What Is Labia Minora Hypertrophy?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on April 29, 2024
6 min read

If you have a vagina, the outside part of your genitals is known as the vulva. It comprises two sets of skin folds or lips that protect the internal organs of your reproductive system. The outer lips are called labia majora, while the inner set is the labia minora.

These features, just like facial features or body shape, are unique to each person and come in a range of shapes and sizes. When your labia minora is much larger than the labia majora or it protrudes below your outer lips, this is called labia minora hypertrophy. This condition can cause discomfort or irritation, but it isn't dangerous.

The size, form, and complexion of the labia differs in every person with a vagina. These traits also change as you go through puberty and your body matures throughout your life. You may be born with a larger labia minora, or this condition may develop later.

While there's no clear cause of labia minora hypertrophy, studies have found indirect evidence of a hormonal link or possibly from of local inflammation either before birth or during puberty. Contrary to popular belief, the condition is not caused by masturbation or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Possible causes include:

  • Genes. You may inherit genes or have genetic factors that cause you to have large or irregularly shaped labia.
  • Hormones. Estrogen or other hormones may influence your labia to change or grow larger during puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, or menopause.
  • Aging. Over time, changes in the body may lead to the condition.
  • Gaining or losing weight. Your labia minora may look larger if you lose fat in the labia majora or if more fat accumulates in your labia minora.
  • Repetitive injury to the labia. Competitive bicycling may cause trauma to the area, reducing the protective layer of fat in the labia majora. In rare cases, if you use a wheelchair, your labia minora may grow in response to excess pressure.

If your labia minora is enlarged or extends past your labia majora, you may have no other symptoms. 

But some symptoms you might have include:

  • Pain or irritation. Your labial skin may twist, tug, or pinch during physical activity, while wearing tight pants, or during sex.
  • A hard time using tampons. It may be harder or uncomfortable to put in a tampon. 
  • Discomfort during certain activities. Your labia may become irritated during sports like horseback riding or biking.
  • Aesthetic concerns. You may get distressed or worried about the appearance of your genitals, especially in close-fitting clothing or swimsuits. 
  • Infections. You may have more frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Your doctor will diagnose this condition using a physical exam to see if one or both sides of your labia are enlarged. They may ask you to show them any areas of concern using a hand-held mirror. 

The labia may not be symmetrical in size or shape. Instead, its size and shape may vary. As you mature, you may be tempted to compare yourself with friends or pictures from other sources. You may notice marked differences between these comparisons and yourself. You may also have:

  • Low self-esteem. These differences may cause physical or emotional concerns.
  • Infections. The folds in the labia may present hygiene problems that could lead to infections.
  • Skin irritation. Sometimes, friction from your underwear may chafe your skin.
  • Discomfort. Physical activities that put pressure on your vagina, like sex, may cause pain. Sports like cycling or horseback riding, or other vigorous activities, may also result in discomfort.
  • A heightened sense of self-consciousness. You may feel more self-conscious about your appearance. For example, you may worry about having a visible outline if you wear tight-fitting underwear.

Most patients who are concerned about their labia minora have a normal labia. In such cases, treatment usually focuses on education, reassurance, and self-acceptance. Sharing images of the broad range of normal female anatomy can help patients.

There's no definitive test or exact measurements to find out if labial hypertrophy is present. The diagnosis is based on physical examination and your symptoms. Labial hypertrophy does not present a danger to your overall health.

But if labia minora hypertrophy disrupts your life and significantly impairs your ability to enjoy some activities, including sex, you should consult your gynecologist.

Most of the treatments prescribed entail self-care tips. For instance, certain practices can helpprevent infections and irritation. You should use hypoallergenic tissue paper and laundry detergent, avoid applying soap to the affected area, tenderly pat the area dry (no rubbing), use tampons rather than sanitary towels, wear cotton underwear, and avoid tight clothes. Use lubrication during sex when necessary. You may use a cool gel pack to relieve discomfort. Some ointments that contain coconut oil or vitamins A and D can help reduce friction.

Your gynecologist may recommend surgery in very rare cases. This procedure is known as labiaplasty.

Labiaplasty shortens or reshapes the labia minora. This can be done under general anesthesia or using a local anesthetic with a sedative. The surgeon removes excess tissue with a scalpel or laser. The stitches used eventually dissolve. The procedure takes about 2 hours, and you may typically go home the same day as the surgery.

Swelling, discomfort, bruising, and tenderness are typical and can last a few weeks after the procedure. During recovery, you need to:

  • Keep the area clean and dry to prevent infection.
  • Avoid physical activity for 6 to 12 weeks.
  • Avoid baths or swimming for 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Avoid sexual activity for about 4 weeks.
  • Use pads for a few weeks instead of tampons.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothes.
  • Use cotton underwear to prevent friction.

Note that labiaplasty has some risks, including:

  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia
  • Development of blood clots in veins
  • Infections
  • Scarring of tissue
  • Chronic pain
  • Bleeding
  • Reduced sensitivity of the genitals

Labia minora hypertrophy is when your labia minora is enlarged. This condition is not harmful or a cause for worry or distress unless it causes you pain or discomfort. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

What causes the labia minora to be enlarged?

It’s unclear exactly why labia minora hypertrophy happens. Your hormones or swelling of the labia might contribute to this condition. But it’s normal for the labia minora to come in a variety of sizes. 

Can labia minora hypertrophy go away?

The size of your labia may change over your lifetime. For example, during puberty, your labia majora might get bigger, which may make the labia minora look smaller in comparison.

What causes the labia minora to stick out?

This condition happens due to the normal variation in size of the labia minora. Other possible causes include shifts in hormones; gaining or losing weight; or pressure, inflammation, or trauma to the area. 

How can I reduce my labia minora naturally?

Your labia minora may become smaller over time, but there isn’t a natural way to make that happen. Wearing loose clothing can make your labia minora less visible. If swelling is a factor, avoid activities that can cause irritation or inflammation of the area.