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Labial Hypertrophy: Enlargement of the Labia

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YoungWomensHealth.com defined labial hypertrophy as the enlargement of the labia, which is sometimes called the vaginal lips. Labial hypertrophy is a condition in which one or both sides of the labia grow to larger sizes according to Boston Children’s Hospital. The labia are basically two fat pads that protect a woman's clitoris and vagina from trauma.

The condition usually affects the labia minor (the smaller, inner vaginal lips) but it can also affect the labia major (the larger, outer vaginal lips). Labial hypertrophy can be mild or severe, depending on the extension of the labia. The extension ranges from one to three centimeters.

Some women are born with this condition. In others, labial hypertrophy happens later in life and has been attributed to factors such as mechanical irritation by intercourse or masturbation, childbirth, lymphatic stasis, and chronic irritation and inflammation from dermatitis or urinary incontinence, reported Medscape.com.

Many women experience no symptoms or discomfort with labial hypertrophy. For others, it can cause irritation, discomfort, and pain during exercise, such as horseback riding, and sexual intercourse.

Labial hypertrophy should not affect a female’s sexual life, said Boston Children’s Hospital, but some girls or women may be displeased with the "bulge" in their bathing suit or underwear.

Boston Children’s Hospital wrote having larger than normal labia isn't dangerous, though it may cause pain or chronic infections. Women with labial hypertrophy have normal sexual function because the clitoris, clitoral hood and vagina are normal. Medscape.com added, however, many women report when the labia minora protrudes beyond the labia majora while standing, it can lead to self-consciousness and difficulty with intimacy.

Girls and women with labial hypertrophy who have no symptoms don't require surgical intervention said Boston Children’s Hospital. If a woman is experiencing discomfort or increased infections, she can have a procedure to reduce the size of the labia.

Medscape.com said this procedure is called labiaplasty and can be safely performed any time after sexual maturity. Most doctors prefer a minimum patient age of 18 years for this surgery. This procedure can also be performed before or after pregnancy.

Labiaplasty can be controversial. WebMD reported that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote women's genitals naturally have a wide range of normal appearances that are anatomically correct. There's no one "look" or right way for a labia to be formed.

According to WebMD, the risks of vaginal surgery include infection, permanent changes in sensation, ongoing pain and scarring.

YoungWomensHealth.com recommended girls and women, who have labial hypertrophy and experience discomfort, should schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider to discuss treatment options.

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