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The fourchette is the small fork-shaped band or fold of mucus membrane at the rear end of the vulva, at the underside of the vaginal opening. It is formed by the dorsal ends of the labia minora. It connects the rear ends of the labia majora.
The fourchette is sometimes called the posterior fourchette.
The fourchette is designed to stretch to some degree. However, the extreme pressure it’s placed under during childbirth makes it vulnerable to tearing during labor. It may also tear during sex. It may cause minor discomfort, like a paper cut, or more intense knife-like pain. The fourchette should heal in time.
Sex can re-tear the fourchette if it is not fully healed, so most women postpone intercourse until their body recovers. Inserting tampons can also cause problems for a healing fourchette, so women may like to temporarily switch to pads or period underwear. Applying ice packs and taking a stool softener to reduce straining may also relieve the symptoms.
Some underlying skin conditions, including herpes simplex and some types of dermatitis, can make the fourchette more vulnerable to tears. Doctors can treat these underlying conditions or their symptoms with topical creams or antivirals. In some cases, where the fourchette tears regularly, medical professionals may recommend perineoplasty.
Some women with pronounced fourchettes like to enhance this body part with a piercing. Bead rings are the most common type of fourchette piercing, but curved barbells with large ends to prevent slippage may also be used. While couples should avoid sex while the fourchette heals, a piercing can make sex more pleasurable for both parties as it tends to roll inside the vagina during penetration.
The fourchette should not be confused with the perineum. While these two body parts are often mistaken for one another, the fourchette is actually above this body part. Only women have fourchettes, while men and women both have perineums.