If celebs have taught us anything in recent years, it’s that the v#lva and vag!na aren’t off-limits when it comes to cosmetic treatments. From the Kardashian sisters’ openness about getting laser vag!nal rejuvenation to Sharon Osborne talking about her vag!nal tightening procedure, it’s clear that beautification treatments below the belt are becoming commonplace. And the trend is growing among non-celebrities too. In fact, when it comes to lab!aplasty (aka “designer vag!na” surgery, which involves altering the lab!a), there was a 53 percent increase in procedures from 2013 to 2018 in the U.S., according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
his growing trend might be due to an increase in awareness and conversation about vag!nal health, suggests Juliana Hansen, MD, professor of surgery and division chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine. For many generations, vag!nal health has been considered taboo, and procedures and options for care for female gen!talia werent available, Dr. Hansen says.
The number of lab!aplasty procedures increased 53 percent in the U.S. between 2013 and 2018.
Regardless of the the exact reason behind the trend, vag!nal health, and plastic surgery in and around the vag!nal area, are getting more attention than ever before. Here, everything you need to know about lab!aplasty and other common vag!nal cosmetic procedures.
What is lab!aplasty?
Lab!aplasty is mostly an aesthetic procedure, but it could also be functional (more on the reasons women have it done below). In most cases, the surgery alters the lab!a minora, or the inner lips of the vag!na, Dr. Hansen explains, but it could be tailored to alter the lab!a majora, or outer lips, as well. Basically, the plastic surgeon shortens the labia to remove excess tissue, which might be bothering the patient for aesthetic or functional reasons, e.g., it gets in the way during s.e.x or exercise.
Lab!aplasty is different from a vag!noplasty, which is a surgical procedure for vag!nal tightening, Dr. Hansen explains. Certain patients may have this done because of p3lvic-floor issues, such as incontinence, after multiple childbirths, she says. But, its also often done to help increase vag!nal tightness for s.e.xual pleasure purposes. However, there is not a ton of evidence that [vag!noplasty] procedures work well, Dr. Hansen says, and there may be potential for causing chronic pain and harm.
Lab!aplasty involves shortening the lab!a to remove excess tissue, which might be bothering someone due to aesthetic or functional reasons.
There are also non-surgical vag!nal rejuvenation treatments, which fall into the “designer vag!na” trend but are totally different than lab!aplasty. These include lasers to stimulate the mucosa, or inner lining, of the vag!na, and LED light treatments that supposedly stimulate the vag!na to produce more tissue, Dr. Hansen says. However, she warns that most of these treatments are not FDA-approved or scientifically proven to increase vag!nal tightness or reduce dryness.
Surgeries for tr@nsgender women are generally completely separate from lab!aplasty procedures and vag!nal rejuvenation procedures as well. Gender confirmation surgeries often involve creating a v#lva for a male-to-female tr@nsgender patient, but typically the new v#lva then needs to be dilated and stretched to function properly, Dr. Hansen says which is nearly the opposite of many of these tightening vag!noplasty or lab!aplasty procedures.
Why would someone get a lab!aplasty?
There are a few reasons for undergoing a lab!aplasty procedure, but most of them involve aesthetics as opposed to medical necessity:
- Dissatisfaction with the lab!a appearance: This is the number-one reason women tend to have lab!aplasty done. They might experience embarrassment or lack of confidence in how their lab!a look, especially during s.e.x. In many women, the lab!a minora hang lower which is completely normal! but doesn’t match the very narrow beauty standards women see in media, Dr. Hansen says.
- Discomfort with long lab!a: Having larger or longer lab!a could actually cause functional problems for some patients. This could include discomfort riding a bike or wearing underwear or a thong, or excess moisture coming from the vag!na.
- Pain during s.e.x: Dissatisfaction with the appearance of the lab!a may affect a patients confidence in the bedroom but having enlarged or longer lab!a could also get in the way during s.e.x, potentially causing a painful, or at the very least, uncomfortable experience. Just by reducing the size of the lab!a, s.e.xual function might be improved, if anything, because you’re not as worried about the tissue getting pulled or stretched during int3rcourse, Dr. Hansen says.
- Cancers or pre-cancerous conditions: One medical reason for a labia reconstruction might involve having to remove part of the lab!a that contains cancer cells in the vag!nal area. Cancers or pre-cancerous conditions that can grow there might require excisions, Dr. Hansen says.
What are the risks of labiaplasty?
Like any medical procedure, lab!aplasty doesn’t come 100 percent risk-free. Possible complications include wound separation and scarring. Some researchers have also raised concerns about possible loss of s.e.xual sensation as a result of lab!aplasty, as well as an increased risk of trauma to the perineal area during vag!nal delivery, though all of these risks need to be researched further.
What are the steps of a lab!aplasty procedure?
Getting lab!aplasty starts with a consultation with a plastic surgeon. This is a discussion of what the problem with the v#lva is, pre-operation. The doctor has to see the same issue that the patient sees with their lab!a, says Dr. Hansen. If there isnt a good surgical solution, which would involve shortening or reconstructing the lab!a, then the surgeon wont recommend surgery to the patient, Dr. Hansen notes.
The procedure itself is always surgical, but it can be done in-office, under local anesthesia in a clinic, or can be done under general anesthesia in a hospital, Dr. Hansen says. During the operation, the surgeon will reduce the size and length of the lab!a minora, and make a stitch line. It takes some time to heal, so she recommends two to three weeks of resting and icing the area, and keeping it clean.
We also recommend that patients avoid activities that will traumatize or stretch out the stitch line for about six weeks to three months, Dr. Hansen says (so it might involve getting creative with your typical s.e.xual activity).
Patients tend to agree that the surgery goes quickly (it typically only takes about an hour), but the healing process is long. Post-operation was extremely painful, as I expected. I took a lot of pain medicine and avoiding being on my feet at all costs for at least a week. It hurt badly when I walked for about seven days, and I felt a burning pain which was worse during ur!nation,” wrote one patient in a review of her experience with the procedure at Lab!aplasty Boston in Boston, Massachusetts. “You should make sure you have at least a week off if you plan on getting this done. However, this procedure was well worth the pain.”
How much does lab!aplasty cost?
Lab!aplasty procedures are no small expense. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that the procedure costs about $2,800. These are typically considered elective cosmetic surgeries, Dr. Hansen says, so it would be difficult to get it covered by any insurance company, even if you could argue that the procedure might be medically beneficial (such as in the case of pain during s.e.x or reconstruction after the removal of cancerous cells).
Are lab!aplasty procedures off-limits for anyone?
Generally speaking, if the surgeon doesnt see a valid reason for performing lab!aplasty on a patient, they wont. Other than that, patients who have other medical conditions, especially those that might affect healing, would not be good candidates, Dr. Hansen says. If you have other medical conditions, its best to consult your primary care physician first before seeing a plastic surgeon.
Also, the procedure is a no-go for pregnant women, because giving birth would affect healing. A natural childbirth would impact that area, and women might tear their stitch line or need an episiotomy after birth, Dr. Hansen says, so most surgeons would never recommend that.
The bottom line : Lab!aplasty may help if you feel that your lab!a are interfere with your ability to function s.e.xually or cause pain or discomfort. But keep in mind that it’s normal for v#lvas and vag!nas to come in all shapes and sizesso only take the medical risk if *you* want to.