Intended for healthcare professionals


Down there—you know . . . whatchamacallit!

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 17 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5759
  1. Michael Berry, specialist trainee year 4, anaesthesia, Watford General Hospital
  1. Correspondence to: michael.berry1{at}

It never ceases to amaze me how the words vulva and vagina make people’s toes curl. Female patients frequently use all sorts of euphemisms to describe their genitalia, implying some sense of shame associated with the anatomically correct terms. This leads me on to the medical profession and its collusion with this taboo surrounding the terminology of female genitalia. Moreover, the specialty expected to be the pioneers in appropriate nomenclature is probably one of the worst offenders: obstetrics. Conception­—that is, sex—and stages …

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