From pubic hair to strange smells – Doctors explain what's actually normal 'down there'

Am I normal?

Everyone has asked themselves this question at some point, and many of us do it all the time.

Sometimes we can ask family or friends about our concerns, but when it comes to what’s going on ‘down there’ most of us are too embarrassed.

This can mean we spend years thinking we’re not normal, and between 2015-16 more than 200 girls under the age of 18 had plastic surgery on their vulvas. Shockingly, 150 of the girls were under 15.

But thankfully, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has answered all our questions in an information booklet so we can all stop worrying.

Every woman is different

What is a vulva?

The vulva is the outside bit of your genitals made up of your clitoris and the labia.

Everyone’s is different and they come in lots of different shapes and sizes.

The clitoris is extremely sensitive and can get bigger if you’re feeling turned on as blood rushes to the area.

The labia are the lips which protect your vagina. You have two sets – inner and outer – and they’re normally darker than the rest of your skin.

The skin might be smooth of bumpy and one bit might be longer than the other.

Lots of people worry they’re not normal

How much pubic hair is normal and should I shave or wax it?

Again, this is completely different for every woman.

Some have loads of hair while others don’t get much at all.

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It can be straight or curly, and it can grow on the thighs, tummy and around the bum.

Some people choose to shave or wax it off but it’s completely down to personal choice.

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Should a vulva smell?

The vagina should have a natural scent.

It’s self-cleaning, and if you wash it too much you can actually cause a bacterial imbalance which can make it smell unpleasant.

Is it normal to touch your vulva?

Yes. You need to get to know your body, and exploring is a natural part of growing up.

It’s important to know where everything is

What is a labiaplasty?

Labiaplasty is a type of plastic surgery which reduces the size of the labia.

It shouldn’t be carried out on anyone under the age of 18 as the body is still developing.

It comes with several risks including a loss of sensation, infection and pain.

Who should I speak to if I’m worried I’m not normal?

There are lots of people you can speak to, and they’ve heard it all before so it’s really not a big deal.

You can book an appointment with your doctor or visit a sexual health clinic.

The booklet suggests looking at it in a mirror to help you gain confidence and knowledge.

It’s important to be familiar with it

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists teamed up with sexual health charity Brook to create the booklet, which is available online and in doctors’ surgeries. You can read the full version here .

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Louise Williams, clinical nurse specialist at University College Hospital and co-lead of the project, said: “We see many patients in our paediatric and adolescent gynaecology clinic who have a poor understanding of the function of parts of the anatomy and also of normal genital variation.

“This educational resource will help young people to understand their vulva and how it develops during puberty, particularly if they are worried about how they look or feel.

“We hope it will reassure young people that vulvas come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and if they need advice and support, they can know where to go.”


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