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Why are my labia so weird?

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WantonWonton asks:

I am positive I have a malformed vagina and it makes me very self conscious. I have enlarged asymmetrical labia minor folds which do not protrude the beginning half of my vagina, but do on the latter half and obscure my vaginal opening. This extra flesh is brown in color and not a healthy pink color.
Will this interfere with my ability to have intercourse later on? Is this in fact a "malformation" or is this "type" of labia not as uncommon as I think it is? Should I have labiaplasty?

Misc. semi pertinent facts:
I'm in my late teens, but not yet an adult and a virgin.

Sarah replies:

Actually, you sound perfectly normal.

Contrary to what we are encouraged to believe by various media, porn, and certain plastic surgeons, labia normally come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. There are any number of completely normal variations. Labia can be large or small. They can be pink, reddish, brown, purplish, etc. And, as most of the rest of the human body, perfect symmetry is the exception, not the rule.

In fact, since one of the main purposes of labia is to protect the vagina. So this means that by being larger and covering the opening, they can help keep bacteria and other nasties away from you. Besides that fact, labia also contain nerve endings that are very important in terms of sexual response.

Labiaplasty is frankly a bad idea. As Heather blogged just recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has come out with a statement officially discouraging elective vaginal cosmetic procedures. Procedures like labiaplasty have not been thoroughly tested for safety or effectiveness. And frankly, what we do know about most of those procedures is that they are more detrimental than helpful. You can have a loss of sexual sensation, more risk of infection, problematic scar tissue, and other problems. So no, not only do you not need a labiaplasty, it would likely cause you other problems in the long run if you did get one.

By all means, if you're convinced that something is earnestly wrong, or is causing you any sort of physical pain or great difficulty, then check in with your gynecologist and have him or her take a look at it. OB/GYNs have seen a great many vulvas, and tend to have a very good idea of what is and is not normal and functional.

written 09 Sep 2007 . updated 03 Jan 2013

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