Women's business: labioplasty

Dr Mark Kohout
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Dr Mark Kohout

Labioplasty is also known as labia reduction, inner lip reduction, labia minora reduction or vaginal rejuvenation. Cosmetic labioplasty involves surgically reducing and/or reshaping the female external genital structures. Large or asymmetric labia may cause different problems for women. They may cause physical discomfort, may chaff against underwear or be visible through swimming costumes.

More commonly, large labia tend to make women self-conscious about their appearance, which may impact on their sexual and emotional relationships. Their self-confidence may also be affected. Here is how one patient explains it:

"My labia would actually protrude. I would stand up and it would pop out and I would want to tuck it back up, but obviously I couldn't if I was in public. When it popped out, it rubbed on my underpants, which felt awful and was so unpleasant. I would complain to my mother about it, but she thought I would "grow out of it" and that it would shrink in time. But it didn't. "I had no self-confidence and when I was naked it dangled. My partner would joke about it but luckily, he wasn't really bothered by it at all — it was me that was bothered. I always made sure there was a lot of "mood lighting" in the bedroom."

Labioplasty is requested by women of all ages and walks of life. Often just feeling good about how you look can build self-confidence and self-esteem. Some patients report improvement in their sex lives as a result of this procedure and the effect it has on their confidence.

"I am so happy now: it's really changed my quality of life. Little things, like wearing a swimming costume, are different for me now. It used to be awful in summer — sometimes you could see the labia through the costume, which was so embarrassing. And to my partner's delight, I was "out of action" for only four weeks, even though I was told it could be up to six weeks."

Commonly asked questions
How is the procedure performed?

Labioplasty can be performed in a day surgery, usually under general anaesthetic or sedation depending on your preference. The procedure takes 60-90 minutes. The excess tissue is marked out and removed. Once the surgery is completed, you will be transferred to the recovery ward for a couple of hours until you are ready to go home.

How long does recovery take?
Recovery is a gradual process but it usually takes about a week before returning to work. You can get back to exercise about two weeks after the operation and playing sport after about four to six weeks and sexual activity can resume after four to six weeks depending on your comfort levels.

What are the risks?
Labioplasty is a safe procedure but like all operations, has some risks. Bruising will persist for about a week and swelling will decrease over about six weeks. Asymmetry is possible and scars may also detract from the result. Nevertheless, labioplasty is a procedure with very high satisfaction.

Maintaining a relationship with your plastic surgeon
Should there be any questions regarding labioplasty surgery, be sure they are answered in advance. Well meaning friends are not a good source of information. Find out everything before proceeding with the operation — a well informed patient is a happy one.

After surgery, you will return to your plastic surgeon's office for follow-up care at prescribed intervals, at which time your progress can be evaluated. Once the immediate postoperative follow-up is complete, many surgeons encourage their patients to come back for periodic check-ups to observe and discuss the long-term results of surgery.

Please remember that the relationship with your plastic surgeon does not end when you leave the operating room. If you have questions or concerns during your recovery, or need additional information at a later time, you should contact your surgeon.

Dr Mark Kohout FRACS
Plastic Surgeon
Ph: 1300 551 151
Leichhardt — Bondi Junction — Orange NSW

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