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Labia Hypertrophy: What Is It and Common Causes

Enlarged labia minora and majora is known as labia hypertrophy. There are several causes of this condition.

Labiaplasty as a treatment for labia hypertrophy has been around for decades. One study of the treatment of labia minora hypertrophy was published back in 1976, in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Although labiaplasty has only recently become popular, the technique has been commonly performed by both gynaecologists and plastic surgeons. A more extensive study was published in the journal of Plastic Reconstructive Surgery back in 1984.

Labia hypertrophy is the medical term for enlarged labia, a condition that exists in many women around the world. It is not a medical condition that requires treatment, unless it is a source of discomfort and embarrassment for the woman with it.

A diagram of the female genital area photo blurred for decency. Female genital area diagrams

What is the labia (singular labium)?

The labia are the lips of the vulva, or external vagina. Sometimes referred to as the vaginal lips, there are two sets of labia that run vertically on either side of the clitoris, urethra and vaginal hole: majora and minora. The labia majora are the larger, outer lips. These are usually fleshier and may be covered in pubic hair. The labia minora are the inner lips that are more delicate and normally have no hair growth. Both serve to protect the area.

How big are they normally?

This question is commonly asked by patients. Each patient wants to know what the average size is, but that is such a difficult question to answer. There is no average, because the shape and size of the labia vary so greatly. With such a broad definition of what’s considered “normal”, it’s extremely important that as woman, you don’t compare yourself to others. Just because someone else has something different, it doesn’t mean you aren’t normal. As long as you are healthy and your gynaecologist confirms it, you are normal.

What causes labia hypertrophy?

To date, there is no specific reason that causes labia hypertrophy. It may not even be genetic, although some reports indicate that genetics is a strong factor. It isn’t caused by masturbation, unless you frequently stretch and pull on the labia (which is uncommon). Sometimes, it is simply caused by vaginal childbirth, trauma or aging. Dramatic weight gain and loss can also be a cause.

However, you should know that these factors won’t guarantee that you’ll develop excessive labia tissue. They are just some factors that have contributed to the condition in some women. Many women at my practice tend to notice protruding labia minora following childbirth, something that sometimes corrects itself as they recover from their experience. On the other hand, I’ve also seen many younger women who have never had sex and are still virgins, yet still have protruding labia minora.

Is it a disease?

Labia hypertrophy is not a sexually transmitted disease or infection, nor is it anything that you need to have treated. If it doesn’t bother you, then it’s totally normal and healthy.

The primary issue that arises with labia hypertrophy is whether it is causing trouble for you. If you find it aesthetically unattractive or experience discomfort due to its size and shape, then that becomes a problem that you’ll want to correct. Some women report increased rates of yeast infection as well. Labia hypertrophy can affect either the labia majora or minora, and it may only exist on one side (asymmetry).

The most common type of this condition that is treated with labiaplasty is when it affects the labia minora. This is because the labia minora tend to be more sensitive and delicate. Without the protection of the majora, the minora can get easily pinched, stretched and chafed — even from wearing underwear or walking. You can imagine the discomfort this may cause! The appearance of prominent labia can also resemble a penis, making it very embarrassing.

Labiaplasty has helped thousands of women around the world for decades. They've been able to live life being more comfortable with their bodies.

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