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Labia, discharge, and no periods...oh my!

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Crystal asks:

I'm 16 and have noticed for a while the extremely large size of my labia, because of it I refuse to become sexually active. Every time I get asked out, I turn them down because of the fear they will see it and find it disgusting. All my friends are or have been sexually active so I don't feel like I can talk to them about it because they don't understand what it's like to be so self conscious of that area. I have been considering surgery but again that involves talking to my parents about it and admitting I have a problem with it instead of living my life as it is at the moment, in celibacy. Along with that problem, I also discharge more than I think any woman should. I spoke to a nurse about it before and she assured me it was normal, but again this just makes me feel worse. Also, to top that off I don't get periods! Yes, it seems odd, but they were always irregular and after going on the 3 month course of the pill to fix it, they stopped completely. It's now been 6 months gone and I have to have a blood test tomorrow which I am very scared of. Ignoring the period rant, is there any way I can reduce the amount of discharge I have? And would surgery be a good idea to reduce the size of me labia and do you know what the prices are like? Please help me.

Sarah replies:

Oh sweetie! Let's break this down and deal with one issue at a time here to see if we can't work this all out, shall we?

First off, let's talk about this labia issue. How many real life labia (other than your own) have you seen up close and personal? I'm going to guess you probably haven't seen very many, most women haven't. So what is it that has caused you to decide that there's something wrong with yours? Most of the exposure (no pun intended) that your average person has to genitals is through things like porn or the things that they've heard other people say. And here's the thing about both of those sources of information...they often do not reflect reality. The depictions you may have seen in pornography receive dubious "help" from professional video and image editors. Often even the actors themselves don't actual look "in real life" the way they do on film! So the tiny labia that you often see there are often the result of things like photo editing. If you're getting your information via word-of-mouth from other people, they may also not have a realistic idea of what women's bodies are like either. Chances are that they haven't seen many more real life labia than you have! So what is normal when it comes to the appearance of labia? Labia come in all shapes, sizes and colors, all of which are normal! Some will be larger, some will be smaller, some will be somewhere in between. They're all beautiful and perfect exactly the way they are. It's important to remember here as well that labia fulfill some very important duties. They help to protect your vagina from injury and to keep bacteria out. They also have many nerve endings that contribute to sexual sensation. Why would you want to cut that off? The truth about labiaplasty (plastic surgery to alter the appearance of labia) is that there is basically no real benefits to it, but there are lots of drawbacks. You're talking about potentially reducing sexual sensation and increasing your risk of infections. Additionally, there can be issues with scar tissue in that area after those types of surgery. I'd suggest that rather than spending your time hating your labia, you learn to be happy with them just as they are. Don't worry about partners finding them disgusting, because that's a very highly unlikely result (and frankly anybody who would make nasty comments about the appearance of somebody's genitals needs a healthy dose of maturity anyway and thus their comments shouldn't be taken at all seriously!).

You may want to take a look at the following links:

Now, let's talk about discharge. It doesn't sound like your discharge is abnormal either. Everybody with a vagina has discharge. It's normal and necessary to maintain your vaginal health. You want to remember that your vagina is a "self-cleaning" bit of you and discharge is a big part of that. During various parts of our menstrual cycles, we may produce more or less discharge. Part of this is also dictated by what's going on with your hormones. So during some parts of life, you might produce more discharge than others. Again, since most of us are not health care providers and haven't come into that much contact with bodies other than our own, sometimes we get the wrong idea about what must be "normal" and decide that based on that there must be something wrong with us. "Normal" when it comes to discharge is pretty much whatever your body produces at a given time. If you were having discharge that had a wrong smell, was greenish, cottage-cheese like, etc., then you might be worried about whether you have an infection going on. But simply looking at the amount of discharge doesn't generally indicate any issues. You might check out our article Honorably Discharged: A Guide to Vaginal Secretions for more information. So again, I'd encourage you not to worry too much about this. Discharge happens (as well it should)!

With regard to your periods, you are still fairly young so it would not be surprising if your periods were a bit regular. We don't tend to be regular from day one. In fact, health care providers will generally tell you to expect not to be regular for the first 5 years or so of menstruation. Some women will always be irregular, but many will find that their cycles normalize after those first few years. Your body is going through a lot of changes right now with puberty and all of the other changes likely going on with you. Those things can easily impact your cycle. If you have concerns about how often you are menstruating, the thing to do is address that with your health care provider. They'll be able to help you isolate exactly what is going on with your body and find a solution for that (if there is a solution or if it is an issue that needs treatment).

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