Labiaplasty, sometimes called labial reduction, is a surgical procedure that involves reducing the size of the labia. The aim of the survey is to preserve the natural contour, sensitivity and pigmentation of the area, with minimal scarring. It’s an operation performed under general anaesthetic.
The procedure is usually performed to reduce the labia minora (the inner labia), and that’s what we’ll be talking about here. You might choose to have a labiaplasty procedure on the labia majora (the larger, outer labia).
The size and shape of labia can vary from woman to woman; there is a broad range in what is healthy and “normal”.
Some women have larger labia than others, and ageing and childbirth can also alter its appearance. Some women with large or irregular labia minora might experience discomfort during sex or exercise, or find themselves at increased risk of urinary tract infections. Some women experience no physical problems but feel self-conscious about the appearance.
In these cases, labiaplasty could be the answer. A review published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that about a third of women who’d had the procedure at a US clinic over two years had done so for purely aesthetic reasons, about a third for purely functional reasons, and about a third for a combination of functional and aesthetic reasons.
Labiaplasty procedures are fairly straightforward. First, you should have a consultation with your surgeon, to discuss your concerns and what results you are hoping to achieve from the procedure.
The procedure is usually performed under general anaesthetic. There are several techniques used in labiaplasty procedures: most common are the “trim” or “edge” method, and the wedge method. The trim method involves a straightforward removal of the excess tissue, which makes it a fairly quick surgery. The downside to this technique, some surgeons say, is that it leaves a visible scar along the lateral line of the labia.
The wedge technique involves a making an incision into the excess labia and removing a wedge-shaped piece of tissue, then suturing the labia together. This means that the outer edge of the labia is left intact and retains its natural folds, and any scarring will be discreet. It is a slightly longer procedure though and is best performed by a more experienced surgeon.
Labiaplasty procedures are becoming more common, and with a experienced surgeon it is a safe procedure. As with any surgery, there are certain risks associated, such as swelling, bruising or infection of the site where the surgery is preformed. However, according to the published data on this procedure there is high level of patient satisfaction – a study published in the journal Plastic Reconstructive Surgery in 2015 put the patient satisfaction rate at 94-100% for labiaplasty of the labia minora.
Labiaplasty does have some risks associated with it. Aside from the usual surgical risks of swelling and infection to the surgery site, there is the risk of scarring to the area, as well as a chance of altered sensitivity to the area – increased or decreased. There is also a risk of a lop-sided appearance to the area after the procedure.
Labiaplasty procedures cannot be performed at the same time as your menstrual period, so make sure to plan your procedure around your cycle.
It’s possible that your surgeon may refer you to have a psychology assessment to make sure you are certain that you want to go through with this procedure. There is still some controversy surrounding this subject, with some leading gynaecologists believing that the procedure should only performed to correct a functional problem, and not purely for aesthetic reasons.
It can take a few weeks to recover from the labiaplasty procedure, but like anything it will vary from person to person. You might experience bruising or swelling up to 10 days after your procedure. You will have to wear a dressing a bit like a sanitary towel for a few weeks after the procedure. In general, surgeons advise that you can return to work about two weeks about your procedure, and to avoid sexual contact until about four weeks post-procedure and exercise until six weeks post-procedure.
The cost of labiaplasty procedures will vary, but expect to pay about £3,000-£4,000.
Only surgeons that are fully trained and qualified in the field of plastic surgery and gynaegology should perform vaginal surgery.