Learn everything about your treatment
Learn everything about your treatment
1 to 2 hours
Day case or one night
General anaesthetic or local anaesthetic with sedation
What is a Labiaplasty?
Labiaplasty, or vulval surgery, is a surgical procedure that aims to reduce the size or correct the shape of the labia minora and majora. It is the most popular vaginal surgery and is in high demand. This labiaplasty overview aims to give you the facts about what the surgery involves and what it aims to achieve.
What can a Labiaplasty achieve?
The labia minora are the inner lips of the vagina and the labia majora are the outer lips. It is natural that they come in all shapes and sizes. Some women may be born with a large labia. However, the labia may also increase in size during life. This may be due to child birth, ageing or the effect of hormones.
Whilst having long or many folds of the labia minora is perfectly normal, some women are unhappy with the way this looks. Some women may also feel self-conscious when their labia peeks through their underwear or swim suit. Furthermore, women who have an enlarged or elongated labia may feel some discomfort or pain. This may occur when they wear certain clothing such as yoga pants, during exercise or sex. This technique improves the aesthetic look of the labia by correcting the size and shape. Surgery can achieve this is through the removal of excess tissue from the inner lips. Therefore, the reduction in the size resolves any tugging or twisting that some women struggle with.
In addition, the goal of the surgery is to reduce the extent that the inner lips hang down below the level of the hairy outer lips. It can also be an option for women where one side is longer than the other and want this asymmetry corrected.
To conclude, many women who have had this surgery have been very happy with the results! They have found it helps to boost your self- esteem and improves their quality of life.
Who are BAAPS and BAPRAS?
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) and the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) are the main societies for plastic surgeons in the UK. Surgeons who are members of these societies must undergo regular training. This ensures their skills and knowledge are always kept up to date.
Furthermore, to become a member of either of these societies, surgeons must reach a high level in their training. Because of this, here at Medbelle we only work with surgeons who are a member of BAAPS or BAPRAS. Thus, giving our patients the best standard of care.
Who are the best candidates for a labiaplasty?
A labiaplasty is most suitable for those women who dislike the shape or size of their labia minora. It is quickly becoming a more popular procedure. The best labiaplasty candidates are those women who wish to improve the appearance of their labia. There are many reasons for this such as pain issues, cosmetic concerns and to improve their sex life.
However, our surgeons do express that there is no standard shape of genitalia. There is a huge range of what is considered normal. The average length of the labia is around one inch from the base to the tip. Conversely, if yours is longer or shorter than this but is causing you to be unhappy or feel self-conscious then surgery may be the option for you.
Women may wish to consider vulval surgery if they:
- Are 18 years and older
- Are relatively fit and healthy
- Have a healthy BMI
- Have no serious health conditions
- Feel self-conscious about the size or shape of their labia
- Are unhappy with the appearance of their vaginal lips
- Have an overly large or misshapen labia
- Suffered from tears during childbirth that never fully resolved
- Are experiencing discomfort due to tugging or chaffing
- Are finding it difficult or painful to have sexual intercourse
- Cannot do certain activities such as cycling due to discomfort
Why have a labiaplasty?
There are many benefits of having surgery to improve the appearance of your genitals. Women who find that their inner vaginal lips hang lower than the level of their outer often feel some discomfort and pain. This may be during certain activities such as cycling, sexual intercourse or even whilst wearing skinny jeans. As a result, this can make some women have a low self-esteem and self-worth. If this sounds like what you are experiencing, then our BAAPS/ BAPRAS approved surgeons can help you. The benefits of surgery include:
- Reducing the size of the labia
- Improving any asymmetry where one vaginal lip may droop lower than the other
- Reducing the prominence of your genitals
- Improving your self-esteem.
In summary, if you are unhappy with the way your genitals look then you should not feel shame or embarrassment. Our patient care advisers will match you with a surgeon that will be able to meet your needs and help with your worries.
How is a labiaplasty procedure performed?
Labiaplasty surgery takes between one to two hours. In your initial consultation, you will meet with your BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon. They will go through the steps of the labiaplasty procedure with you and answer any questions you may have. They will also guide you as to what to eat or drink and which medications to take the night before your surgery.
Before you can go ahead with surgery you will need to sign a consent form. Your surgeon will go through this with you either on the day of your surgery or at your pre-operative appointment. To be able to sign this it is important that you are aware of the procedure and potential complications that it may involve. Furthermore, you will meet with your anaesthetist where they will perform a pre-operative assessment.
