Our Health Information Line receives calls and emails from women on a broad range of health issues. This regular column features answers to some of them.
Q I am 17 years old and I am really concerned about the look of my labia. The inner lips stick out and one side is longer than the other. I am really self-conscious about them and was wondering about cosmetic surgery.
A The female genitals vary greatly in their colour, size and shape. The labia minora (inner lips) can be short, thick, ruffled, long, thin and smooth and anything in between. There is also a great variation in colour from deep pink, brownish pink, reddish pink, purplish, grey or black. The labia minora can protrude beyond the labia majora (outer lips) and it is also quite common for one side of the labia minora to be longer than the other (asymmetrical).
Your labia, therefore, are completely normal. However, it is common for women to feel that these normal variations are abnormal. Most young women will have little to compare their labia to and what they might have come across (i.e., pornography) will typically feature women with hardly any labia minora at all. This is because the Classification Board rules for pornographic magazines mean that for them to be sold in the unrestricted category they must not feature any labia minora. Therefore, if the labia minora are prominent they are airbrushed out.
To get a more realistic view of what women’s labia actually look like visit The Labia Library, established by Women’s Health Victoria: www.labialibrary.org.au. The library features a picture gallery of different labia as well as information about labia and cosmetic surgery. Women’s Health also has an article specifically on genital cosmetic surgery article at http://goo.gl/8XMjOO.
Hopefully after reading this information you will feel more confident that your labia is perfectly normal and nothing to be worried or self-conscious about. In addition, cosmetic surgery is not without risks and there could be long-term side effects that are not yet recognised.
If you do decide to pursue cosmetic surgery it is important to know that changes to the law were introduced in 2008 in Queensland to make it an offence to perform cosmetic surgery on a child (those under the age of 18) unless the procedure is performed in the best interests of the child. Therefore, you may find that some cosmetic surgery providers would be unwilling to perform the surgery until you reach the age of 18.
Last updated: September 2016.
©Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc. This article was written by Kirsten Braun and reviewed by the Women's Health Queensland Wide editorial committee. It was published in Health Journey 2016 Issue 3.
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