What is labiaplasty?
Labiaplasty is a surgery to reduce the size of the labia minora – the flaps of skin on either side of the vaginal opening. Some women consider having a labiaplasty because they don’t like the look of their labia, or because the labia cause discomfort. This is a major decision you should weigh up carefully. It’s natural and normal for a woman to have noticeable skin folds around her vaginal opening and, in most cases, this shouldn’t cause any problems.
A labiaplasty operation carries a number of risks. There’s also no guarantee you’ll get the result you expected, and it won’t necessarily make you feel better about your body.
If you’re thinking of going ahead, it’s a good idea to discuss your plans with your GP first. There might be a medical condition causing your labial discomfort, or a reason why the operation isn’t appropriate for you.
If your GP feels that your labia are perfectly normal after examining them, they may want to have a chat with you about your reasons for wanting surgery. Mr Chattopadhyay may advise you to speak to a counsellor or psychologist before you commit to any surgery.
What does it involve?
A labiaplasty is usually carried out using a general anaesthetic. The procedure involves shortening or reshaping the vaginal lips. The unwanted tissue is cut away with a scalpel, and the loose edge may be stitched up with fine, dissolvable stitches. Some patients are able to go home the same day.
You may need to take some time off work to recover. It can take a couple of months for the skin to fully heal. During this time you need to:
- keep the area clean and free from infection
- wear loose underwear and clothes to prevent rubbing
- avoid sex for a few weeks
- use sanitary towels instead of tampons for a few weeks
Mr Chattopadhyay will give you more specific advice that you should also follow.
Side effects to expect
It’s typical after a labiaplasty to have soreness, bruising and swelling for up to two weeks.
Peeing and sitting during this period would probably be uncomfortable, although you’d be given painkillers to help with this.
What could go wrong?
A labiaplasty can occasionally result in:
- scarring of tissue
- reduced sensitivity of the genitals
Occasionally, patients find the desired effect wasn’t achieved and feel they need another operation.
Who shouldn’t have it?
A labiaplasty should not be performed on girls younger than 18. Their labia may continue to grow and develop well beyond puberty, into early adulthood.
How is it different to female genital mutilation?
A labiaplasty is offered as cosmetic surgery or as treatment for a medical problem, with the full consent of the patient.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is nearly always carried out on children without their consent, and in these cases is ethically and morally wrong. FGM is illegal in the UK.