Genitals are the reproductive organs, including the penis and testicles in males, and the vagina, uterus, and ovaries in females. The main function of genitals is to produce gametes, which are then fertilized by sperm in order to create offspring.
In mothers, the genitals are involved in the birthing process by providing an exit for the baby during delivery specifically via the vaginal canal. The vagina is also where the placenta and umbilical cord are attached to the mother’s body.
In babies, the genitals are the organs that will eventually enable them to reproduce. For boys, this includes the testicles and penis, and for girls, the ovaries and vagina. It is important to check the genitals of infants because some disorders, such as undescended testicles in boys or a blockage of the vaginal opening in girls, can cause problems later on. There are also genital birth defects that can occur such as ambiguous genitalia, in which a baby’s genitals do not clearly resemble either a boy’s or a girl’s.
Defects Involving the Genitals
Defects of the genitals can involve parts such as the vulva, vagina, penis, scrotum, or testicles. They can be the result of an infection, a congenital defect, or a trauma. These defects can involve problems with the development of the reproductive organs, the external genitals, or both. These defects can be mild, such as a small penis, or they can be severe, such as when a baby is born without a vagina. Treatment for genital birth defects depends on the specific defect present, but may involve surgery, hormones, or other therapies. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to improve the function or appearance of the affected area.
When discussing genitals, it is important to note that there is some ambiguity surrounding the term. For example, in medical contexts, “genitals” may refer specifically to the external reproductive organs (i.e. the vulva or penis), while in other contexts it may be used as a catch-all term for both internal and external reproductive organs. Additionally, the term “genitalia” is sometimes used interchangeably with “genitals,” although “genitalia” typically refers to both sexes whereas “genitals” usually refers only to the reproductive organs of one particular sex.
Some terms that are closely associated with genitals include: reproductive system, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, childbirth, STDs/STIs, and contraception.
This image shows how often the term ‘Genitals’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:
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