Our pursuit of the designer vagina.
You are not alone if, at some stage, you have thought “Is my vagina normal?”, “Is my vagina too big or too small?” or "Are my lips normal?”.
Whilst there have been numerous studies on the appearance and size of the male genitals, there are surprisingly few studies on the female genitals.
Before we tackle these question, a quick clarification on terminology…
The word ‘vagina’ is often used as a sort of catch-all phrase for many parts of the female genitalia including what people often refer to as the ‘vagina lips’. The vagina is located inside the pelvis, whilst the external anatomy is more accurately referred to as the vulva or labia for the vaginal lips.
Biology lesson aside, your labia and vagina, like all other parts of your body, will certainly look different to that of your peers.
Results and means of obtaining statistical data vary from study to study however what we do know is that there is also a wide range of variance when it comes to vaginal lengths, diameters and shapes.
A study of the shape and dimensions of the human vagina revealed there are 5 different shaped vaginas including; parallel-sided, heart-shaped, conical, pumpkin and slug-shaped.
The question of vagina size relating to a person’s age and build has been a contentious topic for a number of years. A study of women using MRIs to gain data concluded that “Although there is variation among women, variables such as parity, age and height are positively associated with differences in baseline dimensions”.
This study also found the mean vagina length to be 6.3 cm whilst another study of 39 women using rods, showed vagina lengths varied from 6.8cm to 14.8cm.
Variations in Vagina Length
Vaginal widths in this study ranged from 4.8 to 6.3 cm whilst the vaginal opening or introitus diameter ranged from 2.4 t
Variations in Vagina Widths
As you can see, there’s a wide range of, and I hate to use the word, “normal” when it comes to the appearance and size of the female genitals and vagina.
Labia size and appearance
The labia vary widely in size, symmetry, colour and rugosity or “wrinkliness”. This is evident in 2 pieces of art that explore the diversity of the labia using casts and photography;
Whilst studies we took a look at varied in size ranges, the overriding commonality between all studies is that there is a wide degree of variance;
- Labia majora (the outer lips) ranged from 7 to 12cm in length with an average of 9.3cm
- Labia minor (the inner lips) ranged from 2 to 10cm in length with an average of 6cm.
Altering or reducing the labia or vulva through surgery is known as labiaplasty or vulvoplasty and whilst the number of procedures for genital surgeries has been on the rise, there are actually very few situations where labial surgery is necessary for medical reasons. Medical reasons for labiaplasty may include;
- discomfort when sitting
- discomfort during sex
- chaffing or irritation when wearing some items of clothing
- pain when participating in sport or
- frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
If you feel your labia are the cause of significant impairment to your function, please see your physician to discuss your options.
Many labiaplasty surgeries are carried out purely for aesthetic reasons aesthetic reasons; because a person may feel their labia are too large or asymmetrical – this is often touted as a ‘vaginal rejuvenation’. These surgeries are carried out to meet a person’s perceptions of normality, or rather desirability and are often due to exposure to idealized media representation of the female genitals.
Surgery for cosmetic purposes can be costly and like all surgery, genital surgery carries risk; there may be significant scaring and an impaired sensation or disruption to the nerves and blood vessels of the labia so entering any surgery for purely cosmetic purposes should not be taken lightly.
Another concerning trend is Doctors are reporting now seeing patients as young as 10 years of age presenting with genital anxiety and 97% of women expressing some concern with regard to whether their genitals were normal. In the last 10 years, labia surgery has increased fivefold.
Things to remember
If you are experiencing any discomfort due to the size or shape of your vulva or vagina, please see a healthcare practitioner. Otherwise, we say embrace your differences and rest assured knowing that vaginas, vulvas and labia come in all shapes, sizes, symmetries and colours – there is no such thing as a “perfect vagina”, just your own perception of one!
Love your labia Art Print by Nobody's Baby
Gemma Sharp, Olivia Willis. “ Labiaplasty: Understanding why women have cosmetic surgery on their vulva”, ABC News, 7 September 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2017-09-07/why-women-have-cosmetic-surgery-on-their-vulva/8878952
Alice Klein. “ Biggest study of vaginas shows there’s no such thing as ‘normal’”, New Scientist, 29 June 2018, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2173079-biggest-study-of-vaginas-shows-theres-no-such-thing-as-normal/?cmpid=ILC%7CNSNS%7C2018_webpush&utm_medium=ILC&utm_source=NSNS&utm_campaign=webpush-Roost-vaginas
Lykkebo AW1, Drue HC, Lam JUH, Guldberg R. “ The Size of Labia Minora and Perception of Genital Appearance”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, July 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28369012
Kurt T. Barnhart Adriana Izquierdo E. Scott Pretorius David M. Shera Mayadah ShabboutAlka Shaunik. “ Baseline dimensions of the human vagina”, Oxford Academic, 14 February 2006, https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/21/6/1618/724374
MD Anne M. Weber, MD Mark D. Walters, PhD Leslie R. Schover, MPH Allison Mitchinson. , " Vaginal anatomy and sexual function", Science Direct, December 1995, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/002978449500291X
Jillian Lloyd, Naomi S. Crouch, Catherine L. Minto, Lih‐Mei Liao, Sarah M. Creighton. “ Female genital appearance: ‘normality’ unfolds”, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 12 January 2005, https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2004.00517.x
Gemma Sharp, MSc Marika Tiggemann, PhD Julie Mattiske, PhD. “ Factors That Influence the Decision to Undergo Labiaplasty: Media, Relationships, and Psychological Well-Being”, Oxford Academic, 18 February 2016, https://academic.oup.com/asj/article/36/4/469/2613943
NS Crouch, R Deans, L Michala, L‐M Liao, SM Creighton. “ Clinical characteristics of well women seeking labial reduction surgery”, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 24 August 2011, https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2011.03088.x