What’s Normal

To be wholly accurate, the vaginal lips should be called ‘vulval lips’. The outer lips are usually fleshy, and the inner lips are usually thin but, like every other part of the body, they come in all shapes and sizes. In some women, the inner lips are completely enclosed by the outer lips. In other women, the inner lips (labia minora) are larger than the outside lips. This is not unusual. It is perfectly natural and normal, but many women worry about it. It is a shame that pictures in men’s top-shelf magazines, TV programmes about ‘designer vaginas’, and advertising by profit-making clinics are making women feel abnormal when they are not. Images of female genitals have often been digitally altered and do not represent the normal, average woman. But, if the inner lips are so large that they are really bothering you due to friction from rubbing on clothes leading to pain, it is possible to have them trimmed by a surgical operation.

See a Doctor

During the last few years, private clinics have started very aggressive marketing of cosmetic operations on the vaginal lips. Mainstream doctors think this is a worrying trend, because the advertising aims to persuade women that they are abnormal when actually their vaginal lips are perfectly average. If you think your vaginal lips are abnormal, don’t go straight to a private clinic. Start by consulting with your family doctor/GP, or by visiting a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic. These clinics mainly test for genital infections, but deal with other problems as well. Explain to the doctor that you have not come for tests, but because you have another worry. You can then ask the doctor to examine your vaginal lips, and tell you whether or not they are abnormally large. The advantage of going to the sexual health clinic is that the doctors in these clinics examine dozens of women every day, so the doctor you see will be able to give you an accurate opinion. If the clinic doctor says that you are unusual, you can then ask your family doctor/GP to refer on to a specialist for a surgical opinion if you wish.


An operation to reduce the labia minora can be done by a gynaecologist or a plastic surgeon.

These operations, as with all surgeries, are not without potential complications such as bleeding and infection. Also, the vaginal lips contain many very sensitive nerve fibres, so these operations could remove sexually-sensitive tissue and could lessen your sexual pleasure, or lead to scarring or pain (MIMS Womens Health 2007;2:28–29). Unless there are significant abnormalities leading to significant paint or complications, this is a procedure, so you would probably not be able to have it done under the National Health Service in the UK, and instead would have to be referred privately to a plastic surgeon or gynaecologist specialising in this field.


First published on: embarrassingproblems.com
Reviewed and edited by: Dr Laura Gush
Last updated: May 2021

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