Updated 4th April 2021
Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure for women who experience functional or cosmetic concerns about their vagina. But what is labiaplasty and what does it do? Quite simply labiaplasty surgery is a cosmetic surgery that changes the size and shape of the labia minora (inner vaginal lips) and or the labia majora (outer vaginal lips). Most commonly it is the inner lips of the vagina that are altered in surgery.
This is because of both functional and cosmetic concerns that some women may experience. These concerns are caused mostly because of the size and shape of the labia minora. Some women who have a labia minora that is longer and/or bigger than the labia majora suffer from discomfort, irritation or pain when performing certain physical activities such as bike riding, horse riding, wearing tight clothing and more. This also affects their ability to engage in sexual activity without such physical discomfort or pain. It is important to note that the labia minora, labia majora and vulva commonly changes in length or shape during the course of a woman’s life. These changes can sometimes happen because of multiple childbirths, aging, stretching or genetics.
The cosmetic concerns that women experience commonly evolve from a feeling of having abnormal genitalia. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ looking labia minora or labia majora as every single persons genitals; both male and female is different.
But it’s this feeling of abnormality that may cause some women to feel emotionally distressed whilst wearing tight clothing as well as hindering confidence in their sexual relationships. There is an increase of women opting for labiaplasty because of the wealth in information available on the procedure both on the Internet and in cosmetic marketing material. According to Women’s Health Queensland Wide Inc. more women are seeking this procedure because of the rise in popularity of the Brazilian wax and the way women’s genitals are represented in porn – the Australian Censorship Guidelines enforce that the labia minora not be visible throughout magazine publications sold on the shelf in Australian news agencies. This means that the female genitals are usually always airbrushed before the magazine goes to print, giving a false representation of what ‘normal’ looks like.
Procedures that alter the size or augment the appearance of the labia majora are not as common as the labiaplasty procedures on the labia minora. The main reasons that women seek to alter the labia majora is to improve the appearance of a labia majora that is either wrinkly in appearance, appears too long, uneven or too large.
How does Labiaplasty work?
Surgical reduction of the Labia Minora (the inner lips) is by far the most frequently requested labiaplasty procedure. Many patients ask that their labia minora be reduced to the same length as their labia majora (outer lips) or even smaller. Some also ask that the outer darker parts of their labia minora also be removed because some believe this gives a vagina a more youthful look.
This process of altering the size or length of the labia minora occurs via the ‘trim’ method or the ‘wedge’ method. The ‘trim’ method is the most popular with surgeons whom perform the labiaplasty procedure of the labia minora. The ‘trim’ method does exactly just that, trims the unwanted part of the labia minora, which is then sutured (a stitch used by surgeons). Dissolvable sutures are used exclusively in labiaplasty. Depending on the specific type of suture (there are a few different types), and the location of the suture, they typically dissolve at 7 – 21 days (some dissolve in 7-10 days), allowing tissues to heal in the most natural way.
The only concerns some have with the ‘trim’ style of labiaplasty is that the labial edge is left with a slight surgical scar (some more than others) that can on an occasion be overly sensitive.
The ‘wedge’ method also sometimes referred to as the ‘V’ method, aims to reduce the size of the labia minora by cutting out the unwanted part in a ‘V’ shape wedge. These edges are then sewn back together. This forms a straight line with no scar or stitches along the labia edge. Again dissolvable sutures are used in this procedure. Some say this method works better to maintain the normal appearance of the labia without the risk of prolonged sensitivity along the edge of the labia minora. Though this option does not work as well if the general colour and thickness of the labia minora is the main concern for surgery.
The tools that a surgeon uses to perform this type of labiaplasty depend on the surgeon’s preference. Lasers, scalpels and iris scissors can be used. The laser is renowned for precise straight cuts, but it is argued that the iris scissors leave a more natural feel, leaving the labia looking more natural post surgery. Despite using either tool, if the incision is made according to proper lines than there should be hardly any scarring visible anyway.
Surgically altering the labia majora; this procedure either includes labia majora reduction or labia majora augmentation. If the patient feels that her labia majora is too ‘fat’ or ‘large’ then this requires surgical reduction such as liposuction and the removal of excess labia majora or pubic skin. Alternatively augmentation to enlarge or fill up the labia majora, if a patient feels her labia majora is too small or wrinkly.
The techniques required for the labiaplasty procedure of the labia majora is not offered by all surgeons, as it requires additional training on the surgeons behalf which is not offered inside of standard cosmetic surgery training.
Some surgeons include clitoral hood reduction and hoodectomy (the permanent surgical removal of the portion of the clitoral hood that drapes and conceals the clitoris) as a labiaplasty procedure. Other physicians keep these procedures completely separate.
Should you consider labiaplasty surgery?
- Do you feel self conscious about the appearance of your vagina lips?
- Are you feeling emotionally distressed about the appearance of your vagina lips?
- Are your vagina lips causing you irritation during sexual intercourse or certain physical activities such as bike riding?
- Is the appearance of your vagina stopping you from participating in certain activities?
Some things to consider before Labiaplasty
- Labiaplasty cannot make the vagina smaller; vaginoplasty and some laser procedures can do this.
- Labiaplasty cannot be relied upon for sexual gratification – sexual enhancement in any sexual relationship relies upon a number of different factors and not just the size shape, appearance or length of the labia majora and labia minora
- If your main concerns for labiaplasty are based purely on appearance it is worth talking to your doctor or a counselor about this first
- What sort of results do you want from surgery?
- If you were to have surgery how would it make you feel afterward?
For more information on what you should consider before any cosmetic surgery make sure you have a read of the Better Health Victoria fact sheet on cosmetic genital surgery.
So what is labiaplasty? Labiaplasty is a cosmetic surgery procedure that changes the size and shape of the labia minora (inner vaginal lips) and or the labia majora (outer vaginal lips). The information on this site should be able to act as a reference guide for anyone seeking more information about labiaplasty, what is involved and how much it will cost. Throughout this site you will find all the information you will need on the costs involved, the Medicare rebate that is available to some women and some frequently asked questions that will help you with any concerns that you may have.