Are my labia 'normal'?

Originally Published: April 6, 2001 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 6, 2011
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Dear Alice,

Is it normal for the inner labia to be different sizes? One lip is somewhat "thicker" and has a lumpy looking edge while the other is thinner and straight. Plus, should they be closed together or do they open up a bit? Mine are closed together unless I pull them apart with my fingers.

-Wondering

Dear Wondering,

Yes, it's normal to have labia that are of different sizes and textures. Labia are the outer and inner lips of the vulva. The outer lips, or labia majora, are two fatty pads, usually covered with pubic hair. Between are the inner lips, or labia minora, two folds or flaps (like butterfly wings) of skin that join at the sensitive clitoral hood at the top, and thin out near the vaginal opening. Both the labia majora and minora help to keep bacteria out of the vagina and their concentration of nerve endings increase genital sensation during sexual encounters. 

Women's labia are as unique as the individual woman — ranging in size (from 3/4 of an inch to two inches on average), shape, color, and texture. Think of the labia as petals of a rare exotic flower. Some labia are short, thick, and lumpy or "ruffled." Others are long, thin, and smooth and may hang beyond the labia majora. Some labia are closed together. Others lie farther apart. Some even vary in size and color from left to right and front to back! So, if your labia have always looked this way, then this is "normal" for you. During puberty and throughout life as bodies mature, your labia may change due to hormones, pregnancy and childbirth, or simply because of aging. 

Some women have explored their vulva but, like you, wonder if they are "normal." Others have not yet looked at their own genitals. Looking at your vulva in a mirror allows you to become more familiar with your one-of-a-kind flower. Knowing what your vulva usually looks like and regularly performing this basic self-exam will help you detect any changes that may cause concern. If you do notice changes, consider making an appointment with a health care provider, which Columbia students can do by calling Medical Services at x4-2284 or logging on to Open Communicator.

There is no one way labia should look so embrace the "normal" that is "normal" for you. 

Alice