While there's tons of info out there to help you figure out if your breasts are normal (not to mention visual evidence), vaginas are pretty mysterious. It’s difficult to get solid facts about your lady-garden. So we turned to Brook McFadden, M.D., assistant professor in the division of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at The Ohio State University, to get the scoop.
The thing that makes it hard to figure out how you compare: Barely anyone has studied va-jay-jay sizes. McFadden, whose focus is on how vulva measurements can influence body image, is on a mission to change that. In her most recent research, she replicated scientist Jillian Lloyd’s study "Female genital appearance: normality unfolds" from the May 2005 issue of the British Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. It measured the private parts of 50 women who were going to the gynecologist for reasons other than pelvic dysfunction. To build on that research, McFadden studied 168 women, median age 57 years, using the same technique as Lloyd—so the scientific world can start to bank important information about women’s bodies. Here’s what the abstract of her study, which appeared earlier this year in Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, has to say about what's up down there (the full study text isn't available yet since it hasn't been published).
Your Labia Minora
These are the smaller, inner lips that surround your vaginal opening. When it comes to width, McFadden (who prefers her research be noted in centimeters) found that the left labia minora was an average of 2.1 centimeters wide, with a range of 0.4 to 6.4 centimeters. The right was an average of 1.9 centimeters wide, with a range of 0.3 to 7.0 centimeters. And how long were they? The left labia minora was an average of 4.0 centimeters long (about the size of a baby carrot) with a range of 1.2 to 7.5 centimeters, while the right labia minora was an average of 3.8 centimeters long and ranged from 0.8 to 8.0. Notice anything interesting there?
For starters, labia minora come in wildly different lengths from woman to woman. Second, the two sides aren’t the same! “There is a statistically significant difference between the left and right labia minora, which shows that it’s normal if yours are different sizes,” says McFadden. The only time you should really worry about yours is if you experience a lot of chafing or rubbing to the point where you become uncomfortable. “That’s the time to go in and get evaluated,” says McFadden. If you’re considering a surgical labia modification for cosmetic reasons, researchers don’t even know if it improves self-image. “There’s no valid data on that, so it’s a very controversial topic,” says McFadden.
Your Labia Majora
These are like the parentheses around your labia minora. As the outer lips, they bookend the awesomeness that is the rest of your external reproductive anatomy. The participants’ labia majora were both an average of 8.1 centimeters long (about the size of a bottle of nail polish), with a range of 4.0 to 11.5 centimeters. As you get older, your labia minora and majora both become smaller, according to the abstract. Interesting, right?
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Much like the rest of your anatomy, there’s a pretty broad variation when it comes to your pleasure button. In McFadden’s study, clitoral width ranged from 0.2 to 2.5 centimeters with an average of 0.8. Participants had a clitoral length of anywhere from 0.4 to 4.0 centimeters, with an average of 1.6 centimeters (a bit smaller than the button on your jeans). One especially interesting finding is that “increased clitoral width was associated with likelihood of orgasm during intercourse,” says the abstract. So if you’re hitting the jackpot almost every time, you may have been blessed with a wider clitoris than women who have an easier time getting off in other ways.
Your Vaginal Canal
McFadden’s findings on the vaginal canal haven’t been presented yet, but in the meantime, she thinks it makes sense to follow the guidelines for length from the 2005 study. They found that the average length of a vagina is 9.6 centimeters (about the length of a tube of lip gloss), while the range is between 6.5 and 12.5 centimeters. As for the width, the most recent research is from a 1995 (yes, seriously!) paper in Obstetrics & Gynecology called “Vaginal anatomy and sexual function.” Still, even though it isn’t recent, McFadden is comfortable with its assertion that the range for vaginal diameter is 2.1 to 3.5 centimeters. “One thing to note is that only two women with diameters of 2.1 were sexually active, and both had pain with intercourse,” says McFadden. Unless you’re experiencing pain with sex or an inability to use tampons or even get your period, you likely fall into the normal range for both width and length. And of course, your vagina’s width and length adjust during events like intercourse and birth to better accommodate what your body’s dealing with.
The bottom line is that unless you’re experiencing some kind of discomfort or interruption of sexual function, it’s likely your goods fall in the regular range. While outside influences can affect whether you think you’re "normal," chances are everything you’ve got looks fine and is in good working condition. The abstract even concludes that while measurements vary from woman to woman, "they do not correlate with body or genital self-image." Still not sure everything checks out down there? Schedule a chat with a doctor. That’s what they’re there for, after all!
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