Labiaplasty Surgery, Recovery & Process
Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure that reduces the size of the inner labia, the small folds of skin that surround the vaginal opening. Women desire labia reduction surgery for two main reasons: Physical discomfort and feelings of self-consciousness about the appearance of the labia minora. The labiaplasty surgery itself takes about 1.5 hours and can be done under local anesthesia without the need for sedation. Recovery from labiaplasty is fast, requiring 3 days off of work and 3 weeks away from exercise.
Reasons for wanting a labiaplasty
Medical and physical reasons
The medical reasons for women wanting a labiaplasty are primarily related to physical discomfort. Longer labia can get pinched during exercise, leading to pain. Yoga pants, jeans, and bikini bottoms can restrict the labia minora, which makes it difficult for women with long labia to wear certain clothing. Sexual intercourse can also be uncomfortable for women with enlarged labia minora, with the extra folds of skin getting irritated or chafed, and the delicate labia skin can even become torn. Hygiene can also be a concern for women with excess folds of the labia minora and clitoral hood: toilet paper, for example, can get caught in labial folds.
Cosmetic and emotional reasons
- The size of the labia minora is too large and long: most women want the inner labia to be hidden inside of the outer labia for a more “tucked-in” look.
- The shape of the labia minora is too rough and irregular: most women want the inner labia to be smooth and without the extra folds (known as rugae).
- The color of the labia minora is too dark: most women want the inner labia to be pink, but hormones and genetics can make the edge of the labia appear dark brown in color.
Am I a good candidate for labiaplasty surgery?
If you’re reading this far, chances are you’re a good candidate for a labiaplasty. As I’ve discussed, there’s a broad range of reasons for women to seek out a labiaplasty: everything from disliking the color of the labia minora, to having pain with exercise, to feeling self-conscious overall with their appearance. So, a good candidate for a labiaplasty has either a physical discomfort or an emotional discomfort with the labia minora. Many women have both complaints and seek out a labiaplasty for both reasons.
What causes a large labia minora?
Labia enlargement, just like breast enlargement, is due to a combination of genetics and hormones. The labia minora are hormonally sensitive tissues, and therefore hormonal changes can cause changes in the appearance of the labia. These three common hormonal shifts for women can lead to the greatest changes in the appearance of the labia minora:
- Hormonal changes from puberty: this is the main cause of labia minora growth and the most frequent time that women notice changes in their labia size and shape
- Hormonal changes from pregnancy: while less dramatic, some women report changes in their inner and outer labia from childbirth
- Hormonal changes from menopause: most of the time, the changes at this point are from a loss of volume in the outer labia, that cause the inner labia to appear more prominent.
Labiaplasty Surgery Details
Because there is no general anesthesia involved in a labiaplasty there is no need to do extensive preoperative work before your surgery. On the night before surgery you can expect to have a normal meal. The morning of surgery you’ll wake up early and meet with me and my team of nurses in the preoperative area. You’re almost certain to be the only patient that we care for that morning, and so will be a very private experience. After my nurses review the preoperative paperwork, I will come in and just chitchat with you about life and labiaplasty, including your goals for the labiaplasty procedure. I generally will review your photographs. Confirm any unique elements of your anatomy and the surgical plan together. It is very rare that we actually do an exam at this point so you don’t need to stress about that or feel self-conscious in the preoperative room.
Once we’ve checked all those boxes, we bring you to the operating room and you go up into stirrups where my nurse will get you prepped for the surgery which involves a baby shampoo, soap, and some sterile towels around the surgical field. The first part of the surgery is a little needle poke for the local anesthesia and that’s pretty much the only pain that you feel during the whole operation. The rest is pretty easy and we will make sure you have all the ingredients for your recovery in the recovery kit including lots of ice packs, And pads and ointments for your best healing.
A properly performed labiaplasty really includes a reduction of the extra folds of skin on each side of the clitoris. Therefore, my standard procedure is a labiaplasty with clitoral hood reduction. This brings a balanced appearance to the top and middle portions of the vulva, the visible external vaginal genital anatomy, in some women. There is sometimes extra skin at the bottom of the vaginal opening in an area known as the perineum. If this is the case, a perineoplasty will also be performed at the same time as the labiaplasty and hood reduction.
How long does a labiaplasty take?
The labiaplasty procedure itself only takes about an hour and a half to complete. Most patients are awake under local anesthesia and having easy conversation for the majority of the procedure. That’s because the local anesthesia nerve blocks work excellently and take only a few minutes to perform at the beginning of surgery. Sometimes if a perineoplasty is performed along with the clitoral hood reduction, the labiaplasty procedure may take a little longer, closer to an hour and 45 minutes.
I’ve tried to make the aftercare as easy as possible for your labiaplasty recovery. We include full recovery kits that have all the necessary ingredients for an incredible healing process. These kits include ointment, scar gel, maxi pads, ice packs and lightly compressive undergarments. In addition, we prescribe all of our medication‘s for you through our in-house pharmacy, so that there’s no guesswork with your labiaplasty healing requirements.
The key is to spend about three days resting, not moving around much, and icing the area frequently to decrease swelling and pain.
In terms of my involvement with you after surgery, there is a one month post-op visit or we check the healing, scars and overall progress. You will also check in with our nurses at one week, either virtually or in the clinic. Most patients are fully healed by that 3 to 4 week post-op visit with me and you can resume all normal activities around that time.
Labiaplasty risks & benefits
What are common risks and complications of labiaplasty surgery?
Because of my gentle and delicate technique, the main risks of labiaplasty are quite limited and very rare.
- Yeast infection: This is easily treated with an oral anti-fungal medication called Diflucan, and is not particularly uncommon. If you are prone to yeast infections, please let us know so that we can help you prepare for your labiaplasty.
- Infection: This would be very rare and would require antibiotics. If you have draining after your labiaplasty this may indicate that an infection has occurred.
- Wound separation: Incisions opening up after a labiaplasty is very rare, but in a case where it does happen, the tissue heels without any obvious changes. In rare cases additional suturing may be required after you’re fully healed. While wound separations are really uncommon in my clinic, it is usually related to patients overdoing it with activity in the early healing phase.
It’s important to note that I have never had any patients with visible scarring, sensation changes, trouble with orgasm or painful intercourse after labiaplasty.
- Improved self confidence
- Decreased pain
- Better sexual response with decreased self-consciousness
- Improved hygiene
- More aesthetic, ideal appearance to the labia minora
Is recovery painful?
Labiaplasty recovery has been described to me as more discomfort than pain. Some patients have had pain on that first evening after surgery and pain medication can be taken then. Ice is really the key to a speedy labiaplasty recovery. 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off, being the recommended time frame on that first evening after surgery.
How much bleeding will there be?
Bleeding is uncommon after labiaplasty, but some spotting may occur. This would be perhaps a quarter size spot on the maxi pad and we would expect that only for the first few days after the procedure. Ice and pressure are great ways to decrease bleeding. Any larger amount of bleeding could indicate that there is a problem that requires medical attention. This would be very, very rare in my experience.
When can I return to work, physical activity and sexual activity?
There is a phased recovery after labiaplasty. Most patients, if they rest for the first three days and ice a lot, can go back to work on day four. Physical activity and exercise in the gym can be done around 3 to 4 weeks. Soaking in the tub or other bodies of water really should be done no sooner than six weeks post-op. The same is true for resumption of sexual intercourse, which should take six weeks to be fully healed. We recommend starting very slowly with a trusted partner and being careful not to re-injure the area. However, the labia heals very quickly, just like the inside of the mouth, and most women find that they’re fully healed by three weeks.
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