Dr. Kate, Did Masturbation Cause My Labia to Look Like This?

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in Boston who lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health.  She regularly (and generously!) answers your medical questions here on EMandLO.com. To ask her your own, click here.

Dr. Kate,

My inner labia protrudes out a bit and is a bit large but also the clitoral hood is large. I feel like I have inflamed it in some way because I am only 19 and I have masturbated quite a bit in my youth due to the teenage hormones that overwhelmed me at about 13. Before puberty, I feel like my hood and inner labia were not quite so big. So did I cause the inflammation or is it pretty natural? I have not had sex yet so I feel like it’s my fault — or am I blaming myself for nothing? The labia are not inflamed in that they hurt or burn or anything. My vagina feels fine, I just wish it were a little bit more aesthetically pleasing.

— Labe Ashamed

Dear LA,

You are far from the only woman who is unhappy with how her body looks. But let me put your mind at ease about one thing – your labia have changed because of puberty and growing older, NOT because of masturbation, no matter how often you got yourself off. (Good for you, by the way – not all young women are that in touch with their bodies and learn what kind of touch makes them feel good!) Your inner labia aren’t inflamed – they’re just longer than your outer labia, which is as common as the other way around.

Labia are like breasts and feet – they’re often not the same size, and every woman’s pair looks different. There is a medical condition called labial hypertrophy, where the inner labia are long enough to cause pain with sex or normal daily activities (like wearing jeans or, you know, sitting down). But it’s not common.

As long as you aren’t experiencing any discomfort, your body is completely normal. As for how pleasing it looks? Rest assured, any future partner who is lucky enough to be that up close with your labia will be thrilled to be there, and won’t be thinking about getting out the measuring tape.

Dr. Kate

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