Yara Zakharia, Esq.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), female genital plastic surgery ranks as one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. cosmetic surgery market. Among the most requested procedures of this kind is labiaplasty, a plastic surgery targeting the inner flap of skin on a woman's vulva.
In labiaplasty, the size of the inner lips of the external female genitals known as the labia minora is reduced, and its shape adjusted and made symmetrical and more youthful. Also referred to as labia minora reduction, inner lip reduction, and labia reduction, the procedure results in an enhanced function and aesthetic appearance of the inner labia.
Common Factors Leading to Surgery
A host of factors, including age, childbirth, genetics, hormonal changes, and sexual activity can expand or loosen the labia. Asymmetric or protruding vaginal lips can be a source of discomfort, irritation, and/or inconvenience to women for a number of reasons such as:
- Hindrance when wearing clothes that are tight-fitting
- Interference with athletic activities such as working out, horseback riding, swimming, and biking
- Hygiene issues caused by trapped moisture and excess skin
- Embarrassment in the intimacy department
- Sexual dysfunction
- Skin irritation or rashes
Vaginal plastic surgeries can correct the inner labia and consequently alleviate the physical and emotional discomfort associated with enlarged or uneven lips of the female genitalia. Patients can choose the size they would like to have for their inner labia, as long as this skin tissue's biological function remains intact.
Am I A Candidate?
Optimal candidates for this surgery are women who:
- Are realistic in their expectations,
- Would like to improve the look of their labia minora,
- Are not anticipating a pregnancy in the future,
- Are experiencing pain from the labia minora or sexual dysfunction, and/or
- Cannot perform daily activities as they would like to, due to an enlarged labia.
A labiaplasty is not recommended for women who have a prolapsed uterus, incontinence problems, genital herpes or a yeast infection or those who are menstruating or pregnant.
During the Consultation
At the initial consultation, prospective patients discuss their expectations of the surgery's outcome with a board-certified surgeon. To help them establish reasonable expectations, prospective clients may request to review labiaplasty before and after photos of the clinic's or physician's former patients. The surgeon performs a detailed evaluation of his or her clients' medical history and ensures that the individual does not suffer from vaginal problems such as urination issues or pain in the pelvic region.
Labiaplasty surgery, which lasts between 1 and 2 hours, is usually performed under local anesthesia, as general anesthesia or sedation is usually not necessary. The plastic surgeon begins by eliminating excess skin from the labia minora and sculpts the tissue with the use of a laser, Iris scissors, or scalpel. The site of the incisions depends on the labia's texture and configuration. The incisions are then stitched with self-dissolving labiaplasty sutures. The resulting scars are supple and small, and the wound generally heals quickly. Patients may return home the same day and are not required to stay at the hospital.
Post Surgery Recovery
Moderate post-surgical pain and discomfort can be expected. However, most surgeons prescribe oral medications to alleviate any resulting symptoms. Swelling decreases in a week or two and most patients are able to return to work within 5 days. To facilitate a complete healing, strenuous activities must be avoided for a period of 2 to 3 weeks, while sexual relations must not be undertaken before six to eight weeks. The results of labiaplasty are long-term and have proven to be highly-satisfactory to the vast majority of patients.
Medically-necessary labiaplasty surgeries are covered by health insurance providers due to the fact that they are characterized as reconstructive in nature. For instance, if uneven or enlarged labia are causing moisture to be trapped, which in turn is causing skin irritation and skin rashes, the surgery would be considered reconstructive because of the presence of a medical problem. On the other hand, labiaplasty procedures that are intended only for aesthetic purposes are not covered by insurance since they are cosmetic. Labiaplasty costs are a function of the experience and skill of your plastic surgeon as well as geographic location and tend to range anywhere from $3,500 to $12,000.
[page updated December 2008]