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The vaginal wall consists of fibrous muscle, skin, and ligaments that make up the structure of the vagina. It surrounds the vaginal canal, which connects the cervix to the outside of the body. The vagina is considered to have two main walls: the anterior, or front, which is on average around seven centimeters long, and the posterior, or rear, which is typically around nine centimeters long.
One of the most important traits of the vaginal wall is its elasticity. The muscles and other tissues are extremely flexible, so that the vagina can stretch many times beyond its normal width. This allows for the accommodation of both sexual intercourse and childbirth.
During sexual activity, the vaginal wall changes to accommodate intercourse. As the woman is aroused, the wall lengthens and widens. A series of ridges along the wall, known as vaginal rugae, create more surface area as they stretch and contract when the vagina is penetrated. Stimulation of the G-spot, an erogenous zone located in the anterior vaginal wall, may increase arousal and lead to orgasm.
In order to allow an infant's head to pass during childbirth, the vaginal canal's diameter has to increase signficantly. Although the structure is designed for this, the process may sometimes damage the vaginal walls. In some cases, the doctor may choose to perform an episiotomy, where an incision is made through the posterior wall and perinium, to allow for the baby to pass and avoid tearing.
At times, weakness of the muscles in the vaginal walls may cause them to lose their shape and sag inward toward the vaginal canal. This is referred to as vaginal prolapse. When this occurs, the woman may experience pain and bleeding, difficulty urinating, and a mass inside the vagina that can restrict movements like standing and walking. Other surrounding structures, such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum, may also prolapse at the same time. Surgery is typically required to repair the problem.
Abnormal lumps or growths may occur in the vaginal walls for several reasons, and should always be seen by a physician to determine the cause and what treatment is necessary. Cysts may develop at the site of trauma or may be caused by blockage of the Bartholin's glands, which are located near the vaginal opening and secrete mucus to lubricate the vagina. Herpes may also cause painful lumps and lesions on the vaginal wall. In rare cases, growths may be caused by vaginal cancer.