What is Labiaplasty
Labiaplasty procedures reduce and reshape the size of the labia that consist of skin folds surrounding the human vulva. The labia minora is the inner labia while the labia majora is the outer one.
When to consider a Labiaplasty
Women may need a Labiaplasty when:
- They have asymmetric, long and hanging vaginal lips.
- They experience embarrassment or sexual dysfunction due to the appearance of their labia.
- They experience pain, irritation and discomfort in their labia.
Labiaplasty Procedure Types
While there are a variety of Labial reduction techniques, your surgeon will choose the best method that will suit your anatomy and desire. Here a few techniques that can be used to perform the procedure:
Trim Method: This method is normally used to improve the darker and longer edges of labia by removing the excess skin along the edge of the labia minora.
Wedge Method: This technique involves removing the wedge shaped tissue from the center of excess labium. In some cases, this method can be combined with an additional Z-plasty technique to refine the surgical scar.
De-epithelialization Technique: This is done by removing the epithelial layers of each labia minora either with a scalpel or medical laser. While this method helps to preserve the natural look of your labia, it can result in an increased labial width if performed for a larger area of labial tissue.
Clitoral Unhooding: Resecting the clitoral hood includes suturing the hood in a V form and shaping the skin into a Y pattern. This method is used when the thickness of the labial skin affects the sexual response of a woman or is cosmetically unpleasant.
How to Perform a Labiaplasty Surgery?
Labiaplasty procedures are performed by a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon at either an accredited hospital or a free standing ambulatory surgery center. This is an elective surgery that may take around one to two hours to complete.
Preparations before the Surgery
Preparations for the surgery will depend on the procedure you and your surgeon have agreed upon based on what is best suited to your needs and lifestyle. Like any other surgery, your surgeon will explain the procedure in detail, providing complete information on what to expect before, during and after the surgery. They will also provide pre-operative instructions based on your individual case and clarify any doubts you may have about the procedure.
Here are a few things you need to do in advance of your surgery:
- Stop smoking 2 weeks before the surgery to avoid any surgical complications and faster recovery.
- Avoid taking medications that include multivitamins, herbals and aspirin prior to the surgery. These may cause increased bleeding during the procedure.
- Physical tests such as H&P and CBC (anemia detection) are recommended to determine your fitness for the surgery.
- Avoid any food and/or fluid intake after midnight before the surgery.
- Try to keep healthy for a quick recovery. However, if you experience any illness close to the surgery, inform your doctor to avoid surgical complications.
What to Expect on the Day of Surgery?
On the day of the surgery, you surgeon may ask you to:
- Avoid taking anything by mouth. Nothing more than a small amount of water for brushing teeth or taking medications before the surgery.
- Wear clean, comfortable and loose-fitting clothing such as zip or button front tops. Avoid wearing cosmetics, jewelry or accessories of any kind.
- Comfort medications along with local or general anesthesia will be administered prior to the surgery. In some cases, mild intravenous sedations are also given to reduce discomfort during the procedure.
- Incisions will be made along the labia to balance the inner and outer edges of the labial skin.
- Excess skin and tissues from the labia will be excised to reattach the incised labia.
- Once the incisions are complete, the surgeon will reposition the labia to give it a normal appearance. This will prevent the rectal tissues from protruding outside the outer lips.
- The incisions will be stitched with absorbable sutures.
After the surgery, patients may experience swelling and discomfort for the first few days accompanied by numbness and post-operative pain. But normally, most of such discomfort subsides by the end of the first week.
Recovery from surgical procedures varies according to the procedure performed and the individual. While patients can go home the same day, it is recommended to restrict normal activities for a short time after the surgery.
Listed below are a few things you may need to do to help a quick recovery:
- Avoid strenuous activities for first few days such as sporting, lifting heavy objects, swimming.
- Get plenty of rest and follow a balanced diet.
- Refrain from intercourse for 4-6 weeks.
- Take pain medication as prescribed. Additionally, keep ice packs applied to your vulvar area to reduce swelling and give comfort.
- Do not smoke, as smoking delays healing and increases the risk of complications.
- Start walking as early as possible to reduce swelling and blood clots.
- Keep incisions clean and dry. Also, inspect the operated site daily for signs of infection.
- Place clean, dry dressings over incisions to absorb moisture and prevent irritation from undergarments and clothing.
- Wear loose clothing and undergarments to avoid rubbing.
- Some oozing or drainage may happen. Make sure to wear absorbent pads or feminine napkins to absorb any such discharge.
- Avoid soaking in tub while sutures are in place. Although, you can take sitz baths or use a hand sprayer on a gentle setting to keep the area clean.
These are some general suggestions to help a faster recovery. However, consulting your doctor is strongly recommended as they will know your individual case best.
Risks and Complications
All surgical procedures have some level of risk and being aware and understanding risks and complications is very important.
Following is the list of possible complications that can arise after the surgery:
- Bleeding, infections, hematomas, blood clots and bacteria.
- The wound may open up, in which case, immediately contact your surgeon.
- Temporary or permanent numbing of the labia area.
- The clitoris may look bigger.
- Labia may become asymmetrical, wrinkled, discolored or swollen.
- Discomfort during intercourse.
- Severe or increased pain despite proper medication.
- Side effects to medications such as rash, nausea, vomit, headache.
- Increased bleeding from incisions that is difficult to control with light pressure.
- Yellowish or greenish discharge from the incisions or a foul odor.
A regular follow-up care with your doctor can help minimize such risks to a great extent.