Today I went out on my usual morning run. This is my favorite time to think and clear my head. On top of mind today? Labia, specifically the labia minora. Why does a gynecologist consider labia minora while running? Well, it’s all about the gusset of my running clothes of course. The gusset, aka the crotch, is the patch of material in one’s shorts, skort, tights or panties that abuts the vulva, the external genitalia. Newsflash, this is actually a big deal when it comes to vulvar health and wellness.
First, let’s get some basic anatomy squared away. The vulva consists of the labia majora (outer lips), the labia minora (inner lips…. and more on this to come), the clitoris (glans covered by hood), the mons pubis (fleshy mound over pubic bone) and everything else in the external genitalia. The vagina, is the inside canal with its opening mid vulva, between the urethra (up top where you pee from) and the anus (towards the back from which you defecate).
The gusset is typically shaped like a triangle, square or diamond and it allows for multiple benefits. First, it provides more breadth to the crotch, allowing for free and easy movement. Second and super important, the gusset can be made from a different material than the synthetic garment you’re wearing. Gynos prefer cotton in the crotch, since it is breathable and absorbent. Breathability is important because yeast and bacteria thrive in moist dark environments. Breathable fabrics, like 100% cotton, discourage this. This means less chance of infection. Organic cotton might be even better for those who have sensitive skin. Finally, gussets serve another function. Since synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, Lycra or Spandex aren’t always so comfy against intimate skin, gussets can provide a softer more plush place for your vulva and protect from the friction of exercise or everyday movement. The labia minora come in many shapes and sizes and are thus particularly vulnerable to chaffing and irritation. Who knew? One final note, think about thongs carefully. A cotton crotch and of course a proper fit, can make a world of difference in comfort and v-health when wearing a thong.
I see many women in my office young, older and in between who complain about vulvar chaffing, irritation, itching, redness and even yeast or bacterial infections that seem directly related to exercise. In fact, these symptoms might be related to the crotch of their workout clothes, specifically the shape, size, material or seam placement of the gusset. Skipping the work out is not an option; changing choice of gym clothes is.
So yes Lululemon, I’m talking to you! Listen up Athleta and you too Nike peeps. The time has come to up your gusset game for those of us with labia minora. Our labia deserve a no chaffing, no friction, no crimping or catching v-qool work out, after all.