What is Labiaplasty?
Labiaplasty is an increasingly popular plastic surgery procedure that lifts or trims a woman’s inner genital lips (labia minora) to better conform with her outer lips (labia majora). It may also be performed to reduce asymmetry when one of the labia minora is longer than the other. Overly large labia may be due to childbirth, natural aging, or genetics. Not only can this cause women to feel self-conscious, but often pain and discomfort as well, causing many women to avoid exercise and sex.
The most commonly performed female genital cosmetic procedure, labiaplasty surgery has a satisfaction rate of over 90 percent. In 2016, there were 12,000 labiaplasty surgeries reported by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, an increase of 39% over 2015.
Benefits of the Procedure
- Labiaplasty alleviates the twisting and pulling some women experience of the labia minora when riding a bike or during intercourse. It also helps reduce itching, irritation, infection, and bathing suit issues.
- It often involves removing the sometimes obtrusive, darker labia margin to reveal more attractive, pinker tissue.
- This procedure can correct excessive thickness of the labia, as well as irregular tissue edges. Depending on a woman’s anatomy, it may also be performed on the labia majora (the larger, outer vaginal lips).
- For most women, the greatest benefit of labiaplasty is an improved self-image and greater self-confidence. In fact, over 90% of women opting for this procedure do so purely for cosmetic reasons.
Why the Labiaplasty Boom?
The current purely aesthetic form of labiaplasty was introduced in 1984. It first gained popularity in the mid-1990s with the wider dissemination of pictures of women’s ‘ideal genitalia’ on the internet as well as tighter fitting clothes.
Research indicates that women are opting for this procedure for their own reasons, seldom because their partners are encouraging them to do so. Many want the same perfectly symmetrical look with the smaller labia they see online. However, such ‘ideal perfection’ may not be desirable.
Make Sure Your Surgeon is Board-Certified
Because ‘cosmetic gynecology’ has no certification requirements, physicians can present themselves as qualified to perform related procedures when they are anything but. So, above all, make sure that your surgeon is board certified and experienced with this procedure. Otherwise, you may get a botched surgery, something that can be difficult to fix.
During your initial consultation with Dr. Roth, you should speak openly about your feelings and concerns as well your expectations for surgery.
- See your family doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to have surgery. This may include having blood work done or an EKG depending on your age and your medical history.
- Quit smoking at least 4 weeks before your surgery.
- For at least 10 days before and after your operation, avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen or any substance that might increase the risk of bleeding or bruising.
- Take any prescribed antibiotics beginning the day of your procedure.
The exact procedure you will undergo depends on the anatomy of your labia, something to carefully discuss with Dr Roth during your initial consultation.
In the procedure room, your surgeon will first mark the area to be removed. You will be given a topical anesthetic, followed by a local anesthetic to numb the area during and for a few hours after surgery. Afterwards, we use a 3 day pain medication called Exparel to ensure you are comfortable during your recovery.
Recovering from a labiaplasty
This is a very low-risk procedure with a fast recovery. Stitches will dissolve on their own and do not need to be removed during a later follow-up appointment. Most patients find the recovery is much easier than they expect, as the labia heal very quickly. Bruising and swelling are common and resolve on their own over a couple weeks.
Patients normally take a couple days off from work, during which they can reduce swelling and pain by icing the area with a cold pack every placed between the patient’s underpants and an elastic garment. This can be done “twenty minutes on, twenty minutes off.”
Patients can resume wearing tampons and having intercourse after 6 weeks, similar to the recovery period after childbirth.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is recovery like? We use a 3-day pain medication – Exparel – which allows you to be numb during the 1st 72 hours after your procedure. Subsequently, patients are prescribed pain medication to take as needed.
- How much time should I take off from work/ my activities? You must be off feet about 3 days and avoid strenuous exercise for 4 weeks.
- Will there be scars? Scars are minimal since the mucosa heals very quickly and with minimal scarring.
- If I haven’t had children, can I still have this procedure done? Absolutely!
- Can it be combined with other procedures? Definitely!
- Is Labiaplasty Covered by Insurance? Most health insurance plans don’t cover plastic surgeries because they’re almost always elective. However, a labiaplasty may be covered if it is medically necessary when a patient has, for example, labial hypertrophy (overgrowth) caused by excess testosterone, congenital conditions, or chronic irritation.
Risks of Labiaplasty
The low risks associated with labiaplasty include those of most surgical procedures, including possible bleeding, hematoma, and infection.