Hymen: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

External genital organs of female. The labia minora have been drawn apart.
Latin hymen vaginae
Gray's subject #270 1264
MeSH Hymen

The hymen, or the vaginal corona, is a fold of mucous membrane that surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening. It forms part of the vulva, or external genitalia.[1][2][3] Despite this, it is not possible to confirm that a woman is a virgin by examining her hymen.[2][3] In cases of suspected rape or sexual abuse, a detailed examination of the hymen may be carried out; but the condition of the hymen alone is often inconclusive or open to misinterpretation, especially if the patient has reached puberty.[1] In children, although a common appearance of the hymen is crescent-shaped, many variations are possible.[1] After a woman gives birth, she may be left with remnants of the hymen, called carunculae myrtiformes, or the hymen may be completely absent.[4]


Hymenal development

The genital tract develops during embryogenesis, from the third week of gestation to the second trimester, and the hymen is formed following the vagina.

At week seven, the urorectal septum forms and separates the rectum from the urogenital sinus.

At week nine, the müllerian ducts move downwards to reach the urogenital sinus, forming the uterovaginal canal and inserting into the urogenital sinus.

At week 12, the müllerian ducts fuse to create a primitive uterovaginal canal.

At month 5, the vaginal canalization is complete and the fetal hymen is formed from the proliferation of the sinovaginal bulbs (where müllerian ducts meet the urogenital sinus), and becomes perforate before or shortly after birth.

In newborn babies, still under the influence of the mother's hormones, the hymen is thick, pale pink, and redundant (folds in on itself and may protrude). For the first two to four years of life, the infant produces hormones that continue this effect.[5] Their hymenal opening tends to be annular (circumferential).[6]

Hymenal resorption

Past neonatal stage, the diameter of the hymenal opening (measured within the hymenal ring) has been proposed to be approximately 1 mm for each year of age.[7] In children, to make this measurement, a doctor may place a Foley catheter into the vagina and inflate the balloon behind the hymen to stretch the hymenal margin and allow for a better examination. In the normal course of life, the hymenal opening can also be enlarged by tampon use, pelvic examinations with a speculum, regular physical activity, sports, or sexual intercourse.[1] Once a girl reaches puberty, the hymen tends to become so elastic that it is not possible to determine whether a woman uses tampons or not by examining a hymen. In one survey, only 43% of women reported bleeding the first time they had sex, indicating that the vagina of a majority of women is sufficiently opened.[1][5]

The hymen is most apparent in young girls: At this time, their hymen is thin and less likely to be redundant, that is to protrude or fold over on itself.[8] In instances of suspected child abuse, doctors use the clock face system to describe the hymenal opening. The 12 o'clock position is below the urethra, and 6 o'clock is towards the anus, with the patient lying on her back.[9]

Infants' hymenal opening tends be redundant (sleeve-like, folding in on itself), and may be annular-shaped.[9]

By the time a girl reaches school-age, this hormonal influence has stopped and the hymen becomes thin, smooth, delicate, and almost translucent. It is also very sensitive to touch; a physician who must swab the area would avoid the hymen and swab the outer vulval vestibule instead.[5]

Prepubescent girls' hymenal opening comes in many shapes, depending on hormonal and activity level, the most common being crescentic (posterior rim): no tissue at the 12 o'clock position; crescent-shaped band of tissue from 1–2 to 10–11 o'clock, at its widest around 6 o'clock. From puberty onwards, depending on estrogen and activity levels, the hymenal tissue may be thicker, and the opening is often fimbriated or erratically shaped.[6]

After giving birth, the vaginal opening usually has nothing left but hymenal tags (carunculae mytriformes) and is called "parous introitus".

Anatomic anomalies

various types of hymen

Anomalies of the female reproductive tract can result from agenesis or hypoplasia, canalization defects, lateral fusion and failure of resorption, resulting in various complications.[7]

  • Imperforate:[10][11] hymenal opening nonexistent; will require minor surgery if it has not corrected itself by puberty to allow menstrual fluids to escape.
  • Cribriform, or microperforate: sometimes confused for imperforate, the hymenal opening appears to be nonexistent, but has, under close examination, small openings.
  • Septate: the hymenal opening has one or more bands extending across the opening.