A labiaplasty can be performed under a general anaesthetic, where you are put to sleep. It may also be done using a local anaesthetic, this numbs the treatment area so you are not able to feel anything. Often, if your anaesthetist uses a local anaesthetic, they will give you some sedation to make you relax. You will discuss with your surgeon before the surgery the best choice of anaesthetic for you.
Once in the operating room, your surgeon will clean the treatment area and drape it. This is to ensure the area remains sterile, reducing the risk of infection.
There are two main techniques that your surgeon may use. They will discuss the different techniques with you and decide which one will best suit your desired outcomes.
- The Trim or strip method
This is the simplest technique that your surgeon can use. Your surgeon will make a small vertical incision with a scalpel or laser along the length of the labia minora. Next, your surgeon will remove any excess tissue in the area.
The most suitable patients for this technique are those women looking to remove long, uneven edges of the labia. Furthermore, it is also suitable for ladies who have some mismatch in the colour of the skin around their labia.
- The wedge method
With this technique, your surgeon will remove a wedge of excess tissue from the labia. Consequently, the wound is closed using a flap that is made of the skin which is remaining. This maintains the natural edges of the labia minora. Because of this, it results in less visible scarring and a more natural looking result. Your surgeon may also reduce any extra folds in the clitoral hood at the same time.
This method may suit women who are struggling with an asymmetrical labia or have excess tissue.
4. Closing of incisions
After your surgeon completes the surgery, they will close the incisions using dissolvable stitches or glue.
5. Return to the ward
Finally, once the operation is over, you will return to the ward. Most patients are able to return home the same day. But sometimes, you may need to stay for one night in hospital. You may feel a little groggy after surgery but this will resolve in a couple of hours. Furthermore, the staff looking after you will strive to make you as comfortable as possible and will provide you will painkillers if you are in any pain.
What should I expect from my labiaplasty consultation?
Firstly, you will meet with your BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon for an initial consultation. This meeting generally lasts between fifteen minutes to an hour. In this consultation, you will discuss all of your requirements and expectations from surgery. It also is the time for you to find out more information from your surgeon about the surgery itself. There are certain things your surgeon will also need to ask you during your labiaplasty consultation. This may include:
- Your current health status
- Any previous medical problems or surgeries
- Previous surgeries in the genital area
- Your current medications including over the counter, vitamins and herbal remedies
- If you have any allergies
- What your current smoking and drug status is
- If you consume any alcohol and how much.
Your surgeon will then move on to examine your labia and may take confidential photos for your medical records. In addition, they will make a decision about what surgery type is best for you. This will depend on:
- The shape and structure of your labia
- The symptoms you may be experiencing
- Your desires and outcomes.
It is important to be open and honest with your surgeon. This will allow them to formulate the best treatment option for you to achieve the best results.
What questions should you ask during your labiaplasty consultation?
There are some important questions you may wish to ask in this consultation. By knowing a bit about the procedure you will feel more at ease before the surgery. It may be a good idea to write down any questions you can think of in a notepad so you don’t forget to ask them! Below are some general questions you might like to consider asking your surgeon:
- Do you believe that what I wish to achieve is realistic?
- What can I do to help speed up the recovery process?
- Will I be in much pain?
- Will I have any scars? Where on my genitals will these be?
- Have you done this procedure before?
- Can I see some before and after pictures from previous surgeries of this kind?
Labiaplasty risks and complications
What are the main risks of a labiaplasty?
Before you decide to go ahead with labiaplasty surgery, it is important that you are aware of the potential risks and complications. Because of this, after your initial meeting, your BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon will give you a two-week cooling off period. This is your time to consider if surgery is something you really want to go ahead with. The potential labiaplasty risks are very small. But, if they were to affect you it is vital that you notice that something is wrong and when to seek help.
Some of the potential labiaplasty risks that may occur after surgery include:
If bleeding occurs, it usually occurs straight after the operation. Sometimes you can bleed a few weeks later. It is normal to get small amounts of bruising after surgery. However, if there is a large amount of bleeding below the skin surface, a haematoma may form and there may also be oozing of blood from the suture line. If you experience this it is important to tell your surgeon. You may need to spend an extra night in hospital but things will settle down.
As with any operation where incisions are made, you will have some scarring. However, in most cases, the scars from this type of surgery are minimal and will fade over time. The amount of scarring also depends on the method your surgeon uses. Talk to your surgeon if scarring is a big concern for you.
