, the patient is assisted from the table.

Ideally, a vaginal examination should be done between menstrual periods; however, vaginal bleeding is not a contraindication to this procedure. Patients should be told this so that they will not postpone an appointment for examination when vaginal bleeding persists. They should not take over the counter medications or douche immediately before a vaginal examination; douching might remove secretions that could be useful in diagnosis.
Vaginal examination. From Jarvis, 2000.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


, gen. and pl.


(vă-jī'nă, -nē), Avoid the colloquial and jargonistic use of this word as a synonym of vulva.
1. Synonym(s): sheath (1)
2. The part of the genital canal in the female, extending between the cervix of the uterus and the vestibule; it is an organ of copulation that receives the penis during sexual intercourse.
[L. sheath, the vagina]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


n. pl. vagi·nas or vagi·nae (-nē)
1. Anatomy
a. The passage leading from the opening of the vulva to the cervix of the uterus in female mammals.
b. A similar part in some invertebrates.
2. Biology Any of various sheathlike structures.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


The canal that extends from the labia and opening of the vagina to the uterine cervix.
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.


Change of life, climacteric, 'time of life'  Gynecology The cessation of menstrual activity due to failure to form ovarian follicles, which normally occurs age 45–50 Clinical Menstrual irregularity, vasomotor instability, 'hot flashes', irritability or psychosis, ↑ weight, painful breasts, dyspareunia, ↑/↓ libido, atrophy of urogenital epithelium and skin, ASHD, MI, strokes and osteoporosis–which can be lessened by HRT. See Estrogen replacement therapy, Hot flashes, Male menopause, Premature ovarian failure, Premature menopause. Cf Menarche.
Menopause–”…what a drag it is getting old.” Jagger, Richards
Bladder Cystourethritis, frequency/urgency, stress incontinence
Breasts ↓ Size, softer consistency, sagging
Cardiovascular Angina, ASHD, CAD
Endocrine Hot flashes
Mucocutaneous Atrophy, dryness, pruritus, facial hirsutism, dry mouth
Neurologic Psychological, sleep disturbances
Pelvic floor Uterovaginal prolapse
Skeleton  Osteoporosis, fractures, low back pain
Vagina Bloody discharge, dyspareunia, vaginitis
Vocal cords Deepened voice
Vulva  Atrophy, dystrophy, pruritus
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


, pl. vaginae (vă-jī'nă, -nē) [TA]
1. [TA]
Synonym(s): sheath (1) .
2. [TA] The genital canal in the female, extending from the uterus to the vulva.
[L. sheath, the vagina]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


(va-ji'na) plural.vaginae, vaginas [L., sheath]
Enlarge picture
A musculomembranous tube that forms the passageway between the cervix uteri and the vulva. See: illustration


In the uppermost part, the cervix divides the vagina into four small vaulted cavities, called fornices: two lateral, the anterior, and the posterior. The bladder and urethra are adjacent to the anterior wall of the vagina, and the rectum is behind the posterior wall. The cavity of the vagina is a potential space; the walls are usually in contact with each other. Close to the cervix uteri the walls form a horizontal crescent shape, at the midpoint an H shape, and close to the vulva the shape of a vertical slit. The vaginal mucosa is stratified squamous epithelium that is very resistant to bacterial colonization. This lining is in folds called rugae, and the connective tissue external to it also permits stretching. The blood supply of the vagina is furnished from the inferior vesical, inferior hemorrhoidal, and uterine arteries. Except for the area close to the entrance, the vaginal tissue and mucosa contain few, if any, sensory nerve endings. The vagina is a passage for the insertion of the penis, for the reception of semen, and for the discharge of the menstrual flow. It also serves as the birth canal.

artificial vagina

A vagina constructed by plastic surgery for a patient whose vagina was removed for treatment of carcinoma or one who has congenital absence of the vagina.

bulb of vagina

The small erectile body on each side of the vestibule of the vagina. See: vestibule of vagina

vagina fibrosa tendinis

A fibrous sheath surrounding a tendon that usually confines it to an osseous groove.

foreign bodies in vagina

Objects that enter the vagina accidentally or are inserted deliberately. A great variety of foreign bodies may be present in the vagina, esp. in children. Some foreign bodies in adults include vaginal tampons, pessaries, and contraceptive diaphragms. The treatment is to remove the foreign body. Antibiotic therapy is not usually necessary.

vagina masculina

Prostatic utricle.

vagina mucosa tendinis

A synovial sheath that develops about a tendon.

septate vagina

A congenital condition in which the vagina is divided longitudinally into two parts. This division may be partial or complete.
Medical Dictionary, © 2009 Farlex and Partners


Literally a sheath. In the female it acts as a receptacle for the penis in coitus and as the birth canal. The vagina is a fibromuscular tube, 8–10 cm long lying behind the URINARY BLADDER and URETHRA and in front of the RECTUM. The cervix of the UTERUS projects into it upper part. The vagina is highly elastic and has a thickened and folded mucous membrane lining that can stretch readily.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005


the portion of the female reproductive tract (OVIDUCT) of mammals into which the penis is introduced during copulation and through which the baby passes during birth.
Collins Dictionary of Biology, 3rd ed. © W. G. Hale, V. A. Saunders, J. P. Margham 2005


The tube-like passage from the vulva (a woman's external genital structures) to the cervix (the portion of the uterus that projects into the vagina).
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.