Hymens in other animals

Due to similar reproductive system development, many mammals, including chimpanzees and elephants to manatees to whales, and also even in horses and dogs, retain hymens.[12][13]


In some cultures, the concept of an intact hymen is highly valued at marriage.[14][15][16] Some women undergo hymenoplasty, a restoration of their hymen.[16]

In Korea the word for hymen translates literally as “virgin-skin” and a small industry has grown up around its surgical construction through plastic surgery. In 1994 the Korean Medical Research Centre was made to pay compensation to a 40-year-old woman for extreme psychological distress after she lost her hymen during a Pap smear test. The court found that, “it is clear that the hymen is still recognized as a symbol of ‘virginity’ and keeping virginity is valued in society".[17] Some Korean prenatal clinics offer STD tests with hymenorrhaphy, in order to "free" women from their history of sexual experiences in the past.[18] These surgeries are not approved by the Korean medical association.[19]

Womb fury

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, medical researchers used the presence of the hymen, or lack thereof, as founding evidence of physical diseases such as "womb-fury" (Hysteria). If not cured, womb-fury would, according to these early doctors, result in death.[20][21]


  1. ^ a b c d e Emans, S. Jean. "Physical Examination of the Child and Adolescent" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 61-65
  2. ^ a b Perlman, Sally E.; Nakajima, Steven T. and Hertweck, S. Paige (2004). Clinical protocols in pediatric and adolescent gynecology. Parthenon. pp. 131. 
  3. ^ a b "Hymen". Discovery.com. http://health.discovery.com/centers/sex/sexpedia/hymen.html. Retrieved 2009-02-02. "Knowing the facts about the hymen can help women dispel the myth that it proves virginity, freeing them from the negative effects of popular mythology. Having accurate information about the hymen can assist in normalizing a woman's fears about her body and help promote greater self-acceptance." 
  4. ^ Knight, Bernard (1997). Simpson's Forensic Medicine (11th edition ed.). London: Arnold. pp. 114. 
  5. ^ a b c McCann, J; Rosas, A. and Boos, S. (2003) "Child and adolescent sexual assaults (childhood sexual abuse)" in Payne-James, Jason; Busuttil, Anthony and Smock, William (eds). Forensic Medicine: Clinical and Pathological Aspects, Greenwich Medical Media: London, a)p.453, b)p.455 c)p.460.
  6. ^ a b Heger, Astrid; Emans, S. Jean and Muram, David (2000). Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas (Second edition ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 116. 
  7. ^ a b "Imperforate Hymen". Web MD. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/269050-overview. Retrieved 2009-02-02. "Different normal variants in hymenal configuration are described, varying from the common annular, to crescentic, to navicular ("boatlike" with an anteriorly displaced hymenal orifice). Hymenal variations are rarely clinically significant before menarche. In the case of a navicular configuration, urinary complaints (e.g., dribbling, retention, urinary tract infections) may result. Sometimes, a cribriform (fenestrated), septate, or navicular configuration to the hymen can be associated with retention of vaginal secretions and prolongation of the common condition of a mixed bacterial vulvovaginitis." 
  8. ^ Muram, David. "Anatomical and Physiologic Changes" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 105–7.
  9. ^ a b Pokorny, Susan. "Anatomical Terms of Female External Genitalia" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 110.
  10. ^ Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics. 2003. ISBN 1583305920. http://books.google.com/books?id=aaklGZAID08C&pg=PA1115&dq=hymen&lr=&ei=SFeDSbi_H4buMqrIjbgF. "Occasionally, the hymen is harder than normal or it is complete and sealed without there being ... This condition is called imperforate hymen and, at times ..." 
  11. ^ DeCherney, Alan H.; Pernoll, Martin L. and Nathan, Lauren (2002). Current Obstetric & Gynecologic Diagnosis & Treatment. McGraw-Hill Professional. pp. 602. ISBN 0838514014. http://books.google.com/books?id=9xD0inFiEIAC&printsec=frontcover#PPA602,M1. "Imperforate hymen represents a persistent portion of the urogenital membrane ... It is one of the most common obstructive lesions of the female genital tract. ..." 
  12. ^ Blank, Hanne (2007). Virgin: The Untouched History. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 23. http://books.google.com/books?ei=GX-AScSHI4rONcO9oEw&id=shq1AAAAIAAJ&dq=Virgin%3A+The+Untouched+History&q=toothed+whales&pgis=1#search_anchor. 
  13. ^ Blackledge, Catherine (2004). The Story of V. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0813534550. http://books.google.com/books?id=f2d-11Y_u3cC&pg=PP250&dq=guinea+pig+hymen&ei=ocSAScWgCaasNZivuZgO. "Hymens, or vaginal closure membranes or vaginal constrictions, as they are often referred to, are found in a number of mammals, including llamas, ..." 
  14. ^ "Muslim women in France regain virginity in clinics". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/wtMostRead/idUSL2532025120070430?pageNumber=2&sp=true. "'Many of my patients are caught between two worlds,' said Abecassis. They have had sex already but are expected to be virgins at marriage according to a custom that he called 'cultural and traditional, with enormous family pressure'." 
  15. ^ "The Hymen". University of California at Santa Barbara. http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo/article/the-hymen. Retrieved 2009-02-09. "The hymen can have very important cultural significance in certain cultures because of its association with a woman’s virginity." 
  16. ^ a b "In Europe, Debate Over Islam and Virginity". The New York Times. June 11, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/11/world/europe/11virgin.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=hymen&st=nyt&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2008-06-13. "'In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt,' said the student, perched on a hospital bed as she awaited surgery on Thursday. 'Right now, virginity is more important to me than life.'" 
  17. ^ Park, J. I., Compensation for hymen lost: Not loss of virginity but a medical accident. Chosun Daily Aug 1994
  18. ^ http://www.yunlee.co.kr
  19. ^ International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, South Korea by Hyung-Ki Choi, M.D., Ph.D., and Huso Yi, Ph.D.
  20. ^ Berrios GE, Rivière L. (2006) 'Madness from the womb'. History of Psychiatry. 17:223-35.
  21. ^ The linkage between the hymen and social elements of control has been taken up in Marie Loughlin's book Hymeneutics: Interpreting Virginity on the Early Modern Stage published in 1997

