Labiaplasty is one of the most recent and controversial plastic surgery procedures — and also among the fastest-growing.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery notes that the number of labiaplasties — cosmetics procedures performed to eliminate excess skin, thus improving the outward appearance of the vagina — increased by 44 per cent in 2013, making it the second fastest growing plastic surgery that year.
What is labiaplasty?
The surgery begins with a very small incision along the labia minora, just inside of the skin folds (the vaginal ‘lips’) of the labia majora. The excess skin is then trimmed to achieve the desired shape and size. Once the procedure is over, dissolvable stitches are placed for proper healing.
Inversely, excess fat can be harvested from the abdomen or thighs and grafted if the labia majora need to be enhanced. Labiaplasty can be done on an outpatient basis. The entire procedure usually takes no longer than an hour or two to complete.
Recovery takes one to two weeks; women usually go back to work fairly quickly after their procedure. An immediate improvement in the labia’s shape and size can be seen, and as the swelling lessens over the next two to three months, the labia will appear smaller and more well defined.
“Patients may resume regular activity the day of surgery, but I do ask them to avoid sexual activity for four weeks, as this can increase the risk of postoperative issues,” said Dr. Schwartz.
While the most common potential complications are bleeding and pain, Dr. Schwartz says his practice is “very comprehensive” in their perioperative care. “Patients are typically very comfortable and heal without any complications whatsoever.”
Who is labiaplasty for?
Women decide to undergo labiaplasty surgery for a variety of reasons, notes Dr. Schwartz, who is a national expert and educator in aesthetic and restorative plastic surgery.
However, most patients’ concerns are primarily cosmetic: bulky, misshapen or uneven labia can cause a real loss of confidence during intimacy. There can also be physical discomfort, when large labia can get in the way of exercise, tightly-fit pants or sexual intercourse.
“Changes in the shape can happen during childbirth, or due to genetics or illness. Improving aesthetic concerns is why the surgery has been very popular. Large labia can be reduced, asymmetries corrected, and deflated tissue can be restored with fat grafting. In addition, there may be a sexual dysfunction or a urinary incontinence issue.”
Labiaplasty candidates must be nonsmokers and in good health.
“I ask patients to arrange for a friend or family member to be available to take them to and from surgery, and stay with them for the first 24-hours following the procedure. While there may not be a particular weight restriction, I do approach all patient care in a comprehensive fashion, so if there are any general health issues, I would ensure that they have a good care team following them,” Schwartz explains.
As a precaution, Schwartz also recommends patients avoid blood thinning medications for a few days prior to the procedure.
Are there non-surgical alternatives to labiaplasty?
For those women interested in vaginal rejuvenation but hesitant to undergo labiaplasty, there are non-surgical alternatives.
“We have a phenomenal radio-frequency technology called ThermiVa that has truly been a game-changer in the realm of feminine rejuvenation,” Schwartz explains. “This device offers both internal and external tightening, while restoring the overall suppleness of the tissue.”
One of the most compelling arguments in favor of the procedure is that can lead to increased sexual satisfaction for women and their partners alike.
“Some patients have also reported a decrease in urinary urgency and frequency, which is an incredible outcome for a procedure that is truly intended to address cosmetic concerns,” says Schwartz. “It is important to note, however, that if a patient has labial hypertrophy or asymmetry, surgery is typically the best approach to achieve ideal outcomes.”
Although no long-term studies have been done to determine the impact these procedures have on patients’ sex lives, most women report that they are very satisfied with their new, rejuvenated look — which in itself is often enough to boost self-confidence and sexual satisfaction.
Labiaplasty Quick Facts
What does the procedure involve?
Labiaplasty is a surgery that reduces or reshapes the folds of skin surrounding the vulva.
What’s the average cost of the procedure?
Can labiaplasty be covered by insurance?
Usually not, but talk to your insurance provider. Also, there are generally financing options available at your doctor’s office.
What are the risks or potential complications?
Just like any surgery, there are risks involved, which may include bleeding, infection, pain, sexual dysfunction, numbness and scarring.
How long is recovery time?
Doctors recommend two to three days off your feet after the surgery. Healing is complete in 2 weeks, and you can resume sexual activity in six weeks.
Updated, December 2017