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Information and advice for parents and carers

Why is my child concerned about how their labia look?

Idealised images of vulvas are common in mainstream media, the internet, pornography, art works, medical textbooks and surgical advertisements. Some of these images may have been digitally modified or show labia that have been surgically altered. The internet is a primary source of sexual education and information for teenagers.

Teenagers who are not fully aware of these alterations may become more self-conscious. They may compare their own bodies with these unrealistic, idealised or altered images and come to believe that their labia are not ‘normal’ if they don’t look the same2. Men and boys consume these images too and may have unrealistic ideas about what vulvas ‘should’ look like.

A recent study found that 69% of Australian teenage girls had seen sexually explicit material on the internet, whether intentionally or by chance1. However, it is often hard for them to know if the labia they see have been digitally or physically altered.

While idealised images of labia are common, we have limited access to accurate information about the anatomy and natural diversity of vulvas. See the sections below for information on the anatomy of labia, how you can help your child with their genital body image, tips for having a safe and affirming conversation and external resources.

Information about labia

What do ‘normal’ labia look like?

There is no medical definition of what ‘normal’ labia look like because there is so much natural variation. There can be significant differences in size, colour, symmetry and shape between individuals. For example, the labia minora (inner lips) may be longer than the labia majora (outer lips). One ‘inner’ lip may also be longer than the other. This is completely normal.

More detailed information about differences in labia appearance can be found in the Getting to know your labia section.

What causes labia to look different?

Like any other part of the body, how labia look largely depends on genetics. Physical differences are not caused by masturbation or sex.

Labia naturally come in a wide variety of shapes, colours and sizes, and everyone’s labia are different. 

What do labia do?

Labia have important roles, including protecting the urethra and vagina. The labia minora also have a sexual function and are full of nerve endings that provide sensation and lubrication during sex. Check out the Getting to know your labia page to find out more.

My child removes (or wants to remove) their pubic hair. Is that OK?

Pubic hair is natural. Some people remove their pubic hair because they prefer the look or feel, or for other personal reasons. 

Others may feel pressure or an expectation to remove their pubic hair to conform to social or cultural beauty standards. Visual representations of female genitalia often show the labia as hairless. Leaving some hair on the labia majora is protective and can reduce discomfort and friction from clothing and during sex.

It’s important to note that there are no sanitary reasons for removing pubic hair; while removing it may feel ‘cleaner’ to some, it’s not more hygienic than keeping it.

The trend towards removal of pubic hair among women and girls can make people more aware of the appearance of their labia, which may look different from images they have seen.

How do I address concerns with my child?

My child is worried their labia are ugly or abnormal. What can I do?

Feeling unsure or concerned about labia appearance is common. The anatomy of the vulva and labia continually changes throughout adolescence and early adulthood, with the labia minora often becoming more visible in appearance during puberty.

If your child is concerned about how their labia look, you should reassure them that labia come in all different shapes and sizes, and there is no one version of normal. You might want to browse the photo gallery on the Labia Library website together (or, if they are older, they might prefer to look in their own time). The Labia Library photo gallery contains unmodified and non-sexualised images of labia to show just how different they can be. The Labia Library is recommended by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and is listed as a trusted resource on the Australian Government’s HealthDirect website.

You can also let your child know that labia are not just there for show, but do important things for their body, such as:

  • protecting the urethra and vagina from irritation, dryness and infection
  • contributing to enjoyment of sex

Highlighting what labia do over what they look like can help your child understand that there is much more to labia than how they look, and is a good way to address fears about differences in genital appearance.  

It may also be helpful to try to understand why your child is worried about their labia. You can initiate this conversation by asking if there’s anything they have seen online, or if someone has said something that has made them feel anxious about their labia.

Media influences

If your child is comparing themselves to online images, it can be useful to discuss the different pressures and influences that affect how they feel about their labia, such as pornography or cosmetic surgery advertisements on social media. If you’re not comfortable speaking to your child about these topics, you can direct them to the what you see in the media page of the Labia Library website. More information about positive body image and managing body image concerns is available on the Butterfly website.

Social pressures and bullying

If your child is worried about their labia because someone said something, it can be reassuring to acknowledge that most people don’t know much about what vulvas look like and how different they can be. People making negative comments may have made an assumption that everyone looks the same, which is not the case. They might have been told something or heard something about the way that labia ‘should’ look. Maybe they’ve never seen a vulva at all and don’t really know what to expect. 

It should be emphasised that it is not OK for anyone to comment or pass judgement on your child’s (or anyone’s) labia. Vulvas are as diverse as faces and just as we don’t expect everyone’s face to be the same, nor should we expect vulvas to be the same. 

