What is Labiaplasty

In recent years a medical procedure called labiaplasty has become extremely popular. What is labiaplasty and why would a woman consider it?

What is Labiaplasty? 

Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure that trims and shapes the labia majora and labia minora (the outer and inner lips of the vagina). Its purpose is to reduce labia that are enlarged or irregular as a result of aging, childbirth, sexual intercourse, obesity or heredity. Reasons for having the surgery are motivated by aesthetic issues and genital discomfort.

Why Have Libiaplasty? 

Some women experience discomfort during intercourse, when wearing tight-fitting slacks, or even while walking and exercising, when the labia are enlarged. Other women are embarrassed and self-conscious about the size and shape of their labia especially if it protrudes enough to be seen through clothing or they feel it is unappealing to a sexual partner.

Who Are the Best Candidates for this Surgery? 

Healthy and physically mature young and adult women are the best candidates for this surgery. Overall poor health and smoking may disqualify someone as a candidate, as well as unrealistic expectations about the results. If the surgery is for cosmetic reasons, a good surgeon will discuss with the candidate why she feels that her genitals are different or unattractive. Female genitalia come in all shapes and sizes. Since this is not an area easily compared to someone else’s, many women wonder whether they look “normal”.

What Are the Risks? 

All surgery carries an element of risk. Common risks after any surgery include:

Adverse reaction to anesthesia Bleeding Bruising Infection Scarring Swelling Temporary Numbness Pain

Most scarring is undetectable after healing as the incisions are made in such a way that they are hidden in the labial folds.

There are risks specific to labiaplasty that include:

Dissatisfaction with the results due to unrealistic expectations or because too much or too little of the labial minora was removed Pain during urination which will ease as the incisions heal Loss of sensation in the labia Separation of the incision Pigmentation changes Scar tissue build-up (lumps on treated area) Puckering or creases of the skin Sexual dysfunction Subsequent difficulty giving birth, vaginally

How is the Procedure Performed? 

Labiaplasty is usually performed on an outpatient basis using local anesthetic. The surgery takes about two hours. The larger or asymmetrical labia minora (inner vaginal lips) are cut and shortened using specially designed scissors, laser or a scalpel. The labia majora (outer vaginal lips) may also be reduced at this time using liposuction or surgery. In some cases a hoodectomy is also performed. A hoodectomy exposes the clitoris in an effort to increase sexual satisfaction.

Incisions are closed with dissolvable stitches and recovery takes place at home. The genital area will be swollen and sore for several weeks and there will be bruising. It is also recommended that the patient not have sexual intercourse and refrain from intense, vigorous exercise for at least four weeks after the surgery. Tampons cannot be used for at least 10 days after the procedure and sanitary napkins will need to be worn in case of bleeding. Oral medications may be prescribed for the pain and sometimes an oral antibiotic will be prescribed to prevent infection.

What Does it Cost? 

If labiaplasty is performed for cosmetic reasons, it will not be covered by health insurance plans or government health care. In some situations, if a case is made for surgery due to medical reasons, it may be covered by a health plan. On average, the cost of this procedure is $5,000 to $10,000 in U.S. dollars.

Who Performs This Surgery? 

When considering this type of surgery, candidates should look for physicians that are highly trained and experienced in female genital cosmetic surgery. Plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons and urologists are most likely to have qualifications to perform this surgery.


In 2007, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a position statement advising against cosmetic surgery of the vagina and stating that the risks outweighed the benefits. That same year, the British Medical Journal called it the “designer vagina” and blamed the procedure’s popularity on the idealised images of female genitalia shown in pornography, and private plastic surgery websites promoting an image of cosmetically perfect female genitalia.

While labiaplasty may be necessary for medical reasons, if the reasons are strictly cosmetic, serious consideration should be given to self-esteem issues, media influence, and pressure from outside sources with respect to what is considered a normal-looking vagina. Currently, the only standard of normal is that of the woman wishing to have the procedure. In other words, there is no true standard other than that set by someone who may have a false image of themselves. Women wanting to have this surgery need to weigh the risks against the benefits before going ahead with this procedure.

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