Who would have thought that we would need a group of researchers to tell us that there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ vagina!? Well, apparently some people do…
A recent survey of Australian GPs found that a quarter did not feel confident to identify what is normal in women presenting with concerns about their vulval anatomy. 1
What is a normal vagina?
And, there has been a concerning rise in the number of young women requesting genital cosmetic surgery. This is not ok! Those female bits are very, very important for sexual sensation as well as protection of the vagina and urethra (the hole the wee comes out of).
To help with this problem, a group of dedicated researchers from Switzerland have published a paper in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2 They conducted a study involving 650 women aged 15 to 84. They got their little rulers out and measured the size of each woman’s inner and outer labia (the vulva), clitoris, vaginal opening and perineum. And surprise, surprise…they found a large amount of variation.
This is no surprise to me, having spent years looking at hundreds of vulvas and vaginas!
The dimension of the measurements changed depending upon a woman’s age, weight, height and childbirth history. For example, the length of the inner labia varied from 5 to 1000 mm, with an average of 43 mm. The clitoris ranged in width from 1 to 22mm, with an average of 5mm.
This information should be reassuring for women who worry that their genitals are not the same as images they see in photographs or pornography. That’s because many of these images have been airbrushed to make it all look neat and symmetrical.
This is not how the body is in real life! I’d like to point out that there are a lot of normal vagina lumps and bumps down there too.
If you need more convincing, or reassurance, then the Labia Library is an excellent resource with photos of real women.
Go to: http://www.labialibrary.org.au
If you are still worried, then see a Sexual Health Physician or Gynaecologist.
1) Simonis M, et al. Female genital cosmetic surgery: a cross-sectional survey exploring knowledge, attitudes and practice of general practitioners. BMJ Open 2016; 6:e013010. DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013010.
2) Kreklau A, et al. Measurements of a ‘normal vulva’ in women aged 15-84: a cross-sectional prospective single-centre study. BJOG 2018 DOI: 10.1111/1471-0528.15387.
Dr Tonia Mezzini is known for offering the best possible advice and treatment options for a person’s sexual health care needs. In particular, she cares for patients with:
- Vulval pain syndromes and vulval skin conditions
- Low libido and pain with intercourse
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Gender-affirming hormone therapy
- Complex contraceptive choices
- Sexually transmitted infections such as recurrent genital herpes
- Recurrent bacterial vaginosis
- Recurrent thrush
- Menopause and hormonal concerns
- Chronic pelvic pain in men and women
- Painful periods and endometriosis
- Information about sexual health
- Women's Health after cancer treatment
- Androgen deficiency in men