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Labiaplasty: Understanding the Anatomy

December 28, 2010

Cosmetic surgery can be used to enhance appearance and self-esteem. But it can also be used to enhance function. For some women, having enlarged inner genital lips (labia minora) can be functionally or emotionally bothersome. Age, childbirth, hormones, and sexual intercourse can cause enlarged labia, or it can occur naturally. Local irritation and problems with personal hygiene can interfere with sexual intercourse and cause discomfort during other activities like cycling, walking or sitting. Labiaplasty is a cosmetic surgery procedure that offers women a solution.Labiaplasty surgically reshapes or reduces the external appearance of the vagina. This is done to enhance a woman’s vaginal appearance and sexual gratification.

With the increasing popularity of various cosmetic surgery procedures, including labiaplasty, it is important that the prospective patient research and understand different issues like what the procedure can and cannot treat, inherent risks, costs, and other factors. Keep in mind, cosmetic surgery is just that – a surgical procedure whose results cannot simply be erased.

When considering this or any other cosmetic procedure, consult a qualified provider with significant experience. Some important elements you should understand regarding this procedure include the following:

Who is an Ideal Candidate for Labiaplasty?

There are various reasons why women would choose to undergo labiaplasty. The more common include:

  • Reducing pain during intercourse.
  • Gaining a boost in self-esteem.
  • Feeling more confident.
  • Reducing emotional and physical discomfort from having enlarged labia.
  • Enhancing sexual pleasure.

Where do I begin?

Those considering labiaplasty should first find a qualified cosmetic surgeon or gynecologist to perform the procedure.

During consultations, doctors can learn more about their patients and vice versa. This visit gives the doctor a chance to evaluate the current state of the patient’s labia and discuss options that will help the patient achieve a desired look.

Consultation visits also give patients the opportunity to talk about their goals and expectations for labiaplasty and to ask any questions. These visits also allow the doctors to inform the patient of the benefits, precautions, risks, surgical method and other important information. It is important that patients are well-informed of the procedure before making a decision.

How is Labiaplasty Performed?

Labiaplasty usually takes about one to two hours while the patient is under local anesthesia. Sometimes, general anesthesia is used so ask your doctor first. Labiaplasty is generally performed on the inner lips (Labia Minora). The labia minora is the skin that covers the vaginal opening.

For labiaplasty of the inner lips, some surgeons reduce the excess tissue by removing a wedge-shaped section from the center and bringing together the top and bottom. This technique keeps the normal labial edge. The excess skin and/or fat is surgically removed.

Are there other techniques available?

Laser reduction labiaplasty is another option used to achieve an enhanced labia appearance. During this procedure, lasers are used to trim the labia minora (small inner lips.) The procedure takes less time but results in loss of the normal labia edges.

Augmentation Labiaplasty can also be used to enhance the labia majora. This involves harvesting fat from other areas of the body and reinjecting it into the labia, providing an enhanced and youthful appearance.

How Much Pain is Associated with Labiaplasty?

It is natural for women to feel mild to moderate discomfort and swelling after undergoing labiaplasty. The doctor should prescribe medication to help reduce pain. Most discomfort should subside within several days but mild discomfort can continue for several weeks. Most of the swelling is gone by six weeks.

What is the road to recovery like?

It is important for patients to follow their doctors’ post-op orders following surgery. This will help ensure quality results and better healing as well as reduce discomfort and complications.

Instructions may include avoiding intercourse for several weeks (typically three to six weeks) following surgery. The doctors may recommend that women not to use tampons and/or douches while recovering.

Women usually return to work and normal activities within two to five days, while more strenuous activities will take about three weeks.

What are The Long-Term Effects of Labiaplasty?

The results of the labiaplasty are permanent. The labia can become mildly enlarged again over time, but this is uncommon.

What Are the Risks and Limitations of Labiaplasty?

All forms of cosmetic surgery carry some degree of risks and complications, including scarring and infection.

Risks associated with labiaplasty include changes in sensation, changes in pigmentation, or asymmetry. The risks for labiaplasty depend on the technique used. Change of sensation has not been reported with the wedge technique, but has been seen with amputation (trimming) techniques. Mild separation of the labial edge can occur with the wedge technique in five percent of cases but is easily corrected. The trimming technique changes pigmentation and texture of the labial edge. Asymmetry can occur with each technique.

The subject of potential risk and complications should be discussed between you and your surgeon. It is important that patients are aware of both the benefits and the risks, before undergoing labiaplasty.

Are there other cosmetic surgery procedures for the vaginal area?

There are other various procedures designed to enhance the vaginal region. Here is a brief listing of some of the more common vaginal rejuvenation procedures:

Clitoral hood reduction – Some surgeons reduce the width and/or length of the clitoral hood depending on the anatomy and wishes of the patient.

Hymenoplasty – This involves the reconstruction of the hymen to restore it to a virginal state. This is usually performed for cultural, social, or religious reasons.

Vaginoplasty – Also known as vaginal rejuvenation, this is a procedure designed to correct stretched vaginal muscles resulting from childbirth.

Vulvar Lipoplasty – During this procedure, the unwanted fatty tissue covering the pubic area (also called mons pubis) is removed.

If you are considering vaginal rejuvenation and would like to know which procedure would work best for you, please consult your surgeon.

What Are The Typical Costs Associated With Labiaplasty?

The costs for labia rejuvenation can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $8,000. Fees within various regions may vary depending on whether the doctor’s practice is in an urban, suburban or rural area. This fee only covers the physician’s costs, and does not include other miscellaneous costs. A comprehensive cost figure may be obtained while consulting with the physician. Make sure this figure includes any and all associated costs.

Unfortunately, most medical insurance providers do not cover cosmetic surgery procedures. However, most surgeons do offer multiple financing options.

Ten Questions Patients Undergoing Labiaplasty Should Ask Their Surgeon

To better educate the patient about labiaplasty, as well as assisting in formulating realistic expectations, it is recommended that the patient look at before and after photographs, speak with previous patients, (you are always welcome to ask your doctor for referrals to previous patients and where to contact them) and get answers to the following questions:

  • Are the desired results I described realistic?
  • Where is the labiaplasty minora performed and how long will it take?
  • In my case, which labia minora technique is most appropriate?
  • What kind of anesthesia will the surgeon use during the surgery?
  • How much does labiaplasty cost and what other elements factor into that cost (i.e., hospital fee, anesthesia, etc)?
  • What is the surgeon’s level of experience in performing labiaplasty?
  • What percentage of patients experience complications with the labiaplasty?
  • What is the surgeon’s policy in regard to correcting or repeating the procedure if the labiaplasty does not meet agreed upon goals?
  • What should I expect, post-operatively, in terms of soreness, scaring, activity level and so on?
  • Have you ever had your malpractice insurance coverage denied, revoked or suspended?

However, don’t limit yourself to these questions. If there is something you do not understand about labiaplasty, do not hesitate in asking the doctor any questions you might have.

In addition, it is important that patients undergoing labia minora reduction relay to their surgeon information regarding any allergies and serious medical conditions they may have. Furthermore, patients should inform the surgeon of any medications they are taking.

Source: Cosmetic
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