Is My Vagina Normal? How To Tell If Your Vagina, Clitoris, And Labia Are Healthy

Right there among life's great questions, like "Is there an afterlife?" and "Why did I have to memorize the annual agricultural output of Nebraska in middle school?" lies perhaps the most daunting, most pressing question of them all: "Is my vagina normal?" Well, you can stop worrying, because the answer is yes — and no. See, there is not really any such thing as a normal vagina. Like the leprechaun or the CHUD, the idea of there being one kind of "normal vagina" is a total myth.

Despite the things you may have seen in porn or heard from some of your more weirdly judgmental friends, vaginas — a term which people often use to refer to both the internal vagina itself and the vulva, the set of external genitals that includes the clitoris and the labia — come in an IKEA's worth of sizes, shapes, colors, and other physical variations. However wrinkly or smooth or flappy or bumpy your vagina is, it is a normal vagina.

However, since so many of us have been taught that an healthy or attractive vulva looks a very specific way — short, thin inner labia that don't protrude, with a small, visible clitoris, light-toned skin, and a lack of vaginal discharge — it can be easy to get worried that a partner won't find your junk attractive ... or even worse, that you're having a health problem just because your Georgia O'Keefe doesn't look like all the vaginas you keep seeing on Tumblr.

Odds are that your vagina is A-OK. But just to give you some piece of mind, here's our guide to the different shapes and sizes vaginas and vulvas can come in (as well as a few signs that things are actually not well down below). Are you ready? People, let's learn about our fun-caves!

Your Labia

Your labia are the most visible part of your vulva — the part that splits open into two flaps at the mons pubis. This is called your labia majora. If you spread your labia majora, you'll find your labia minora, which are flaps that stick out on either side of your vaginal opening. Many people grow up believing that the lips of the labia majora or the labia minora are "supposed" to be a certain length, but that isn't true — in about half of all women, the lips of the labia minora are long and stick out from the labia majora. Sometimes both sets of lips are long, sometimes they're thick, and sometimes they're thin. Sometimes the skin of the labia is the same tone as the rest of your skin, sometimes it's darker, and sometimes it's lighter. Some labia are longer on one side than the other. All of these permutations are perfectly normal, and way more common than most adult-oriented publications would have you believe.

For an educationally NSFW look at all the different ways labia can look and still be healthy, check out this gallery of them at the Labia Library. And remember: It's normal to have a lot of wrinkles within the skin of your vulva — that's actually a sign of elasticity, so don't feel like it makes you look "old" or anything like that. That's silly! Everyone loves a stretchy vulva! Stretchy vulvas are our greatest natural resource (I don't have a link to back that up, but I'm pretty certain that it's true).

And most importantly, remember that the size of your labia minora has nothing to do with the number of sexual partners you've had or how often you've had sex. That is a gross (and frankly nonsensical) schoolyard myth. And the inner labia are actually full of nerve endings, so really, the bigger they are, the more potential fun you can have playing around with them.

Normal: Labia of all sizes, lengths and colors, including asymmetrical labia, and labia minora that are larger than the labia majora.

Not Normal: Skin of the labia discolored with white patches can be a sign of a disease called lichen sclerosus, which is most common of women of menopausal age. Itching, burning, and/or bleeding of the skin on the vulva could also be signs of a health problem — anything from a skin condition to an STD. So you'd best talk to your doctor if you're experiencing those symptoms.

Your Clitoris

Right at the top of where the labia minora meet is the clitoris. The flap of skin where they meet, which covers some of the external clitoris, is called the clitoral hood. You may have heard that a clitoris is a tiny pink nub that looks kind of like a pencil eraser (do people even use pencil erasers any more?), but in fact, the clitoris is mostly internal. Three-quarters of the organ is under your skin. The average external part of the clitoris is 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in length, but clitorises have been known to be much larger than that, especially when their erectile tissue has been stimulated.

The external portion of the clitoris can also be smaller than that, and "recessed" or "hidden" clitorises have no portion visible under the hood at all. They also sometimes have folds of skin that sag over the general clitoral area. But having a recessed clitoris doesn't mean that you don't have a clitoris, or that having it touched won't be pleasurable. Check this NSFW gallery of different clitoral hoods to see all the different lengths and amounts of coverage that a clitoral hood can have.

And if there are any goofballs in your life who are still making jokes about how difficult it is to find the clitoris, tell them to shut up and them use this NSFW diagram to inform them of exactly where it is (then tell them that episode of South Park is like 15 years old).

Normal: Long clitorises, short clitorises, or hidden clitorises.

Not Normal: Clitoral pain or soreness, which can be related to over-stimulation during sex or masturbation, or due to a build-up of smegma under your clitoral hood. Also watch out for itching, which can be a sign of a yeast infection.

Your Vagina

Though we often describe the whole vulva as a "vagina," your actual vagina is the small opening located below your urethral opening and clitoris. Though very little of the vagina is visible, if you put your finger inside, you may feel all manner of bumps, ridges and valleys. It's like the Shire in there, right? These bumps are called vaginal rugae, and they are completely normal. In fact, they're awesome — they help the vagina expand for sex and all other sorts of fun stuff.

However, since some STIs, such as genital warts, can cause small abnormal bumps to grow on and inside the vaginal opening, it pays to really familiarize yourself with the texture of your vagina, so that you can be aware if something unusual is going on in there. Get up in there! It's a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon, especially if there isn't a good baseball game on or anything.

Also, if you come away from this article knowing only one thing, I'd like you to know that all the talk about "stretched out" vaginas is a lie. There isn't really such a thing as a vagina that has expanded past the point of no return. Though women who have recently given birth may experience a temporary loss in vaginal muscle tone, you can't "stretch" your vagina through vigorous sex, no matter how many partners you have. Your vagina is a cool and tough organ filled with muscles, not a delicate cashmere sweater.

And finally: Though many of us are taught to believe that vaginal discharge beyond our periods is not normal, discharge is actually a natural part of how your vagina cleans and lubricates itself. Healthy vaginal discharge is clear or white, and can be viscous or almost paste-like.

However, vaginal pain isn't normal, even if it follows sexual intercourse. If intercourse regularly makes you feel sore or in pain, or if you have vaginal pain unrelated to any other activities, talk to your doctor.

Normal: Bumps inside, white and clear discharge.

Not Normal: Clumpy or gray, yellow, or green discharge, often with a strong or foul smell, can indicate problems such as a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. New, abnormal bumps or sores can indicate an STI. Spotting between periods can be related to a wide variety of problems. Itchiness or soreness in or around your vaginal opening can be a sign of an STI, a yeast infection, or another problem a doctor should take a look at.

So as long as your vagina is feeling good, it pretty much is good. See? That wasn't so scary. You can unclench now.

Images: Lies Thru a Lens/Flickr, Giphy (3)

Must Reads