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Handb Clin Neurol. 2015;130:39-60. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-63247-0.00004-3.

Anatomy and physiology of genital organs - women.

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Gynecology and Medical Sexology Center, Hospitale San Raffaele Resnati, and Graziottin Foundation for the Cure and Care of Pain in Women, Milan, Italy. Electronic address:
Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Hospitale San Raffaele, Milan, Italy.


"Anatomy is destiny": Sigmund Freud viewed human anatomy as a necessary, although not a sufficient, condition for understanding the complexity of human sexual function with a solid biologic basis. The aim of the chapter is to describe women's genital anatomy and physiology, focusing on women's sexual function with a clinically oriented vision. Key points include: embryology, stressing that the "female" is the anatomic "default" program, differentiated into "male" only in the presence of androgens at physiologic levels for the gestational age; sex determination and sex differentiation, describing the interplay between anatomic and endocrine factors; the "clitoral-urethral-vaginal" complex, the most recent anatomy reading of the corpora cavernosa pattern in women; the controversial G spot; the role of the pelvic floor muscles in modulating vaginal receptivity and intercourse feelings, with hyperactivity leading to introital dyspareunia and contributing to provoked vestibulodynia and recurrent postcoital cystitis, whilst lesions during delivery reduce vaginal sensations, genital arousability, and orgasm; innervation, vessels, bones, ligaments; and the physiology of women's sexual response. Attention to physiologic aging focuses on "low-grade inflammation," genital and systemic, with its impact on women sexual function, especially after the menopause, if the woman does not or cannot use hormone replacement therapy.


G spot; clitoral–urethral–vaginal complex; orgasm; pelvic floor muscles; physiology; vaginal aging; vulvar aging; women's genital anatomy; women's sexual function

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