What is labiaplasty?
A labiaplasty is a surgical procedure used to reshape and reduce the size of the labia minora, which are the inner ‘lips’ of the vulva. It is sometimes referred to as vagina rejuvenation and is the most common form of female genital cosmetic surgery.
People who opt for labiaplasty surgery usually do so because they dislike the appearance of their labia, which can affect their self-esteem. Other reasons include experiencing pain or discomfort during sex or certain physical activities, such as cycling.
How is a labiaplasty performed?
Depending on the goals of your surgery, a labiaplasty can either be done with local or general anesthetic. Even if you receive local anesthetic, you will still be sedated and won’t feel anything while the procedure is happening.
During the labiaplasty, a surgeon will remove part of the labia, or vaginal lips, using a scalpel or laser. They will then stitch the wound using very small, dissolvable stitches.
The procedure usually lasts 1–2 hours and you will likely be able to go home on the same day. If you have received general anesthetic, it is very important for a loved one to stay with you for the first 24 hours.
Types of labiaplasty
Depending on the shape of the labia and the goal of the surgery, the doctor will either use one of the following techniques:
- Trim technique: where they will remove excess skin along the outer edge of the labia
- Wedge technique: where they will remove a V-shaped wedge at the widest point of the labia before delicately stitching the edges together
Do I need a labiaplasty?
A labiaplasty can help you feel more comfortable if you are bothered by the appearance of your labia or vulva. Many people who get a labiaplasty have been thinking about the procedure for several years before they make the decision to contact a clinic.
A labiaplasty surgery can ensure that the labia minora do not hang below the labia majora (the larger, outer ‘lips’) or tug or fall out of tight underwear or bathing suits. It can also correct asymmetry if one side is longer than the other.
It is important to consider whether cosmetic surgery is right for you. For many people it is normal to have large, uneven, or noticeable labia, but some people opt for surgery as a quick fix to increase their confidence and wellbeing.
Labiaplasty is not usually performed on anyone under the age of 18 since the labia continues to grow into adulthood.
Is labiaplasty painful?
You will receive general or local anesthetic for the procedure, so you won’t feel any pain. You may have some discomfort during the recovery period, but this is usually minor and can be treated with prescription or over-the-counter painkillers.
You may also have some swelling, bruising and soreness in the initial weeks after the surgery, which can make urinating or sitting down uncomfortable. A ‘donut pillow’ can help you sit comfortably during your recovery.
Avoid wearing tight clothes or applying pressure to the area (such as by sitting on a bicycle) until the area has fully healed.
A labiaplasty costs anywhere between £2,000 and £4,000 in the UK, not including costs of consultations, complications or follow-up appointments. The cost of your individual labiaplasty will vary depending on a variety of factors, such as your goal and overall health.
The consultant will discuss the overall cost with you during your consultation to ensure you have all the right information to make your decision.
Labiaplasty is a cosmetic surgery procedure, so is not usually available on the NHS. However, if you are considering treatment but you are unsure about the most suitable payment option, then you might be interested in our payment plans that are available to cover your treatment. Get in touch to find out more.
Labiaplasty patient journey
Studies have shown that people are generally happy with the appearance of their genitals following a labiaplasty. While everyone will have a unique experience, here is what you can expect from your labiaplasty patient journey:
An initial consultation
During the initial consultation, the doctor will talk to you about why you want to have a labiaplasty, what you want to achieve with the procedure and whether it is right for you.
They will talk to you about their level of experience and may show you pictures or drawings of their previous surgeries so you can get a better idea of what to expect. You can also ask them about their patient satisfaction rates.
It’s important for you to feel comfortable with the doctor and enthusiastic about the surgery, so ask plenty of questions. You may wish to take a notebook to record the answers.
The day of the surgery
Your doctor will have told you everything you need to do to prepare for the labiaplasty. For example, if you are having general anesthesia, you may need to fast (not eat) and receive blood tests before the surgery.
Pack a surgery bag with everything you will need to be comfortable that day, including:
- Loose, comfortable clothing
- Extra pads (though the clinic will also provide some for after the surgery)
- Your medications, including details of any repeat prescriptions
- Your mobile phone and a charger
- Something to read, in case you have to wait
After the surgery
Your labia — both the labia minora and labia majora — will be very swollen the first day or two after surgery. Even the skin over your clitoris and surrounding area may be red, swollen and hot to the touch. These symptoms usually peak between 1–3 days after the surgery.
The skin in this area can swell significantly, so do not be alarmed. This is not what your vulva will look like. It needs time — usually several weeks — before you will see the final result.
Labiaplasty aftercare and recovery
In order to prepare for your recovery, you should:
- Book time off work
- Be prepared to take a break from any exercise routines you have
- Remove hair from the area, if this is something you usually do
Labiaplasty is an outpatient procedure, which means you can usually go home on the same day as your surgery (although some people will be offered the option to stay overnight).