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HYMEN, or Hymenaeus, originally the name of the song sung at marriages among the Greeks. As usual the name gradually produced the idea of an actual person whose adventures gave rise to the custom of this song. He occurs often in association with Linus and Ialemus, who represent similar personifications, and is generally called a son of Apollo and a Muse. As the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite, he was regarded as a god of fruitfulness. In Attic legend he was a beautiful youth who, being in love with a girl, followed her in a procession to Eleusis disguised as a woman, and saved the whole band from pirates. As reward he obtained the girl in marriage, and his happy married life caused him ever afterwards to be invoked in marriage songs (Servius on Virgil, Aen. i. 651). According to another story, he was a youth who was killed by the fall of his house on his wedding day; hence he was invoked to propitiate him and avert a similar fate from others (Servius, loc. cit.). He is represented in works of art as an effeminate-looking, winged youth, carrying a bridal torch and wearing a nuptial veil. The marriage song was sung, with musical accompaniment, during the procession of the bride from her parents' house to that of the bridegroom, Hymenaeus being invoked at the end of each portion.

See R. Schmidt, De Hymenaeo et Talasio (1886), and J. A. Hild in Daremberg and. Saglis's Dictionnaire des antiquites.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun


  1. (Greek mythology) The god of marriage.

Derived terms

See also

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|A schematic drawing of a hymen]] The hymen (also called maidenhead) is a membrane-like tissue that surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening allowing virgins to menstruate. The hymen has no known use. Since the hymen usually breaks after having sexual intercourse, women with unbroken hymens were considered virgins. However, a woman's hymen can break while engaging in some sports as well. Some women are also born without a hymen.



There are several different types of hymen. In about 1 in 2,000 females, the hymen does not develop at all:[1] this is called an "imperforate hymen".[2]

Other types are:

  • crescent-shaped
  • forming a ring around the vagina
  • folding in on itself
  • has one or more bands going across the opening
  • has several holes

What might damage the hymen

The hymen may be damaged by playing sports or using tampons.[3]

When a girl reaches puberty, the hymen becomes stretchy. Sexual intercourse is another easy way to damage the hymen along with horseback riding and biking. The hymen usually breaks after having sexual intercourse, so in some cultures, women with hymens were virgins. The hymen was also used as a way of checking whether or not a wife had not had sexual intercourse with other men. However, a woman's hymen can break while playing some sports and some women are also born without a hymen.

Hymens in other animals

These animals all have a hymen:

There are many more animals which have hymens, but not all are listed here.

The stages of growth

When a fetus is developing, there is no vaginal opening. The hymen comes from the skin covering the vagina at that time.[4]

In young babies, the hymen is thick and pink. This is because the mother is giving the baby hormones through breast feeding which keeps it thick. In adolescent girls, the hymen becomes thin, smooth and delicate because she has stopped taking in hormones. The hymen becomes very sensitive and can easily cause pain if touched. From puberty, the hymen gets thicker again and becomes pale pink. This is because of the hormone estrogen.


  1. Kurman, Robert J., ed (2002). Blaustein's Pathology of the Female Genital Tract (5th edition ed.). New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 160. 
  2. Chang, Lisbeth and Muram, David. (2002) "Pediatric & Adolescent Gynecology" in DeCherney, Alan H. and Nathan, Lauren. Current Obstetric & Gynecological Diagnosis & Treatment, 9th edition, McGraw-Hill, 598-602.
  3. Emans, S. Jean. "Physical Examination of the Child and Adolescent" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 64-5
  4. 1918 Gray's Anatomy

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