Labial hypertrophy is the medical term for when one or both of the vaginal lips or labia is larger than usual.
Having enlarged labia is normal and not a cause for concern. Many people are born with large and often asymmetrical labia and experience no negative side effects.
People can have surgery to safely change the shape of the labia, though this is not usually necessary.
Labial hypertrophy describes the enlargement of the vaginal lips. The labia help cushion the inner vagina and clitoris from friction, impact, and damage.
The size and shape of people’s genitals vary significantly from person-to-person. The vaginal lips, or labia, are often asymmetrical, and it is normal for each side to have its own shape.
The outside of the vagina, which is called the vulva, contains:
- the labia majora or outer lips or skin folds
- the labia minora or inner lips or skin folds
Labial hypertrophy can affect both sets of labia, but it is more likely to change the labia minora or inner lips.
Hypertrophy in the labia majora may cause them to appear enlarged. Hypertrophy in the labia minora may cause them to stick out past the labia majora.
Labial hypertrophy is harmless. It does not impact a person’s sexual health and does not mean they have an underlying medical condition.
Many people have labial hypertrophy without knowing it, and most do not experience adverse symptoms.
Most people with labial hypertrophy will not have any additional symptoms or side effects.
In others, enlarged labia may cause discomfort or put them at risk for other issues. Possible side effects include:
Discomfort or irritation
The labia are a sensitive area, and longer labia may become irritated more easily.
Some people with enlarged labia may feel discomfort when doing physical activities that add friction or pressure to the vaginal area, such as horseback riding or cycling. They may also notice pain from friction during sexual activity.
Enlarged labia may rub against a person’s underwear, causing persistent irritation to this sensitive area.
A person who has labial hypertrophy will often have additional areas of folded skin around the vulva. This makes it especially important to thoroughly clean the area when washing, as there are more areas for bacteria to become trapped.
People should always wash their hands before touching the sensitive vaginal area to prevent the transfer of bacteria. It is essential to wash the area well if it becomes itchy or irritated.
Incorrect vaginal hygiene can make people more susceptible to bacterial growths and yeast infections.
There is no known direct reason for labial hypertrophy. Doctors see it as a natural fluctuation in the human body. Just as one breast may be larger than the other, differences in the labia are usual.
Some people are born with enlarged labia, while it may develop over time due to hormonal fluctuations in others. In some people, the labia become larger as they go through puberty.
Some people also notice that their labia grow after pregnancy, while others see changes in their vulva with age.
Diagnosing labial hypertrophy is simple. A physical examination by a doctor or gynecologist is usually all that is required. There is no standard of measurement for how large labia should be.
In most cases, people do not need treatment. However, if labial hypertrophy causes physical or psychological discomfort, there are treatment options, as follows:
Some people with labial hypertrophy may notice that their discomfort goes away if they stop wearing tight clothing or underwear. Wearing loose-fitting underwear, shorts, and pants may help prevent unnecessary friction in the area.
Wearing natural materials, such as cotton or linen, may also help improve airflow around the vulva.
Doctors may also be able to provide women with topical ointments to reduce irritation or manage symptoms.
Other tips to help manage possible symptoms include:
Choose natural, unscented tampons or menstrual pads, avoiding any additional ingredients or chemicals.
Wear a protective pad or use a cushioned seat when doing physical activities that may irritate the labia, such as cycling.
Practice good hygiene and wash with a hypoallergenic soap that is free from harsh chemicals or perfumes.
Some people may choose to have surgery to reduce the size of their labia. This involves a procedure called a labioplasty.
A labioplasty is typically done for cosmetic reasons and involves removing excess skin and reshaping the labia to be more symmetrical. The surgery usually requires general anesthesia.
The surgery may cause bruising or swelling in the vulva, as it heals. The vulva will also be very delicate during the healing process. People will need to take extra care to keep the area clean and dry to avoid infections or bleeding.
Doctors may also advise people to avoid friction and wear loose clothing while the labia recover.
Surgery always carries risks, such as having a reaction to anesthesia or developing scar tissue. Doctors will discuss these risks and a person’s other options before continuing with any treatment.
Doctors will give specific instructions to people about when they can resume physical and sexual activity.
Is labioplasty safe in teens?
Surgeons may also perform a labioplasty on teenagers going through puberty who may be developing enlarged labia. However, because the labia may still be growing, doctors usually advise people to wait until after puberty before having surgery.
Doctors will talk through labial hypertrophy with teens to help them understand that it is a normal change in the body. They will also talk about the emotional and mental health factors involved in cosmetic surgery.
Labial hypertrophy is usual in individuals and, in many cases, causes no adverse side effects. Surgery is an option in severe cases or cases that cause emotional discomfort. The outlook for surgery is generally good and has a very high satisfaction rate.
Doctors may have additional tips about soothing irritation or managing effects of hypertrophy, and many people find they can relieve any discomfort by making a few lifestyle changes.