What Is a Labiaplasty?
Labiaplasty, also known as aesthetic vaginal surgery, is a cosmetic procedure involving the reshaping or resizing of a female’s labia. Labiaplasty is most often performed on the inner labia (the labia minora) if they are particularly large or asymmetrical. The procedure can also include improving the appearance of the outer labia, and can often be done in conjunction with cosmetic changes to the urethra and vagina.1
How is labiaplasty performed?
An entire labiaplasty procedure lasts anywhere from one to two hours. The simple surgery can be performed in a hospital or in a gynecologist’s office. The popular preference among patients is to have the surgery done in a hospital with a surgeon who specializes in cosmetic surgery. Patients are usually put under local anesthesia. Labiaplasty surgeons do not commonly use stronger forms of anesthesia and sedation because of their negative effects on the patient (such as nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness), which can often complicate the otherwise simple recovery process. Because this is a cosmetic surgery, the incision sites are usually on the inner part of the labia, closest to the urethra, as it is less visible in case of any unlikely scarring. The incisions are small, and dissolvable stiches are usually used to give a more natural appearance when the labia tissue is healed. When seeking to improve the appearance of the outer labia, the procedure most commonly includes liposuction, but can involve surgical reduction.1
Labiaplasty can be done using scalpels, scissors, or lasers. The instruments used in the procedure vary depending on the surgeon’s preferences. Results are generally no different when done by one instrument compared to another; as long as the surgeon is skilled, they will be able to produce satisfying results.1
Recovering from Labiaplasty
Labiaplasty is an outpatient procedure, so the recovery process is relatively easy, provided there are no complications. Patients who undergo a labiaplasty procedure are usually released from the hospital the same day; as little as an hour after the surgery is complete. Discomfort and swelling of the incision site are common after surgery, and will usually subside within two weeks. Patients are allowed to return to normal activity three to five days following a labiaplasty procedure, however it is advised that they refrain from using tampons, avoid wearing tight or irritating undergarments, and abstain from sexual activity for at least six weeks. It is likely that a surgeon will schedule a post-op appointment with the patient within the proceeding two months. A patient is expected to be healed completely about three months after the procedure.1
If labiaplasty is done at the same time as another cosmetic surgery, such as vaginoplasty, breast augmentation, or liposuction, the recovery process many be slightly different and reasonably longer than the process described above. However, many patients find it convenient to have multiple procedures done at the same time, especially if they all pertain to one region of the body, such as the vulva.1
The health risks of having a labiaplasty procedure are the same as those associated with any procedure. When undergoing surgery, a patient runs the risk of scarring, infection and bleeding. Trained and skilled surgeons will take the necessary precautions to ensure that the risk of these dangers to a patient’s health is minimized, so there are rarely these types of complications after labiaplasty. A very common risk associated with having a cosmetic surgery is the possibility that the outcome will not be what the patient expected.1 This is why it is important to have a serious consultation with a surgeon before the procedure to discuss the desired outcome of labiaplasty.
The cost of a typical labiaplasty procedure ranges from about $3000 to $8000 USD, depending on the surgeon and location of the procedure. It is common for specialists to offer labiaplasty in conjunction with another procedure, such as vaginoplasty, at a lower price than having both of the procedures done separately.1 Cosmetic surgery is intended to make patients feel better about themselves, so a crucial thing to remember when choosing a surgeon is that the price of the surgery can often reflect the quality of the outcome. One should be careful not to settle for a surgeon they are less comfortable with solely because it is all they can afford. Feeling happy and comfortable with one’s own body is priceless.
Reasons for Labiaplasty
There are many reasons for why a female might consider having labiaplasty surgery. A common complaint is that the irregular size or shape of the labia can make it uncomfortable or even painful to participate in everyday activities such as wearing tight clothing, riding a bike, or engaging in sexual intercourse. Another common problem that females have in relation to their labia is that they feel unattractive. No vulva is the same, and the appearance of the female genitals is affected by genetics, sexual activity, and childbirth. Many women feel that their labia are the wrong color, shape, or size and may become embarrassed in front of sexual partners. Getting labiaplasty can help these women feel more comfortable in front of their sexual partners and boost their general self-esteem. In addition to making women feel more emotionally and physically comfortable, the results of labiaplasty can improve sexual pleasure. The labia are often pulled more tightly as they are reshaped, therefore tightening the clitoral hood of the vulva. This increases clitoral stimulation as other parts of the vulva are touched, increasing sensation and pleasure during sexual activity.1
Reasons Against Labiaplasty
An important argument against having labiaplasty is that females have unrealistic expectations of what it is to have “normal” genitals. Use caution when deciding whether or not the appearance of your labia is abnormal. The inaccurate depictions of the vulva in pornography shouldn’t be regarded as the only look a female’s genitals can have. No two labia are the same, not even the ones on the same vulva! It is often difficult for even surgeons to make the left and right labia look exactly the same, so it is crucial to realize that it is completely natural to have asymmetric labia or labia that look slightly different than others you may have seen. It is also not advised that a female change the appearance of her labia solely because of the opinion of her partner. Being comfortable with your own body is all that matters, so if you are okay with appearance of your genitals, your partner should be too.
Another common reason that people have for not getting labiaplasty is the misconception that surgery on the labia will decrease the sensitivity of the vulva during sex. This is generally untrue. Labiaplasty does not decrease the sensitivity of a female’s vulva, as there is usually little sexual pleasure derived from touching only the labia. In fact, because of the effects on the clitoral hood, labiaplasty can effectively increase sexual sensitivity.1
1. Sometimes You Have to Travel to Get the Best Labiaplasty Surgeon." Labiplastysurgeon.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.
2. LeVay, Simon, Janice I. Baldwin, and John D. Baldwin. Discovering Human Sexuality. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2012. Print.
Last Updated 23 April 2015.