You may feel groggy or unwell during the first few hours after surgery, but this will pass. The clinical team will ensure you have medications to ease pain and nausea. If you have had general anesthesia, make sure you have another adult present for the first 24 hours you spend at home.
You might be feeling excited or nervous about the results. Relax as much as possible and focus on healing. Moving around and getting outside for gentle walks will help get you feeling better faster, as well as reduce your risk of blood clots.
It may be 1–2 weeks before you feel well enough to return to work, depending on how physically strenuous your job is. Doctors advise waiting 4 weeks or longer before returning to intense exercise, but you should be up and moving around within a couple of days.
Most patients find the pain and swelling is manageable with over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen.
Urinating may be uncomfortable or painful at first. Make sure you drink plenty of clear fluids, like water and herbal tea. Using wet wipes for sensitive skin (no perfumes) instead of regular toilet paper can also help.
You should also keep the area as clean as possible to reduce the risk of infection. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on taking care of the incision. Follow these instructions and call the clinic if you have any questions about them.
Labiaplasty has a low risk of infection and will cause only minimal scarring, which fades quickly. However, speak to a doctor if you have:
- Unbearable pain or pain that does not fade over time
- Foul-smelling discharge
- A fever
These symptoms could be a sign of an infection.
Sex after labiaplasty
Doctors usually recommend refraining from sexual activity for at least 6 weeks after labiaplasty. It is essential to wait until you have had your post-operative appointment when the surgeon will ensure everything is healing as it should.
The doctor will discuss the possible risks of having sex too early, including improper healing, infection and distortion. You will also need to wait until all of the stitches have dissolved. If the incisions have not completely closed, any sexual activity could open them again.
The labia will likely feel very sensitive in the weeks following surgery, so sex may be uncomfortable or even painful until they are fully healed.
The doctor will check on your progress during a follow-up appointment and can give you a more personalised timeline. Everyone’s body is different, so some people heal faster or slower than others.
Don’t let the recovery period discourage you from having a labiaplasty — the procedure may restore your body confidence during sex in the long term.
Labiaplasty success rate
Overall, labiaplasty surgery has a high rate of success and patient satisfaction. It is vital to choose the right consultant that adheres to strict safety measures and puts their patient satisfaction first.
There are also a few things you can do to ensure you feel happy with the results:
- Choose an experienced surgeon who provides plenty of information on their previous patients’ results and answers any questions you have during the consultation
- Speak to the surgeon about your expectations for the look and feel of your vulva and labia
- Follow the clinic’s aftercare instructions and call if you are unsure about any of them
- Watch for signs of postoperative infection and seek assistance as soon as possible if you think you have an infection
- Avoid drinking or smoking in the lead up to your labiaplasty and during your recovery
Labiaplasty side effects
The side effects and risks of a labiaplasty are minimal, in part because the surgery is external and the scarring fades quickly.
Possible temporary side effects of labiaplasty surgery include:
- Pain and swelling
- Unusual discharge
- Signs of infection, such as pus, a fever, or wounds that do not heal
Labiaplasty risks and complications
While labiaplasty surgery is generally low-risk, it can result in:
- Long-term scarring
- Reduced sensitivity in the area if the nerves are affected
- Dehiscence, where the wound does not heal
Almost all operations also carry a low risk of:
- Blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Excessive bleeding
- An allergic reaction to general or local anesthesia
The surgeon will take the time to explain all of these risks and possible complications to you. They will also give you personalised tips on how to reduce the risks, such as quitting smoking or avoiding alcohol during your recovery.
The McIndoe Centre will guide you through every step of the process to make sure you are feeling confident and supported.
Our previous clients have given us excellent feedback, often feeling a sense of relief and satisfaction that they finally made the decision they’d been thinking about for years:
"The operation was on Thursday and by Monday I was back in my routine. Day by day I noticed it healing. It was just amazing. I am so happy that I did this, years of worrying and now it’s ended."
“I trusted her [the surgeon] and felt comfortable.”
“I honestly never experienced any severe discomfort. Going to the toilet was interesting for the first few days [and] I had to waddle for a few days as the swelling took hold.”
“I couldn’t help but smile despite the visible stitches, I was so happy!”
How to find a good labiaplasty surgeon and clinic
While clinics outside of the UK may provide labiaplasty surgery and other procedures at a lower cost, they may not have the same standards for safety and quality.
Be very wary of labiaplasty offers that seem ‘too good to be true’ – these surgeries can be ineffective or even dangerous.
The McIndoe Centre offers experienced, friendly surgeons in a state-of-the-art hospital in East Grinstead. Our specialists welcome you to contact us to arrange a consultation. Alternatively, you can call our free Private Patient Advisory Team for more information and professional advice on 01342 488054.
Page last reviewed on 16/11/2021
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