Cycling increases a woman’s risk of a swollen labia, vaginal irritation and thrush, claims expert

We are told that cycling is good for us – it’s a low-impact exercise that’s easier on your joints than running.

But for women, the activity increases their risk of nasty infections and can negatively impact their sex lives.

That’s according to a leading gynaecologist, who says the pressure of biking can also cause swelling of the labia (the inner and outer folds), vaginal irritation and bladder problems.

IThis happens because the vulva bears as much as 40 per cent of a woman’s body weight when cycling, as Cycling UK explain.

Pradnya Pisal, consultant gynaecologist at London Gynaecology told Metro all cyclists – male and female – will suffer some discomfort in their nether regions.

But for women it appears the effects of the hobby are beyond getting a little saddle sore.

Mrs Pisal said: ‘All cyclists, male and female, have problems related to the genitalia.

‘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 (UTIs).’

For women who already have asymmetrical or enlarged labia, this can exacerbated skin problems, she explained.

Sexual dysfunction

Indeed, previous research backs up Mrs Pisal’s comments.

A study by scientists at Yale University School of Medicine in 2016 which was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found cycling more than 100 miles a week caused ‘significant reduction’ in genital sensation.

It also reported a notable increase in pain and numbness, leading to ‘sexual dysfunction’ for some.

Vaginal thrush, a common yeast infection, can be extremely irritating and difficult to treat as for some women it can keep coming back.

While it isn’t classed as an STI, it can be passed back and forth between sexual partners.

Lower UTIs aren’t usually a cause for major concern, but upper UTIs can be serious if left untreated, as they could damage the kidneys or spread to the bloodstream.

Women who are suffering these problems should not let embarrassment stop them seeking help from their GP, urged Mrs Pisal.

Rising number of women having ‘saddle surgery’ 

Experts say there is a rising number of women opting for major surgery in their nether regions to allow them to ride their bicycles comfortably.

Dubbed ‘saddle surgery’, the painful procedure involves cutting off part of the inner labia – or labia minora – to stop them from rubbing and being pinched against the seat of their bicycles.

Harley Street surgeon Angelica Kavoumi says she consults around nine women about it a week – compared to three women a week just a year ago.

The procedure has become very popular over the last six years,’ she previously told FEMAIL.

She insists women are not so much opting for labioplasty in a quest for ‘designer vaginas’.

 ‘For most women, it is an issue of comfort,’ she explained. ‘It’s not about body image; it has more to do with sport and quality of life.’   


If you’re an avid cyclist suffering discomfort but don’t want to go under the knife, there are less drastic measures you can take.

In his book, Bike Fit, Phil Burt, head of physio at British Cycling, says investing in a decent padded cycle seats and padded shorts could help reduce the damage in the long-run.

It was once thought women need a wider saddle than men because our child-bearing able hips are further apart.

But a saddle can be too wide, causing chaffing on the inner thighs after a long ride, he explains.

Women often prefer cutaway or anatomic saddles with a hole carved out of the middle which aim to relieve pressure on their neither region.

But he says this can redistributing the pressure to the sides and make the pain there even worse, causing numbness.

He also says getting the saddle of your angle right is key – tip it slightly downwards if it doesn’t feel right after a good few miles.

Making sure your bike fits you properly and keep clean by making sure you wash your shorts after every ride is important too.

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