When a baby is born with prominent ears, the parents usually are ready to have their ears pinned around the time of kindergarten. The parents make this decision independent of their children’s considerations, and probably against their wishes to be honest!
A labiaplasty is clearly not the same thing! Labia minora development happens during puberty, and most parents are unaware of how these—and other secondary sex characteristics—are affecting their teen girls and young women.
The most common complaints from teens and young adults seeking labiaplasty is around the appearance of the labia minora. The labia may rapidly become enlarged, elongated and darkly colored during puberty and these may be distressing to the young teen.
The most important point, and I can not stress this enough, is that long labia are completely normal. There is no need for surgical correction just because the labia “stick out” or have a rough or dark texture. The time to seek evaluation from an expert plastic surgeon for you or your teen is when the appearance of their labia becomes a source of emotional distress.
Risks and Complications
There are several medical considerations that need to be considered when evaluating a teen for labiaplasty surgery. For starters, if you are 18 years old, you don’t need to have parental consent to see a doctor. You can come in and see me and my nurses on your own. That said, many 18 year olds do come in with their mom for extra support.
For ladies under 18 years of age, you will need the consent of your parent or guardian to have a labiaplasty consultation with me. I recommend an open dialogue between the two of you to review the concerns you have, the symptoms you are experiencing and your goals for labiaplasty surgery together.
As mentioned, the labia primarily grow and change at the time of puberty, which can start as early as 10 or 11 in many young girls. So, when you reach the age of 16 or 17 it’s possible that you’ve thought about a labiaplasty for several years.
Psychological maturity is a key to performing this procedure. I want to make sure that each young lady is sturdy and sure enough about her symptoms and complaints and the goals of surgery before we proceed. This might mean a young woman that is not or has not recently engaged in self harm (e.g. cutting) and who has a stable home and school environment. She should also have clear goals and realistic expectations of what the labiaplasty procedure can help address.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
Ethical Concerns, Parental Guidance and Legal Age of Consent
In most cases, if you are under 18 years of age, you will need your mom or guardian with you in order to have a labiaplasty consult. There is such a thing as an “emancipated minor” which can happen if you are a teen mom, for example. In that case you are able to make your own medical decisions and do not need a guardian if you are under 18 years of age.
There is no rush to perform a labiaplasty, and sometimes I will advise that a young lady waits until she is 18 to perform a procedure. That said, women mature faster than men, and most young women who see me for labiaplasty surgery evaluation are smart, courageous, and have deeply considered the labiaplasty process in a thoughtful and mature manner.
Professional Guidelines and Recommendations
Labiaplasty is best performed on a case-by-case basis in young women and teens who are bothered by long labia. The professional societies differ on their feelings about labiaplasty in general. The Ob/Gyn societies are not in favor of any procedures that are not medically necessary. Cosmetic procedures, by definition, are not medically necessary in many cases. And yet, they can make us feel better about ourselves. I have very very happy patients and I have never had a patient, young woman or otherwise, regret having a labiaplasty procedure. In reality, they are my happiest patients.
Thorough Consultation and Evaluation
A calm, slow, thoughtful meeting with me is a critical component of a great surgical experience for you and your teen who are seeking labiaplasty surgery. I’m grateful for your trust and promise to do my very best in every way, even if that means waiting to perform your labiaplasty until you’re older.