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Labial Hypertrophy: What’s Long and What’s Average?

Female genitalia comes in all shapes and sizes. In some people, the labia — also called vaginal lips — are larger than average. This condition is called labial hypertrophy. Here’s what you need to know about large labia and how to treat it.

Large labia: is it normal?

The labia are part of the external female genitalia (vulva). The labia minora is a skin fold that frames your vaginal opening, and the labia majora frame the labia minora. Labial hypertrophy is a medical term used to describe labia that are larger than average. It doesn’t mean that having large labia should be cause for concern. 

If you’re feeling self-conscious about the size of your vaginal lips, you’re not alone. To set the record straight, there is no such thing as a perfect shape for female genitals. Vaginas and vulvas come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and degrees of symmetry.

On average, labia majora range from 7–10 centimeters in length; sometimes larger, sometimes smaller. The labia minora range from 1–5 centimeters wide and sometimes protrude beyond the outer lips. There is nothing wrong with having elongated labia minora — around 50% of women have labia minora longer than their labia majora. 

Even if your vaginal lips are longer than 10 centimeters or wider than 5 centimeters, it still doesn’t mean that your large labia is abnormal. To determine the size of your labia, you can look at your vulva by using a mirror. 

Your labia may also change at different times in your life. The initial growth of your labia happens during puberty when estrogen promotes the thickening of your vaginal lips. Pregnant women may experience swelling around their vulva and labia due to increased blood flow in the area, making it appear larger. During perimenopause and menopause, your labia may decrease in size or fullness as your estrogen levels go down. 

On the other hand, if the size of your labia changes suddenly or over a short time, it could indicate an abnormal growth. The cause could be anything from an ingrown hair to a genital wart, tumor, Crohn’s disease, or endometriosis. Make an appointment with your gynecologist to rule out anything serious. 

Labial hypertrophy cause: are there any?

Hypertrophy of the labia minora, majora, or both is usually harmless and does not indicate a medical condition on its own. The main cause of most cases of labial hypertrophy is genetics and natural biological changes. 

Hypertrophy of the labia minora, majora, or both is usually harmless and does not indicate a medical condition on its own.

In some cases, hypertrophy of the labia minora is caused by labial stretching, which is a form of genital mutilation practiced in some cultures. During the procedure, a girl’s labia minora is manually pulled to elongate them. Sometimes it’s combined with topical application of certain herbs to cause local inflammation. The practice is based on the myth that larger labia make sexual intercourse more pleasurable for a man.

In rare cases, labial hypertrophy is caused by benign tumors like fibromas or lipomas.

Possible side effects of labial hypertrophy 

As we’ve mentioned, having big labia is not abnormal. Still, large labia may cause some uncomfortable, but easily managed, symptoms. 

With elongated labia, wearing tight underwear or pants might irritate your vulva. You might also be more sensitive to activities that create friction around the area, like running or cycling.

Having big labia is absolutely normal. Still, large labia may cause some uncomfortable, but easily managed, symptoms.

If you have large labia, you might also need to be more mindful of your personal hygiene. Big labia can collect more residue and bacteria, which can lead to a change in vaginal odor. To clean your vaginal lips, use unscented, gentle cleansers as part of your usual shower or bath routine.

Speak with your doctor or gynecologist if you’re concerned that labial hypertrophy is making sex uncomfortable for you. It’s unlikely that labial hypertrophy would cause painful sex unless the pain was caused by friction due to a lack of lubrication.

Treating labial hypertrophy

While labial hypertrophy isn’t a condition that necessarily needs to be fixed, there are a few things you can do to alleviate any discomfort or symptoms caused by large labia: 

  • Wear comfortable, breathable clothing and undergarments that provide support to your vulva without creating excessive friction.
  • If sitting for long periods or cycling, use a padded seat to provide extra cushioning and added comfort. 
  • Choose unscented, natural personal hygiene products (tampons, pads, and soap) to reduce the risk of irritation caused by perfumes and dyes.

If these lifestyle changes don’t help alleviate the irritation, you can speak with your doctor about topical ointments or creams to soothe the area. 

A few words about labiaplasty 

Labiaplasty is a cosmetic surgery procedure that changes the shape or size of the labia, usually to reduce the size of the labia minora. Although the procedure is growing in popularity, in most cases, labiaplasty is not medically necessary unless it’s to remove a tumor or repair damage caused by trauma or genetic defects.

The prevalence and popularity of pornography probably contributes to the increase in people seeking labiaplasty for cosmetic reasons.

Labiaplasty is a serious surgical procedure that requires consultation with your doctor and a plastic surgeon.

The labia contain erectile tissue and nerve endings that can stimulate arousal during sex. They also help protect the vaginal opening during our day-to-day lives. 

Labiaplasty is a serious surgical procedure that requires consultation with your doctor and a plastic surgeon. Sometimes the help of a psychologist or a therapist is a viable alternative to surgery. 

On a final note

Labial hypertrophy is totally normal and nothing to be ashamed of. As we’ve discussed, labia come in all different shapes and sizes — no two labia are alike! If you’re concerned about the size of your labia, it may be helpful to develop a positive body image and work on body acceptance rather than getting surgery. 

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