Ladies, have you ever wondered if your genitals were “normal?”
I perform physical examinations on all of my new patients. This examination includes a pelvic exam. One of the most unique aspects of my job is educating a woman on her own anatomy. I am often the first person who has ever asked a woman if she has any questions or concerns about her anatomy. I give my patient a hand mirror to hold and using a long qtip I point out the clitoral hood, the head of the clitoris, the urethra, introitus, labia minora and labia majora. All of these structures make up the vulva. The vagina cannot be visualized without a speculum. This terminology has been historically confused.
The most common question that I’m asked is, “Am I normal?”
I have noticed that some women carry around deep shame and embarrassment by the appearance of their vulva. They truly believe that their vulva is ugly and deformed. This deeply saddens me. Since I look at vulvas on a daily basis, I know for a fact that, like snowflakes, no two vulvas are alike! Labia come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Most women’s labia aren’t symmetrical, aren’t uniform in color and it’s incredibly common for a woman’s inner labia to protrude beyond the outer labia. All of these variations are completely, 100% NORMAL!
Another common question is, “Why do my genitals look different than what I see in porn?”
Just like the images of models in magazines have been digitally altered to give them flawless skin and trimmer bodies, the vulvas in leading men’s magazines have also been altered! These magazines have created unrealistic expectations and distortions of what the normal vulva looks like for both men and women which is only fueling the insecurities.
I think if more women (and men) looked at more pictures of “normal” vulvas, women would feel more confident about their own anatomy and men would have more realistic expectations. I highly recommend the book, “Femalia” edited by Joani Blank. It contains 32 full-color photographs of female genitalia reflecting the diversity of women’s bodies beautifully. When I show the pictures to my patients in the office they always say the same thing, “I’m normal!”
And I can guarantee you that your vulva is normal too!