Your 'Outie Vagina' Is Perfectly Normal
It's hard not to compare your body to those you see online. When it comes to your genitals, it can be very challenging to understand what "normal" is, especially considering that we are usually comparing ourselves to porn stars or other supposedly "perfect" representations of bodies.
Every month, more than 20,000 people search for the term "outie vagina" online. Having an outie is a perfectly normal variation of genital anatomy, even though so many people worry that it's abnormal.
If you're self-conscious about the shape and size of your genitals, read on for some clarity.
What is an outie vagina?
First, it's important to know that the term "outie vagina" is a misnomer, as the vagina is an internal organ. The vulva is the externally visible part of the external female genital anatomy. When people refer to an outie vagina, they are describing when the labia minora, the inner lips of the vulva, extend past the labia majora, the outer lips.
According to a 2017 study on the size of labia minora and the perception of genital appearance, about 56 percent of women have an outie vagina. The study indicated that people with visible labia minora are most likely to consider their genitals "abnormal." Of those who considered their genital appearance abnormal, 73 percent had an outie vagina.
Despite such a large population of people with vulvas thinking themselves abnormal, they actually have a "perfectly normal anatomic variation," said Jennifer Goldkamp, M.D., an OB-GYN at Carle BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Illinois.
'Vulvas come in all sorts of variations between size, shape, color, etcetera, that there's no reason to be self-conscious.'
"There's no reason to be concerned by having your inner vaginal lips be longer than the outer ones," Goldkamp reassured. "Vulvas come in all sorts of variations between size, shape, color, etcetera, that there's no reason to be self-conscious."
If you're really concerned about the appearance of your vulva, talk to your doctor.
"You can always bring it up at your next OB-GYN appointment, but the great odds are that as long as you're not experiencing discomfort or pain due to your anatomy, your doctor will reassure you that your genitals fall within the range of what is typical," Goldkamp said.
"As a gynecologist, it's my job to help educate people on what is normal and help them feel comfortable in their own skin," she continued. "The genitals are a fascinating part of the body with so much natural variation. It's most important to me as a doctor that you know what your normal is so you can tell when something abnormal is going on."
Is an outie vagina harmful?
In general, an outie vagina is a normal variation of genital anatomy. However, there are certain situations where it may be a good idea to get your vagina checked out by a doctor, such as when you have a condition called labial hypertrophy, which occurs when your longer labia minora causes pain or discomfort.
"In the situation of labial hypertrophy, there's no denying that something isn't right," said Rebekah Ross, M.D., an OB-GYN in Houston. "One of the most common symptoms of labial hypertrophy is having to fold up the labia and sometimes push the labia minora into the vagina to lessen the appearance of excess tissue or a bulge in your underwear."
But what can be done about labial hypertrophy? The first step is to talk to your OB-GYN about it. Your doctor can determine if you can make lifestyle changes to accommodate your larger labia minora. In severe cases, if it's medically necessary, your OB-GYN might recommend a labiaplasty, a surgery that reduces the size of the labia.
Surgery should not be something you rush into to alleviate a body image issue.
While labiaplasty has become popular in recent years, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) opposes the use of labiaplasty for purely cosmetic reasons. This is because it's an irreversible major medical procedure with a potentially lengthy recovery time, Ross explained. However, for people who experience frequent irritation and pain due to their elongated labia minora, it is an option to consider.
Labiaplasty may be a great tool when necessary, but for most people, having an outie vagina is not harmful, and surgery should not be something you rush into to alleviate a body image issue. The surgery has limited benefits, as it does not improve sexual response, nor does it guarantee an improvement in body image. You could go through the process of labiaplasty and still feel self-conscious about your genitals.
In conclusion, your vagina is normal
Having an outie vagina is a perfectly normal variation of genital anatomy. You have no reason to be self-conscious if that is how your body presents itself.
If you're concerned about the shape of your vulva, talk to your OB-GYN, who can reassure you about the variety of vulvas and vaginas that exist. If you experience discomfort or pain due to elongated labia minora, bring that up to your doctor, because you may have labial hypertrophy.
But as long as your anatomy is not causing discomfort, you have nothing to worry about. Don't let your perception of what a vulva "should" look like prevent you from embracing the beauty of your body.