It’s the most extensive study undertaken on the physical appearance of external female genitals. Carried out by researchers from the Cantonal Hospital Lucerne in Switzerland, doctors assessed 657 women ranging from 15 to 84 years old.
The conclusion that there are no normal proportions of what a vagina should look like is most welcomed but arrives amidst the backdrop of a growing female body image crisis.
The goal of the study was to find what commonalities female genitals have in appearance but they found that a baseline appearance was misleading because there was so much variation.
In surveying hundreds of women, they found outer labia’s ranging between about half an inch (1.2 cm) to seven inches (18 cm) long.
The average length of the inner labia was found to be 43 millimetres. However, some measured at five millimetres, while others reached 100 millimetres in length. With regards to the clitoris, the average they found was seven millimetres, with the diverse measurements ranging from 0.5 millimetres to 34 millimetres.
— RoyalCollegeObsGyn (@RCObsGyn) March 12, 2018
At a time when labiaplasty is at its highest adoption rate ever, many professionals in healthcare are concerned about misuse behind this new type of cosmetic surgery. A craze called the designer vagina, in 2016, some 12,000 people in the US elected to have labiaplasty, an operation to change the shape of the inner vulva to make it shorter than the outer vulva. Whilst labiaplasty is certainly needed for women who undertake painful activities like sex, international rates have rising 45% year on year around the world.
With girls as young as 11 having this procedure carried out studies are going on at the moment at Melbourne University to try and figure out why so many young adolescent women are so concerned about the appearance of their genitals.
University of Melbourne researcher Emma Barnard who is leading the study stated, “Something has changed in the last 10-15 years to make women and girls more aware of the appearance of their genital anatomy.” You can find more details behind the Swiss study here.