Labial Hypertrophy

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female gender symbolLabial hypertrophy (pronounced: lay-bee-al hi-per-tro-fee) is a long name that means the enlargement of the labia (sometimes called the vaginal lips). This is not a serious condition; it can be normal, but it can also cause some discomfort and for some young women it may be embarrassing or distressing.

What exactly is labial hypertrophy?

Labial hypertrophy usually affects the inner labia called the labia minora but it can also affect the outer labia or labia majora. The labia can be enlarged on one side or both sides. Most young woman who have this condition, have bigger than average size labia. Some young women may have been born with bigger labia, while others may have noticed that their labia got much bigger during puberty. Many young women will complain of a bulge in their underwear and an uncomfortable feeling with certain kinds of tight fitting clothing or when they are doing activities such as riding a bike, running, horseback riding or other kinds of activities that can cause rubbing of the genital area.

What causes labial hypertrophy?

It is unclear what causes labial hypertrophy. For some unknown reason one or both of a young woman’s labia will grow larger than the average size. It is not caused from masturbation and it is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). There is nothing that you have done to cause this to happen.

What are the symptoms?

Many young women may have no symptoms or discomfort at all and are fine with their “enlarged” labia. For others, enlarged labia can get in the way of certain clothing such as bathing suits and tights, and can cause irritation, discomfort, and pain in the crotch area. Irritation around the vaginal area can also be caused by chronic vaginal yeast infections. Intercourse may or may not be uncomfortable.

Is it normal to feel upset about having labial hypertrophy?

Although labial hypertrophy is not a serious medical condition, young women can feel “different”. Girls may feel frustrated or distressed particularly if the enlarged labia cause irritation and limits the kinds of activities that can be done comfortably. However, it’s also perfectly normal not to be upset about your labia and to be accepting of your body. If having labial hypertrophy causes you to feel bad about yourself, you should talk to a parent or trusted adult and make an appointment with your health care provider to talk about treatment options.

Why am I different from my mom?

Your labia may or may not be different from your mom’s; however if you are shaving your pubic hair, any differences in the size or appearance of their labia is more obvious.

What is the treatment for labial hypertrophy?

Young women who have enlarged labia do not need to have surgery. If however, one or both labia cause discomfort or emotional distress, surgery may be recommended. Labioplasty involves reshaping one or both labia so they are smaller in size. This type of surgery should be done by a gynecology surgeon who has expertise with this type of procedure. Having a labioplasty is an emotional decision for most young women. You should be able to talk with your health care provider openly and have all of your questions answered before you decide to have the procedure. Many young women accept that their labia are unique and decide not to have a labioplasty or decide to wait until they are older to have it done.

If you are having trouble understanding what your labia will look like after a labioplasty, ask to see a picture or have your health care provider make a simple drawing of the way your labia looks now and what it will look like after the surgery.

Using a mirror to look at your labia while your health care provider describes how the labia will likely appear after the surgery may also help you understand better.

Are there any risks with having a labioplasty?

Labioplasty is usually done with general anesthesia. Although very low, there are some risks involved with the medicine that is used to put you to sleep. Ask your health care provider to explain what the risks are.

Other possible risks include; bleeding, infection, possible breakdown of the stitches and/or scarring around the labia and/or need for more surgery. Since the top of the labia is connected to the clitoris, be sure to ask if the clitoral hood (skin covering the clitoris) will be affected. Sometimes there can be scar tissue that may make future sexual activity painful. Additionally, it’s possible that the results may not be what you expected. It’s important to follow your health care provider’s instructions after your surgery to lower the chance of any of these complications from happening.

Will I be in pain if I decide to have a labioplasty?

It’s normal to have some swelling, bruising, and discomfort after the procedure but this should last only a couple of days to 2 weeks. Your health care provider may suggest that you use icepacks on your groin area to for the first 24 hours to help with any swelling. The discomfort should improve as the swelling goes away.

Are there any things I can’t do after a labioplasty?

While the stitches are healing, you should not do any activity that causes pressure or irritation on your labia such as biking, horseback riding, running, or heavy lifting. Also, you should not have intercourse for about 4-6 weeks (if you are sexually active) or until your health care provider says it’s okay. Be sure to keep your follow-up appointment with your HCP after your surgery so he/she can make sure your labia are healing.

Will it look normal down there after labioplasty?

The labia are re-shaped, not cut off. The results are almost always satisfying to the patient. Once the labia are healed, no one will be able to tell they were modified or reshaped because the scar is very fine and hidden in the natural folds of the skin.

Is there anything I can do instead of having surgery?

Yes. Tight fitting clotting is usually very uncomfortable for girls who have enlarged labia. Some young woman may even complain about having a “bulge” that they find unattractive. Try wearing loose fitting underwear, pants, jeans, shorts, etc. You may find that you are more comfortable wearing skirts or dresses some of the time.

A woman’s labia can come in different shapes and sizes. The size or shape usually isn’t a problem and surgery isn’t recommended unless there is major discomfort with certain activities (including intercourse). Deciding to have labioplasty is a personal decision but should only be considered after your HCP has answered all of your questions. Most health care providers will not recommend labioplasty unless they feel that the young woman has completely developed and is mature enough to be able to make her own decision about changing the appearance or look of her labia.