Deciding to go under the knife or needle for any reason is, needless to say, a big decision. What’s the best way to make a big decision? Arm yourself with as much information as possible. In this series, Ask AEDIT, we break down the best questions to ask before choosing to undergo aesthetic treatments and procedures with expert insight from the providers that perform them.
Needless to say, cosmetic gynecology addresses a sensitive area, so it’s something to approach with an educated perspective. It’s also more popular than ever, and labiaplasty is the most common procedure. Put simply, a labiaplasty is a “surgery performed when someone is seeking to reduce the labia minora or the labia majora,” says Falguni Patel, MD, a board certified gynecologist and vaginal rejuvenation specialist in Matawan, New Jersey.
For many women, this procedure carries both aesthetic and functional benefits. “The goal is to reduce the size of the labia minora in order to improve symptoms such as difficulty with exercise, hygiene, urinary tract infections, sexual activity, and other physical activity,” explains Lauren Chmielewski, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New York City. “It is also done to improve the aesthetic appearance of an enlarged labia due to childbirth, aging, sexual activity, and genetics.”
Regardless of your motivation for considering the procedure, we’ve tapped top surgeons to answer the most frequently asked questions about labiaplasty.
1. What Should I Consider When Choosing A Surgeon to Perform Labiaplasty?
Like any surgery, you’ll want to look for a board certified plastic surgeon or gynecologist who specializes in vaginal rejuvenation. Because this is a surgery in a sensitive area, it’s especially important to find a surgeon you feel comfortable with. “It is very important that, when choosing a surgeon, you not only feel comfortable with them, but that they understand what you are seeking and have the experience to deliver,” says Tanya Judge, MD, a San Francisco-based board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon.
2. Who Is a Good Candidate for Labiaplasty?
Generally speaking, “patients who are healthy with no major health problems are good candidates,” Dr. Judge explains. “Smokers are not good candidates, as smoking impairs wound healing.” Women with a longer labia minora that causes discomfort in tighter clothing (think: yoga pants, swimsuits, etc), physical activity, and during sex are all potential patients. If the labia was injured during childbirth, labiaplasty and other vaginal rejuvenation procedures may be part of a so-called mommy makeover treatment plan.
3. What Happens During Labiaplasty?
If you are considering labiaplasty, you may be comforted to know that it is considered a very “predictable” procedure. Labiaplasty is an outpatient surgery that typically takes around two hours. After anesthesia (usually local), surgeons proceed with trimming the excess tissue that was marked prior to sedation. “When the trim is complete, the tissues have been re-approximated with sutures that will dissolve and are hiding within the tissue,” Dr. Judge explains. As a result, you won’t need to worry about having stitches removed. “There is nothing to take out after the procedure,” she says.
4. What Are the Risks Associated With Labiaplasty?
All surgical procedures come with risks. In the case of labiaplasty, the most common complication is wound dehiscence — “a fancy term for ‘your incision opened up,’” Dr. Judge says. Usually, this is prevented by the way the wounds are stitched, which is why it is important to find a provider who has experience with the procedure.
5. Does Insurance Cover Labiaplasty?
Despite having functional benefits, labiaplasty is usually considered cosmetic and, therefore, not covered by insurance. However, “a medical procedure is deemed medically necessary when it can improve the health and well-being of a patient,” notes Douglas Monasebian, MD, a NYC-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon. As he explains, some medical indications for labiaplasty include pain from the labia rubbing against undergarments, discomfort during intercourse, and the presence of infection around the labia minora. “Another soft indication would be psychological disturbance,” he adds.
6. What Is the Labiaplasty Recovery Process Like?
The recovery process after a labiaplasty is, as Dr. Judge says, “fast, simple, and straightforward,” though “you are a couch potato for the first week.” During that period of downtime, patients are advised to shower daily, pat the area dry, and apply antibiotic ointment throughout the day, in addition to icing the area. After the first seven days, patients can get up, walk around, and resume most normal activities, but heavy lifting and working out are off limits for the first month. “By three weeks, 50 percent of the swelling is down, by six weeks, 80 percent is down,” Dr. Judge explains. “By three months, that last little bit is gone.” Many doctors will also prescribe a course of antibiotics to prevent infection.
7. How Does Labiaplasty Impact Sexual Health?
Though you will not be able to have sex for at least four weeks after labiaplasty, most women report improved sexual experiences after they’ve healed (two patients spoke to us about their experience). “Overall, the procedure will not affect fertility in any way, but it may make intercourse and intimate relations more pleasurable,” Dr. Monasebian explains. “If there was any pain during intercourse, this is very often relieved.” That can potentially include enhanced orgasms, too. “Labiaplasty can increase clitoral exposure, leading to easier or more profound orgasms,” Dr. Chmielewski says. “It can also enhance confidence regarding the appearance of the vulvar area.”
8. What Kind of Results Can Be Expected from Labiaplasty?
This procedure yields reliable results. Patients can expect “natural looking anatomy with an almost imperceptible scar,” Dr. Judge says. It should be noted, however, that ‘natural looking’ doesn’t mean perfectly symmetrical. “You will always have asymmetry between the right and left side,” she notes. “That is considered natural and normal.”
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