As the world goes deeper into glamour, everybody wants to maintain that ‘perfect’ body image. And this perfection doesn’t seek just the face, but also other parts of the body. As such, a range of cosmetic surgeries has cropped up to correct various parts of the body. One such is the labiaplasty, which is meant to reduce the enlarged size of the labia minora. But who should actually opt for labiaplasty, and what are the valid reasons for it? Let’s take a closer look.
What is labiaplasty?
Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure that aims to “trim” the labia minora if it is particularly larger in size than usual. Labiaplasty is both functional and cosmetic surgery. The vulva is the external portion of a woman’s sexual organs, enclosing the vagina within it. In turn, the vulva has muscles or ‘lips’ inside it. The outer and inner ‘lips’ are called labia majora and labia minora respectively. Sometimes, the labia minora outgrows the labia majora and protrudes out of the vulva, thus becoming distinctly visible. While this is only a matter of aesthetic most of the time, sometimes it can cause physical discomfort and pain. Labiaplasty seeks to correct it by removing the extra labia minora.
There are many ways of performing a labiaplasty. In the most common method, the extra labia minora is simply removed or ‘trimmed’. The remaining labia are sewn up using dissolvable stitches. The patient is under general anesthesia during this time. The entire procedure takes 1-2 hours and the patient is discharged the same day. The recovery period is about 2 weeks, during which mild discomfort and bleeding are normal. Intercourse and any other penetration should be avoided for at least 2-3 weeks.
Labiaplasty is a minor surgery, but the risks associated with a standard surgery are present nonetheless. These include bleeding, infection, reduced sensitivity in the genitals and scarring of tissue. There is a slight chance of reacting negatively towards the anesthetic. Post-surgery, peeing and sitting can be uncomfortable during the recovery period. Labiaplasty is also irreversible.
Difference from Vaginoplasty
A common confusion arises between vaginoplasty and labiaplasty –and it is understandable why. While both are thought to be related to the same organs, they actually deal with two distinct parts.
Vaginoplasty primarily deals with a vagina, as opposed to labiaplasty that focuses on labia. Vaginoplasty could be a purely cosmetic surgery that aims to “tighten up” the vagina. In many women, the vagina becomes loose either due to childbirth or simply after enough intercourses. Vaginoplasty seeks to correct this through a minor surgery that removes the flaccid skin and given a more appealing appearance to the vagina. However, vaginoplasty also serves other purposes like the reconstruction of the vagina in female cancer survivors, transgender people who undergo sex reassignment, etc. Labiaplasty is often used after vaginoplasty in case of sex reassignment.
Who should go for labiaplasty?
Larger-than-usual labia minora don’t have any significant effect usually. However, sometimes the labia could become large enough to manifest into physical discomfort. Many women with large labia minora experience discomfort during exercise, cycling, riding the bike, etc. As the size grows, the discomfort also increases. Some women complain of constant inflammation and trouble using a tampon. It can even impact sexual intercourse and masturbation, resulting in sharp pain. In such cases, opting for a labiaplasty is recommended.
There are some women who develop genuine physiological distress due to the size of their labia, without any trace of body negativity. In such cases, labiaplasty is considered a straightforward course of action to soothe the condition.
Labiaplasty is often employed by people who have undergone gender-reassignment surgery from male to female. Here, the newly-crafted vagina might still have remained disfigured. Labiaplasty can correct the labia and vulva, and give it the proper size, shape, and firmness. It is often done after a vaginoplasty.
Who should not go labiaplasty?
Teenage girls are becoming a surprising customer of labiaplasty surgeries. In 2016, it was reported that 156 girls under the age of 15 underwent labiaplasty in the USA. This is primarily due to the fact that labia minora tends to grow faster than labia majora during puberty. This, in effect, gives an appearance of hanging skin below the vagina – something that many teenage girls feel ashamed to see. However, the labia majora would eventually catch up and the appearance of the vagina will return to normal. Thus, there is no reason for underage girls to consider labiaplasty.
The same reasoning could be extended to adult women too, who are embarrassed about their vulva. There is no standard size of the vulva, and variations occur greatly among women. However, an excess of unrealistic standards set by the adult industry often compel women to have confidence issues around their vagina, include the size of labia minoro. An increasing number of women choose to undergo labiaplasty for aesthetic reason alone. While it is not wrong to go for surgical options to improve one’s body image, there are always some ramifications to this decision. Labiaplasty has its risks, as mentioned above. As such, one should think carefully about whether the risks are worth it for aesthetic reasons alone.
Lastly, certain factors make labiaplasty dangerous for some women. These include gynecological conditions like virginal infections, chronic habits like smoking, recent surgery, etc. In such cases, the risk factors associated with labiaplasty are amplified and the surgeon usually dissuades you from the surgery until the condition gets better.
Most surgeons are given the guidelines to first direct a patient opting for labiaplasty for purely aesthetic purposes to a counselor. The objective is to carefully explain the risks and rewards of labiaplasty to the women.
Labiaplasty has its undeniable uses. For women where enlarges labia has led to genuine discomfort, labiaplasty can be a great solution. But for every woman with a genuine issue, there is another who seeks labiaplasty simply to uplift the perceived body image. We need to understand the valid cause to seek labiaplasty and to be comfortable in our own skin.