All types of infection should be taken very seriously. Mild infections can usually be treated with a short course of antibiotics. You may have symptoms such as slow wound healing.
Rarely, an infection may be very severe and require a further operation. The signs to be aware of include:
- A fever over 38° C
- Redness at the incision line, this may begin to spread into the skin around
- Yellow pus-like or foul-smelling fluid from the wound or drain sites
- An increase in pain or discomfort that your painkillers cannot resolve.
Skin colour irregularities
Changes in the skin pigmentation around the incision area may initially be due to bruising or changes that occur with healing. However, although rare, some women may experience long-term changes in skin colour.
During the operation, there is a risk the blood supply to areas of the labia may be disrupted. Thus, resulting in damage to the skin and tissues. If this disruption to blood supply is large enough, it may result in the death of tissues or skin loss in that area. The death of tissue and skin is known as ’tissue necrosis’. There is a chance you may need to have a minor surgery to remove the dead tissue.
There is always a small risk that you are unhappy with the results of surgery. Because of this, you may require additional surgery. Therefore, we advise that all of our patients select their surgeon carefully and make sure they fully understand your desires of the outcome. It is important that you select a high quality and fully qualified surgeon.
Reduction in the sensitivity of the genitals
Some women may experience a change in the sensation around the treatment area. This may include numbness and pain. Mostly, this will settle within a month of the procedure. However, an extremely rare complication is the loss of sensitivity in the labia that persists longer than a month. This may be due to nerve damage in the area.
General surgical complications
All surgical procedures carry some general complications. The general labiaplasty risks include:
- Development of blood clots
- Risks of anaesthesia
- Nausea & vomiting
- Postoperative pain.
How can I prepare for a labiaplasty?
Before you come in for your surgery, it may be a good idea to prepare a few things. This will make it easier for you when you return home after the procedure when you need to take things slow. Your BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon will give you specific preparation advice, but we have put together some labiaplasty preparation tips which may help you have a restful recovery. These include:
You will be unable to drive immediately after the procedure. This is because you will be sore and may feel a bit groggy. Therefore, it is a good idea to organise for someone to pick you up from the hospital.
You may wish to perform certain household chores such as cleaning the house, taking out the bins and doing the laundry. This is to ensure that when you return after your procedure that you do not need to worry about these and can focus on resting.
Children and pets
Looking after young children and pets can often be a handful! After your labiaplasty surgery, you may feel a little more tired than usual. Therefore, you may wish to ask a friend, relative or neighbour to look after young children or pets in the first few days. This is to ensure you have the ‘you-time’ that you deserve after surgery!
Before you come in for your surgery you may like to do a big food shop. This is to ensure you do not lift heavy bags whilst you are trying to recover. It may also be a good idea to cook some meals for the freezer, this way you will not need to cook either!
Eating and drinking
After your surgery, you will need to eat healthily by including lots of protein, fruit and vegetables in your diet. You should steer clear of food high in sodium and fats. Therefore, you may wish to buy this before you come into hospital. You should also make sure you are hydrated by drinking lots of water and caffeine-free fluids.
Smoking massively increases the risk of complications occurring. It also slows down the healing process. Therefore, almost all surgeons recommend that you are smoke-free for at least 6 weeks before and after the procedure.
You should stock up on sanitary towels before coming into hospital. This is because you may experience some bleeding for the first few days post-operatively. These should be changed regularly.
Furthermore, you may be a little sore in the first few days after your operation. Because of this, many people find it more comfortable to wear loose baggy clothing after their operation. Therefore, you may wish to make sure you have plenty of comfortable clothing, particularly underwear and trousers.
You may be advised to sleep for the first few days with a pillow underneath your buttocks to elevate the pelvis. You may wish to get extra pillows in preparation for this.
The above are just some ideas of labiaplasty preparation tips. There may be other things that you may wish to do before coming into hospital. But the most important thing is for you to be able to rest and recover after surgery.
What can I expect after a labiaplasty?
During your consultation with your BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon, they will inform you of the labiaplasty aftercare process. By knowing what to expect after surgery, you may feel a bit more at ease. They will give you information on a number of things including:
- The time you need to take off work
- How long before you can drive again
- When you can return to sports and exercise.
Each surgeon has their own time frames for the above advice. Therefore, the information we have provided below is just approximate timings. You should listen to your own surgeon’s advice.
