What is labiaplasty?
Labiaplasty is a surgical cosmetic procedure where skin is removed from the outer folds of the female labia. This surgical procedure helps women feel more comfortable and can boost their confidence.
Women can experience labia problems when they’re horse riding or bike riding. A large labia can become uncomfortable when wearing tight fitting clothes or during intercourse.
What is the Labia?
The labia minora are thin skin folds, which lie vertically inside the outer lips of the vulva (the labia majora). The labia minora lie outside of (from front to back) the clitoris, the urethra (the opening of the bladder) and the vagina , and provide a protective cover and padding over these structures.
The labia minora is a stretchy, moist skin structure. It contains little fat, but many nerves and blood vessels. During arousal, the labia minora becomes engorged.
Who is labiaplasty surgery for?
Labiaplasty, designer vaginal surgery or genital enhancement procedures have many functional and aesthetic benefits. Labiaplasty surgery reduces the large labia minora for functional reasons. When the labia minora protrudes, it can chafe and become painful and irritated. A large labia minora has a moist structure and can negatively affect personal hygiene.
The labia minora are very variable in shape and size between women. A woman’s labia minora can be quite small and completely hidden between the labia majora. The female labia minora can also be larger, just visible or sit outside the labia majora. The labia minora aren’t always even and one can be larger than the other. Pregnancies and vaginal births can also change the size and shape of the labia minora.
Over the last few years, the external appearance of vulvas has become more important for many women. For many women, an asymmetrical or protruding labia minora is seen as unsightly.
After labiaplasty surgery most women feel better about how they look and feel less discomfort during intercourse. Women who have experienced childbirth value the benefits that labiaplasty surgery has given them including repairing their vagina and increasing their enjoyment of intercourse.
How is labiaplasty surgery done?
Labiaplasty mostly involves a general anaesthetic and can be performed as a day surgery. Under sedation and local anaesthetic, the labia excess tissue is removed. After the excess tissue has been removed, the wound is carefully stitched with dissolving sutures.
Most labiaplasty procedures take about an hour, with patients usually being able to go home after a brief observation period.
Technically, it is a simple operation, but requires great attention to detail by the surgeon. The shape of the labia is very variable, and asymmetry is common, so good results require proper examination and planning.
Most labiaplasty procedure patients report they feel uncomfortable for 2 or 3 days but after that time they can usually return to work. If a lot of walking is required in their job, they may need to take longer off work.
A sanitary pad needs to be worn to absorb the excess fluid and secretions. Antibiotics will also need to be taken to reduce the chances of infection in the vaginal area. Many patients report that salt baths help to sooth their vaginal area while keeping it clean.
Variations of the labiaplasty operation are performed that depend upon:
- The shape of the labia around the clitoral hood,
- The detail of the intended shape, and
- The final desired appearance of the labia – this must be discussed between the patient and surgeon before the labiaplasty surgery.
- Choosing the right Labiaplasty Surgeon is very important. If too much of the labia minora is removed, the clitoris may be exposed. This may result in tenderness and pain during intercourse.
The ethics of labiaplasty surgery
With more women understanding the benefits of labiaplasty surgery, there has been some controversy. Today more women are removing some or all of the hair from their genital region. In previous generations, most women didn’t even know what their genital region and vulvas looked like – today they do.
The porn industry has also meant that more men and women see vulvas than ever before. In the porn industry, the labia minora are rarely seen – either they have been removed, or are photo shopped out. In some countries this has to be done by law.
The community view as to what is normal and attractive is probably changing, and the increasing number of women requesting labiaplasty for purely cosmetic reasons probably reflects that.
A surgeon marketing labiaplasty as a body improvement procedure must be careful to make sure that the patient is well informed about their desire to have this procedure.
Is labiaplasty surgery suitable for me?
While women’s labia and vulvas come in all shapes and sizes, large labial folds can cause pain and discomfort. Friction and chafing can become a problem for women and can make them feel self conscious in tight gym clothes. During physical activities like running, horse riding and bike riding, a large labia can cause great discomfort and make sex uncomfortable.
The following questions may help you decide if labiaplasty surgery is suitable for you:
- Do you find yourself feeling self conscious about the appearance of your vagina?
- Are you worried about the appearance of your labia major and labia minor?
- Does your vaginal area cause you any irritation during certain physical activities or when having sexual intercourse?
Key facts about labiaplasty surgery
- It is common to have significant swelling and discomfort after the operation. While any bruising gradually dissipates and the patient will see changes to the area straight away, it will take weeks, and possibly months, for all of the swelling to resolve and to reveal one’s new body form.
- Following surgery, it is best to take one week off work, depending on the size of the procedure. These procedures cause bruising discomfort, which can be controlled with oral pain medication.
- Dissolving sutures are used, so you will not need to have sutures removed. The site of surgery will be sensitive for up to 6 weeks and during this time you should avoid activities like bike riding and vaginal intercourse.
- Labiaplasty does not make the vagina smaller. Some laser procedures and vaginoplasty can assist with this.
- Patients should not rely upon Labiaplasty for sexual enhancement –this depends on a number of different factors, not just the shape, size, length or appearance of the labia majora and labia minora.
