Just like every other part of our bodies, no two labia are the same. In fact, from woman to woman it’s not uncommon for one side of the labia to look different, from color to size, from the other side.
The labia include the labia major, the outer lips of the vagina, and the labia minora, the inner lips of the vagina. The function of the labia is to protect a woman’s clitoris and vagina from trauma.
If you notice your labia look different from side to side, that is most likely normal. If you notice your labia have grown or is growing, it may indicate labial hypertrophy or enlargement of the labia. However, your labia don’t have to grow over time to be considered labial hypertrophy. Labial hypertrophy can affect one or both sides of the labia.
There is no clear cause of labial hypertrophy. Some women are born with large or irregularly-shaped labia. Other women may develop the condition after puberty, childbirth, or as a result of aging. It is not caused by masturbation, nor is it a sexually transmitted infection.
Labial hypertrophy typically affects the labia minora, the inner lips of the vagina. The labia minora can also swell during sex, which is normal, and similar to a male erection. If your labia swell and do not return to normal size, speak to your doctor.
Your labia can also change if you wear restrictive or irritating clothing or are an active cyclist. If you are concerned about your labia or changes in your labia, speak to a doctor.
Most women do not experience any symptoms or discomfort related to labial hypertrophy. Less commonly, women may experience irritation, discomfort, chronic infections, pain during exercise, and sexual intercourse.
There is no specific test or imaging used to diagnose labial hypertrophy. A physician will typically diagnose labial hypertrophy based on a physical examination and any vaginal or labial symptoms you may be having.
Other common labial issues include Bartholin gland cysts. The Bartholin glands are located next to the labia minora near the opening of the vagina. These glands provide lubrication and can, in some cases, get blocked and develop a cyst, on in the case of an infection, an abscess. Unlike labial hypertrophy, which is uniform, a cyst, which is usually just one-sided, tends to be a pea-shaped lump which can be felt or, depending on size, seen.
In most cases, labial hypertrophy does not need to be treated. If your labia is enlarged and causing you pain, there are surgical options—known as labioplasty—which can reduce the size of your labia. The surgical reduction can also help reduce infections and any general discomfort (both physical and emotional) you may be having about the size of your labia. If you are concerned about the size of your labia, speak to your doctor or request a surgical consult.