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What Is an Elongated Labia?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Elongated labia are outer folds of tissue on the vulva that are large enough to hang down and be readily visible, in contrast to the more closed appearance that many people expect of the vulva. There is considerable natural variation in the shape of structures found on the vulva, and elongated labia are not particularly unusual, nor are they dangerous or abnormal. Patients can elect to undergo a surgical procedure to shrink them if they become a problem. In the surgery, a plastics specialist will trim the tissue down and reshape it for a less protruding appearance.

The labia majora and minora are symmetrical structures on the outside of the vulva that provide some protection for delicate mucus membranes. They also have a number of sensitive nerve endings that can play a role in human arousal as well as cover the vaginal opening when it is not in use. Patients with elongated labia may have enlarged inner and outer labia, or just one set of tissue may be somewhat longer than expected.

There appears to be a genetic component in the size of the labia, as some ethnic groups are more likely to have protruding labia. Some cultures accentuate this with a practice called labia stretching, where the tissue is encouraged to grow larger and longer. The folds of skin are highly elastic and when stretched gently over time can grow quite large. Once stretched, they will not return to their original size.

For some patients, elongated labia can be a problem. If the tissue is large enough, it may be uncomfortable to wear underwear or pants, and engaging in some physical activities may put stress on the tissue. This could cause groin pain or irritation. The woman may have a higher risk of infection and inflammation in and around the vulva, which can be a cause for concern for sexually active patients. In other cases, patients may experience psychological distress.

In elongated labia surgery, a plastic surgeon will meet with the patient to discuss the goals of the procedure and decide how much tissue to take off. He will carefully trim tissue while leaving nerves intact. The patient may experience pain and inflammation immediately after surgery and may need to take pain management medications as well as anti-inflammatories to stay comfortable. Usually sexual activity immediately after surgery is not recommended, but once the wound heals fully, the patient can resume normal activities.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon337375 — On Jun 04, 2013

Labiaplasty is genital mutilation!

By pastanaga — On Jul 24, 2011

I have one inner labia that is much longer than the other.

It worried me at first, particularly because I guess I thought men might think it looked strange. Or maybe even that there was something wrong with it.

But, you know, it doesn't hurt me at all, and I think female genitals just aren't meant to look neat and tidy.

And quite frankly, if a guy is lucky enough to be in a position to notice, he shouldn't be complaining.

By pleonasm — On Jul 23, 2011

@Alisha - I really think that the WHO is making a mistake in calling this genital mutilation.

For one thing, it doesn't seem to do any harm to the women. If anything, it makes them more comfortable with their bodies and more likely to feel like they can talk to each other about problems they might be having.

But mostly, calling it mutilation is to lessen the impact of calling female circumcision mutilation. That is a practice that causes lifelong deformation, taking something away from the woman, and using a method that causes pain and can even kill her from shock or infection. To put it in the same category as gently pulling out the labia over time is ridiculous.

I don't see labia pulling as any different from waxing your legs, and sounds a lot less painful.

By discographer — On Jul 23, 2011

There is some controversy over the labia pulling practice in Africa. The controversy has risen because the World Health Organization classified labia pulling as mutilation.

But African women who practice it are arguing against this because they claim that they are in no way mutilating their organs. They prefer to use the term "modification" instead.

Elongated labia is supposed to enhance sexual pleasure and labia pulling is an old tradition in some African countries. But by tradition, it means that men will not marry and accept women who don't have elongated labia.

I really don't know what to think about all this, whether it is positive or negative. I'm a little confused.

What do you think?

By burcinc — On Jul 22, 2011

@turquoise-- I can't suggest you to have or not have the operation for labia reduction. That's your personal choice. I do think you have already made that choice though because you are clearly very uncomfortable physically and psychologically.

As for the pain during and after the operation, I know about it from my sister because she had it done. She slept during the operation but was apparently not given enough pain reliever because she was in pain immediately after the surgery. But in a few days, she was totally fine. She used pain relievers for about a week and the pain was gone after that.

I think it's normal to have pain and even a little bleeding afterward. If you select a good doctor and have good communication with the doctor, you won't have any problems. I'm sure they will do everything possible to make sure that you have less pain and discomfort after the operation.

By turquoise — On Jul 21, 2011

I didn't have this when I was young. After three children and becoming older, my labia has gotten looser and longer. I was ignoring it at first because I realized that it was due to child birth but it has gotten to the point that I am ashamed to wear swimsuits because it is visible. It's also uncomfortable to wear tight clothes.

I feel like my body is deformed or like I have an illness. I think it's affecting my self confidence, not to mention my relationship with my husband. I don't feel attractive anymore.

I think I'm going to get surgery. I have never had surgery and the idea of having it shaved off and the nerves that are present there is really scary. But it's also having a very negative affect on my psychology and quality of life. I think I will have to go through this.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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