- Risks involved with labiaplasty surgery include loss of sensation, infection, asymmetry of the labia and permanent scarring.
Are there health benefits to a labiaplasty procedure?
Labiaplasty is a cosmetic procedure (designed to help women feel happier about the way they look) and does not convey health benefits or heighten sexual pleasure.
Having said this, for some women improved comfort and sexual confidence can lead to improved quality of life and self–esteem benefits. In most cases there is not a medical indication for labiaplasty, so the procedure is not subsidized under Medicare.
Are there different types of labiaplasty procedures?
There are two main surgical techniques used in Labiaplasty surgery, the trim method and the wedge method.
- This method is sometimes referred to as the strip method and is the most commonly used method for reducing the length of the labia.
- The surgeon removes the excess labial skin along the length (edge) of the labia minora.
- The trim method is less likely to cause complications and is a good choice for patients who want to remove any longer or darker edges of the labia.
- This method removes a wedge-shaped portion of the unwanted labium, which decreases the bulk of the labia minora.
- The wedge method of removing labial tissue will not affect any of the functioning areas of the vagina.
What is labiaplasty recovery like?
After labiaplasty surgery, patients report that they experience some pain and discomfort for around 10 days. After 10 days, they feel minimal pain. Pain medication will reduce any discomfort.
It’s recommended that strenuous activities should be avoided for around 4 weeks, and sexual intercourse for 6 weeks.
Are there risks or complications with labiaplasty operations?
Any surgical operation brings complications of anaesthesia. Your anaesthetist will be able to discuss with you the possible complications of having an anaesthetic.
General complications of every surgery include:
- Pain. Your healthcare team will give you medication to control the pain.
- Bleeding during or after the operation. If the bleeding is heavy, you may need a blood transfusion.
- Infection of the surgical site (wound). An infection usually settles with antibiotics but you may need another operation.
- Blood clot in your leg (deep-vein thrombosis – DVT). This can cause pain, swelling or redness in your leg, or the veins near the surface of your leg to appear larger than normal. Your healthcare team will assess your risk.
- Blood clot in your lung (pulmonary embolus). If a blood clot moves through your bloodstream to your lungs. If you become short of breath, feel pain in your chest or upper back, or if you cough up blood, let the healthcare team know straightaway. If you are at home, call an ambulance or go immediately to your nearest Emergency department.
Specific complications of labiaplasty surgery include:
- A change in skin sensation. The loss of skin sensation in the labia may not totally resolve after labiaplasty.
- Delayed wound healing. This may require frequent dressing changes or further surgery to remove the non-healed tissue.
- Skin contour irregularities. This may cause alteration in the appearance of the edge of the labia. Palpable and visible wrinkling of the skin can occur.
Pigment irregularities. Visible discoloration of the leading edge of the labia majora and labia minora can occur.
- Scarring. The scars may be unattractive and of a different colour than the surrounding skin. To address this, some patients with abnormal scarring get additional treatments including surgery.
- Asymmetry. It’s important to note that the labia are normally uneven. Symmetry may not result from labiaplasty.
- Swelling. Malposition, scarring, unacceptable appearance or loss of the labia may occur.
- Long term effects. Further alterations in body contour may occur as the result of weight loss or gain, aging, pregnancy, or other conditions not related to labiaplasty.
- You may be disappointed with the results of labiaplasty surgery. Sometimes patients choose to have additional surgery to improve the results.
Discussing these potential risks and complications with your surgeon will allow you to better understand the recovery period, understand the risks and benefits of labiaplasty surgery and detect any problems early.
What’s the recovery time for labiaplasty surgery?
While most labiaplasty surgery is done as a day procedure, some patients choose to stay overnight in hospital. During the first few days, using a labial cool pack will reduce swelling. You will need to take pain relief medications.
Your initial scar should heal within 1 week and you will see the surgeon for review 1-2 weeks post-operatively. The dissolvable stiches will fall out between 1 and 4 weeks. Your swelling will be present for up to six weeks. It is only then that the final cosmetic outcome will be judged.
How do I choose a Labiaplasty Surgeon?
With any elective surgical procedure, the most important factor in choosing a surgeon is experience. We suggest you look for a Plastic Surgeon who performs the procedure frequently, has proven results and is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
When you consider treatment to the female genital area, we suggest you choose a doctor with formal training and expertise in genital surgery.
At your consultation with the surgeon, consider getting answers to these questions:
- What experience has the surgeon got in performing Female Genital Surgery
- What is the surgeon’s particular technique? (Labiaplasty has various surgical variations)
- The possible complications, risks and side effects of the procedure and how these will be managed by your surgeon
- The levels of post-operative pain and how this pain can be treated, and
- The general amount of recovery time needed post-surgery
- Once you have a short list of labiaplasty surgeons, it’s a good idea to have multiple consultations before you select a surgeon. Find the best Labiaplasty Surgeons in Australia here.
Important to know
So you can make an informed decision, your elected surgeon will discuss the possible risks associated with nose surgery. Although the majority of patients do not experience these complications, it's important to understand how they can be managed in the event that they occur.