Headspace have information on how parents and carers can help young people who are being bullied. For information on respectful relationships, visit 1800RESPECT.

You can find tips for having a safe and affirming conversation about genital body image with your child below.

For some children, concerns about the appearance of their labia can become overwhelming. If your child’s ability to engage in their schooling, social life or other activities is limited by their concerns, it is important to seek help from a psychologist.


I’m worried my child’s labia are abnormal. What should I do?

There is no medical definition of a ‘normal’ labia. Labia come in a wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes, with varying degrees of symmetry. The anatomy of the vulva and labia will also continually change throughout adolescence and early adulthood, with the labia minora often becoming more visible during puberty. If your child hasn’t raised any concerns about their labia, there is no reason for you to be concerned. You also shouldn’t expect that your child’s labia will look like yours, or their siblings’. Like any part of the body, it is common for family members to have labia that look different from each other.

Browse the Labia Library photo gallery to see how diverse labia are. Keep in mind that research shows that girls’ body image and self-esteem can be influenced by the way their parents talk about their own bodies3.

What if my child experiences discomfort with their labia?

Sometimes labia may feel uncomfortable or itchy. Simple changes, such as wearing underwear or clothes that are one size bigger and avoiding small, tight-fitting underwear, may help to reduce discomfort. 

If your child continues to experience painful or constantly itchy labia, they should seek support from a doctor or a gynaecologist.

Labiaplasty: what is it and what are the risks?

Female genital cosmetic surgery refers to any procedure that aims to change the look or function of the vulva or vagina. 

Labiaplasty is the most common form of female genital cosmetic surgery and involves the removal of tissue from the labia minora and/or removal or increase of tissue from the labia majora4.

There is not enough evidence to show that female genital cosmetic procedures are safe or that they are effective at improving body image, sexual satisfaction or self-esteem. These procedures also have significant risks, including:

  • scarring
  • numbness
  • pain
  • discolouration of the labia

Some online cosmetic surgery advertisements make claims which suggest that labiaplasty improves hygiene and that longer labia increase the risk of vaginal or urinary infections. This is not supported by evidence.

Performing labiaplasty on children younger than 18 years old is strongly discouraged, as they are more likely to experience complications due to the ongoing development of the labia throughout puberty5.




Tips for having conversations about labia with your child

Know the anatomy and function of labia and the vulva

When talking to your child about labial diversity, a good way to start is by asking how much they already know. You could pose a question such as, ‘How much do you know about the vulva, for example the names of the different parts?’. Visit the Anatomy section of the Labia Library for this information. This can then lead to a conversation about the functions of the vulva, and the different roles that each part plays. Further questions could include: ‘Do you know what the labia do?’ or ‘What are the main functions of the labia?’ This conversation might involve talking about the sexual function of the labia. It may be helpful to direct your child to the Getting to know your labia section of the Labia Library.


It is also important to consider your choice of words. Off-the-cuff remarks can be misinterpreted and can contribute to your child’s concerns about the way that they look. Avoiding judgemental language about the appearance of your child’s labia or anyone else’s labia is a good place to start.  

It is important to be calm and compassionate throughout these conversations with your child, and to keep the lines of communication open so that you can help them navigate any harmful situations.

Some useful questions
  • Do you know the names for the different parts of the vulva?
  • Do you know what labia do?
  • When did you start to worry about what your labia look like? 
  • Has anyone said something to you to make you feel that your labia aren’t normal?
  • Have you seen anything that has made you worried about what your labia look like?
  • How is this worry about your labia appearance affecting you? (e.g. does it change how you feel about yourself? Are these feelings affecting your friendships, schoolwork or romantic relationships?)

Where can I find more information?

If you or your child still have concerns, contact your GP or explore the resources below.


1 Crabbe M, Flood M, Adams K (2024) Pornography exposure and access among young Australians: a cross-sectional study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. (Mar 19): 100135. Online ahead of print.

2 James A, Webster A (2018) I never realised they were so different: understanding the impact of the Labia Library. Women’s Health Victoria. Melbourne. – (Women’s Health Victoria Knowledge Paper; 2).

3 Bauer K, Bucchianeri M, Neumark-Sztainer D (2013) Mother-reported parental weight talk and adolescent girls’ emotional health, weight control attempts, and disordered eating behaviors. Journal of Eating Disorders. 1:45: 1-8.  

4 RACGP (2015) Female genital cosmetic surgery: a resource for general practitioners and other health professionals. Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Melbourne.

5 BritSPAG (2013) Labial reduction surgery (labiaplasty) on adolescents (Position Statement) British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology (BritSPAG).  London.

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