• 23:17
  • 15.07.2019
Wait a minute, does cycling make your vulva bigger?
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Wait a minute, does cycling make your vulva bigger?

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I started cycling properly a year ago, when I moved back to London from living abroad and realised how much I hated the tube.
It’s hot, it’s crowded and the majority of people are absolute miseries.
So I kicked my crappy little Rayleigh town bike to the kerb and got myself an old but speedy road bike.
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I started cycling a 20 mile round commute, which was great as it meant I saved £6.10 a day on travel and got my daily exercise out the way at the same time.
However, while I was expecting my legs to burn, I wasn’t expecting my vagina to.
That’s right, ladies – all that cycling had given me thrush, a urinary tract infection and the pièce de résistance – swollen labia.
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I was not having a nice time.
After gobbling some Canesten and Boots own brand cystitis sachets, I Googled ‘cycling swollen vulva’ and discovered there were such things as special female saddles with gaps in to alleviate labial pressure. I like to call them ‘flap gaps’ but that’s probably not a specialist term.
So, I waddled my bruised (I kid you not, it was getting purple) vag to the nearest bike shop and meekly asked about their female saddles.
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The problem with bike shops is that the workers are mostly men, so even if you’re not embarrassed about discussing your labia with a total stranger, chances are they won’t be able to empathise that much, so they just do the best they can with the products they sell.
I was prescribed suggested the women’s Riva saddle from Specialized (below) and honestly, I swear I could hear my vulva whispering, ‘Thank you’ when we took our first voyage on it.
So anyway, while my vulva was no longer bruised, over time I’ve caught sight of myself in the mirror while prancing naked in my room (shut up, you do it too) and wondered, ‘Hang on, are my labia getting bigger?’
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I had a chat with my fellow cycling friend over a couple of Aperol Spritz (other spritz are available) and she too had noticed that her labia were creepin’ up on the size scale.
I wanted to get to the bottom of this.
I contacted a gynaecologist (who is a fellow cyclist) to ask her some questions about my flaps (and yours, if you have them).
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‘All cyclists, male and female, have problems related to the genitalia,’ explains Mrs Pradnya Pisal, consultant gynaecologist at London Gynaecology to metro.co.uk.
‘For women cyclists, the most common problems are chafing, saddle sores, skin sensitivity and numbness, labial enlargement, vaginal irritation and infection (thrush and bacterial vaginosis), skin infections and urinary tract infections.’
I got 99 problems and my vagina really is one.
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Enlarged labia
Pradnya says that pressure on your vulva from the saddle can cause swollen labia, which can cause intense pain.
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‘Some women already have asymmetrical or enlarged (hypertrophied) labia and this can be a problem as the skin problems are likely to be exacerbated in women,’ she explains.
‘I have come across women with enlarged labia who have sought labiaplasty (surgery to reduce the size of the labia) as the pressure causes intense pain during cycle rides so much so that they are unable to continue riding.’
That’s pretty extreme, and something I won’t be considering unless my new saddle suddenly turns on me and becomes uncomfortable.
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Decreased sensitivity
So there’s good news and there’s bad news.
There are reports that lots of cycling can result in decreased genital sensitivity and that saddle shape can exacerbate the problem.
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Plus all the above problems may make you less likely to want to have sex.
However, Pradnya reminds us that ‘cycling, like any other sport releases endorphins and elevates mood and hence is likely to improve sex life’
So, while, yes, cycling can make your labia bigger, really, if you’re not in pain – who cares?
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I love cycling and if having a bit of camel toe in my yoga leggings is a trade off for all those endorphins, not having to deal with commuters and saving loads of money, then so be it.
We’re living in a world where girls as young as nine are seeking out vaginal surgery, and this is not okay.
If you’ve got a vagina that functions as it should, then regardless of what it looks like, your vagina is great. It’s bloody perfect, actually.
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So, keep on cycling and apologies if my labia hit you in the wind.

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