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I don't think this is normal, can I just cut my labia off?

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Anonymous asks:

I'm a 17-year old virgin and something has been bothering me ever since I was 13-years old. My labia are huge...and the thing that is bothering me the most, is that I have three labia! The third one is connected to one, I don't really know how to explain it, but I really hate it. I have never told anyone because I'm very embarrassed about it. I'm too shy to even tell a doctor, I won't let anyone look at my vagina. I am wondering if its ok/dangerous to freeze my labia and cutting it myself? I have no idea what to do please help me.

Sarah replies:

Oh sweetie, please please please don't try cutting anything off your body. You could very easily end up doing serious nerve damage, causing scarring, getting an infection, bleeding out, or all sorts of other bad (and very serious) consequences. So let's forget entirely the idea of cutting off bits of your own body.

Let's talk about labia here...because people today seem to have developed an awful lot of weird ideas about what people's genitals "should" look like that are not based in reality. Labia are sort of like snowflakes, they're very different. Some are large, some are small, some are in-between. They're all healthy and normal. Unfortunately, most of the representations of labia that we see are the airbrushed, edited ones from pornography or other media sources. There are even doctors out there who will (for a significant price) cut them down to an "acceptable" size. However, that's frankly ridiculous. How many sets of real life labia have you seen? I'd venture to guess not very many, since most folks have not been up close with very many sets of labia. If we could see a wide, representative sample of labia, you'd find that they all look pretty different and that they have many different sizes, shapes, and colors. All of which are perfectly okay. Do understand as well that labia serve a purpose. They protect our vaginal openings. They keep bacteria and other nasties out. And they contribute to sexual pleasure. Having surgery to make them smaller can have some bad side effects like an increased risk of infections, scar tissue, problems with sexual function, etc. So that's not a solution or a good idea at all.

If you are worried that your vulva is not normal, then the best thing to do is to talk with your health care provider about it. Don't be embarrassed. Trust me, your doctor has seen TONS of vulva in all sorts of variations, so it's incredibly unlikely that you would have something they have never ever seen before. Based on your description, I'm not clear on exactly where the "third labia" that you believe you have is located. You may be seeing another part of your vulva and mistaking it for a third labia. Or it could be that this is just what one of your labia looks like. (You know, both of your inner labia don't have to look exactly alike. It's entirely possible/normal to have one be larger than the other or one shaped differently.) I'd be inclined to think that as long as this is not causing you any pain or physical discomfort, there's no need to mutilate your body because it doesn't exactly conform to what we're all being told it "should" look like.

Rather than continuing to hate your body, how about readjusting your frame of mind? Body hate really isn't a healthy thing. Instead of focusing on this little part of you and how supposedly "abnormal" it is, why not consider how amazing your body really is? Bodies as a whole are pretty impressive things. They support us and allow us to accomplish so much. In terms of genitals, they're pretty darn cool too. Vulva's are designed to be self-cleaning, protective, good feeling bits of us, no matter what they look like! Celebrate the fact that yours is beautiful and different and does the job it was designed to do!

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written 26 Jan 2008 . updated 30 Jan 2009

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