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Growing numbers of women are choosing a below-the-belt plastic surgery called labiaplasty for a host of reasons, including genital pain, cosmetic reasons or to enhance sexual satisfaction.
Labiaplasty, or labial reconstruction, is a surgical procedure to trim down and shape the inner lips (labia minora) or outer lips (labia majora) of the vagina or both. The labia minora is the inner flap of skin that covers the clitoris and vagina. The labia majora is the part of the labia on the outside of the body.
The reasons that the labia may be elongated or asymmetrical vary. It could result from sexual intercourse, childbirth, genetics or the aging process.
Candidates include women with enlarged inner and outer vaginal lips that cause pain or self-consciousness. For example, a long labia may cause pain during sexual intercourse, exercise or even while wearing tight-fitting jeans. Fully developed young women and adult women, who are in good health make the most appropriate candidates. However, women who have any underlying medical conditions that would limit elective surgery may not be good candidates.
The surgery is not designed to enhance sexual pleasure or satisfaction. If your goal is to increase sexual satisfaction, talk with your surgeon about other procedures that may be more appropriate.
This is not the only type of cosmetic surgery that can be performed on the vagina. Vaginal rejuvenation, for example, involves tightening the vaginal and perineum area, which can become stretched during childbirth. Some surgeons suggest vaginal rejuvenation may increase sexual pleasure for both partners.
In 2007, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a position statement warning against cosmetic surgery of the vagina. The group stated that the risks of the procedure outweigh its benefits at this time.
- Temporary numbness
- Asymmetry between the inner and outer labia lips
- Pigmentation changes
- Decreased feeling in that area
- Excess scar tissue buildup (appearing as lumps on the treated area)
- Hematoma (break in blood vessel, causing localized blood-filled area or blood clot)
- Puckering or creases of the skin
- Sexual dysfunction
Preparing for the Procedure
It is a good idea to stop smoking and consuming alcohol for at least a week before surgery. Talk to your surgeon about ways to quit smoking for good.
Your surgeon will likely suggest that you stop taking certain medications, including aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and blood thinners, all of which can increase bleeding risk.
Certain herbal remedies may also increase bleeding risk. Just because a product or preparation is “all-natural” does not mean it is safe. For example, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, green tea and gingko biloba all may increase bleeding risk during and after surgery.
Make sure you tell your surgeon about everything that you are taking. Never stop taking any medication abruptly without first speaking to your doctor.
Do not have sexual intercourse the night before the surgery.
The Labiaplasty Procedure
After an initial consultation and thorough review of your medical history, your surgeon will schedule the procedure. It usually requires a local anesthetic and is done on an outpatient basis. The actual surgery takes about two hours.
During surgery, larger or uneven inner vaginal lips are cut and shortened using specialized scissors, a scalpel or a laser. In addition, the labia majora, on the outside of the body, can be reduced with either surgery or liposuction if needed. A hoodectomy, which exposes the clitoris in an attempt to increase sexual stimulation, may be performed at the same time.
The appropriate incision location depends on many individual factors, including the configuration, texture and size of the labia. The doctor will then suture the incision closed with dissolvable stitches.
After surgery, you can’t have intercourse for about four weeks, and your genitals will be tender and swollen for several weeks. What’s more, your labia and the surrounding area may be slightly bruised.
Considering labiaplasty? Here are some questions you should ask your surgeon.
- Am I a good candidate?
- How many labiaplasty procedures have you performed, and how often do you do them?
- Are you board-certified and by what medical board? If so, how long have you been certified?
- Can I speak to one of your former patients?
- What are the benefits of the procedure for me?
- What guidelines should I follow before surgery?
- Can you help me quit smoking beforehand?
- What type of instrument will you be using to trim my labia?
- Does the operation hurt?
- How much downtime is there after surgery?
- Will the procedure enhance sexual function?
- Are there any other surgeries that can be done with labiaplasty to improve the aesthetic and functional results?
- How long afterward must I wait to have intercourse again?
- Will there be scars afterward?
- When will the stitches typically dissolve?
- How much will my labiaplasty cost?
- Will insurance cover the cost?
- Will intercourse be painful the first time after the procedure?
- What if I am unhappy with the results?
Oral medications can reduce pain. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed to reduce the risk of infection.
You will be asked to stop any heavy, strenuous exercise for three or more weeks after surgery. Also you cannot use tampons for 10 days afterward. While recovering, you will need to wear a pad for one week or less, due to the bleeding that results.
The demand for labiaplasty is on the rise. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), vaginal rejuvenation procedures increased 30 percent between 2005 and 2006, from 793 procedures in 2005 to 1,030 procedures in 2006. During 2006, U.S. women spent $2.3 million on cosmetic vaginal procedures. The ASPS did not track vaginal rejuvenation procedures in 2007.
Consult a Qualified Surgeon
- Select a board-certified urogynecologist, plastic surgeon, gynecologist or a urologist
- Make certain the surgeon has years of specific labiaplasty experience and expertise.
Labia minora or majora reduction fees have a large range. If you require the procedure because your too long labia causes pain during sex or exercise, it may be covered by insurance. Our office will help determine your cost. Schedule an appointment today.