Before you return home after your operation, your surgeon will organise a follow-up appointment. This is usually made for around two weeks after your procedure. The purpose of this meeting is to check you are recovering well and the next steps of your care. Furthermore, before you leave hospital your surgeon will repeat some of the labiaplasty aftercare advice. It is important that you follow their advice.
How will I feel after surgery?
After your surgery, if you have a general anaesthetic you may feel a little groggy. You may also find it difficult to concentrate or remember some things for a few days. This is normal and will resolve after a couple of days. Alternatively, if you have a local anaesthetic with sedation, you may find the treatment area to be numb. This will also resolve after a few hours.
Furthermore, you may find the treatment area to feel a little sore for the first few days.
Is there anything I need to do in the first 24 hours?
In the first 24 hours, we recommend that you have an adult to stay with you. This is a safety precaution for if you feel dizzy or unwell and need help. You will also need to get a lift home from hospital as you will be unable to drive. Therefore, we recommend a relative or friend accompanies you after surgery.
How much time do I need to take off work?
This depends on your job. If you have a very active job such as waitressing, then you will need to take off a full week. Otherwise, you will need to take off at least two days. This is to ensure you have had time to fully rest and recover. In any case, it is important to take things slow initially. You should not partake in your light daily activities for at least two days.
When can I return to exercise and sport?
In the first two weeks, it is important to rest. This means that you should not partake in any exercise or sport. There is a risk of increasing the swelling around the treatment area after aerobic activity.
After two weeks, you can start to do light activities such as gentle walks. It is important that you still avoid vigorous exercise.
After one month, all activities should be possible again. You may still need to avoid horse riding or cycling due to the friction caused in the treatment area. Knowing when you can recommence exercise is an important part of your labiaplasty aftercare. It is important to follow the specific advice your surgeon gives.
What other points should I consider?
After your surgery, it is important that you refrain from sexual intercourse for at least a month. This is because it may alter the healing of your newly shaped labia. You should also avoid the use of tampons during this time for similar reasons.
Furthermore, to improve your comfort after the operation you should wear loose underwear and trousers. This is to reduce friction and rubbing against your wounds.
In addition, you will experience some bleeding for about a week after surgery. Therefore, you will need to wear sanitary towels for this time. You will also experience some bruising and swelling which should resolve in a couple of weeks. Over this time, make sure you keep the area clean and avoid rubbing.
Although the results of your labiaplasty may be noticeable immediately following surgery, it may take up to 6 months for residual swelling to go down completely. Therefore, it may take up to this long for you to appreciate the full cosmetic results.
Scars tend to be pink and slightly raised in the first few weeks after surgery. Eventually, they will fade and be very light lines. To help with your scars healing, it is vital to listen to your surgeon’s post-operative instructions. This way you can achieve optimal results.
What are some common labiaplasty FAQs?
Questions from other women going through this operation can be helpful. They may cover questions you didn’t even think to ask! Because of this, we have written a list of common labiaplasty FAQs for your interest.
What do normal labia look like?
Our BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeons emphasise that there is no “normal” and “abnormal” when it comes to the shape and size of female genitals. Every individual is unique and has their own shape. Thus, there is a great deal of difference in the appearance of normal female genitalia. There are many variations in the size and shape of a woman’s labia. Therefore, it is important that you do not compare yourself to images of other women.
Will the NHS pay for my surgery?
Labiaplasty is not usually free on the NHS for cosmetic reasons. However, it is possible that it can be provided by the NHS if your labia are causing you problems in how you function day to day or significant discomfort and pain.
If this is the case, you may need to see your GP who can help you organise the surgery.
What causes the labia to enlarge?
Some women are born with labia that are enlarged or a bit misshapen. However, other women may find that childbirth, pregnancy, ageing and hormones can also affect the shape and size of the labia.
Do I need a GP referral for cosmetic surgery?
You can usually have an initial meeting with one of our surgeons without a referral from your GP. But if you plan to go ahead with surgery, your surgeon may ask for your permission to contact your GP. This will be for details of your medical history.
What are the effects of smoking, drugs and alcohol on surgery?
Smoking greatly increases the risk of complications occurring during and after your operation. It results in slow wound healing and an increase in the rate of infections. Therefore, almost all surgeons suggest that all patients are smoke and nicotine free for at least six weeks before and after surgery.
Furthermore, drinking alcohol, being overweight and taking drugs for medical or other reasons, also increase the risk of complication. Because of this, you should try and make sure you are as healthy as possible before opting for surgery.