After examining the vulvas of 657 women of all ages, a team of physicians at a Swiss Hospital have concluded that there’s no need to worry about what you’ve got going on down there.
This affirmation is particularly important given that insecurity over one’s genitals is prevalent in women across the world. For example, a 2016 study that surveyed 443 Australian GPs (family doctors) revealed that 97 percent had cared for a patient who expressed anxiety over whether her genitals were normal. And according to a 2017 report by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the number of women who went under the knife to surgically alter the size and shape of their vulva increased by 39 percent between 2015 and 2016. The procedure, known as a labiaplasty, is marketed as a means to rejuvenate and refine the appearance of the external female genitals.
In some cases, women seek a labiaplasty because the skin around the vaginal opening chafes painfully against clothing or during sex; yet the majority of these surgeries are performed in women who feel that their vulvas are too large or asymmetrical. A trend that appears to be fueled by small, symmetrical labia and clitoral hoods in most representations of vulvas (both in pornography and anatomical diagrams/photographs).
In the current study, published in the obstetrics and gynecology journal BJOG, lead author Anne Kreklau and her colleagues sought to finally provide the medical literature with a reference on the diverse morphology of vulvas in healthy women. They took detailed measurements of the size and relative distance between all the major structures of the external genitalia on volunteers aged 15 to 84 years. Per New Scientist, this investigation is the largest examination of vulva shape to date.
They found that providing an average size of these female features is practically useless because the range is so wide. The length of the outer labia, for instance, was shown to vary from 12 millimeters to 180 millimeters, and the vaginal opening was observed to range from 6 to 75 millimeters. One limitation that must be noted, however, is that all subjects were Caucasian. If women of multiple ethnic groups were included, the variation would likely be even more pronounced.
As noted by New Scientist, these results may serve as a reference for doctors seeking to reassure concerned female patients. After all, the Australian study mentioned above also found that a quarter of GPs were not confident in their ability to distinguish normal genital anatomy.
For anyone curious to see the amazing assortment of females forms, check out the Labia Library gallery – and do so without shame. Per the International Vagina Dialogue Survey of 2006, 78 percent of women agree that society's taboos surrounding the vagina contribute to women's ignorance.
[H/T: New Scientist]