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The labia minora are flaps of skin on the sides of the opening of the vagina. A labiaplasty is a surgical procedure to reduce the size of the labia minora.
Reasons for Procedure
The procedure may be done for cosmetic reasons to change the appearance of the female genitals. It may also be done to correct damaged labia or large labia that cause pain and discomfort.
Cosmetic procedures should not be done in those under age 18 years. The genital area is still developing and surgery may interfere with this process.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Painful intercourse
- Reduced sensitivity due to nerve damage
- Excessive bleeding
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia, such as lightheadedness or wheezing
- Blood clots
- Sore throat from general anesthesia
- Nausea and vomiting
- The need for additional surgery
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
- Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
What to Expect
Leading up to your procedure, you will need to:
- Have lab tests done as advised by your doctor.
- Talk to a mental health counselor about your reasons for seeking surgery, if advised by your doctor.
- Talk to your doctor if you take any medications, herbs, or supplements.
- You may need to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
To prepare for your surgery:
- Arrange for a ride home from the hospital.
- Avoid eating after midnight the night before your procedure.
Anesthesia options include:
- General anesthesia—You will be asleep during the surgery.
- Local anesthesia—The area will be numbed.
There are 3 labiaplasty methods:
- Trim method: A clamp will be placed on the area to control bleeding. Excess labia tissue will be removed using a scalpel or laser. The area will be closed with stitches.
- Wedge method: A wedge of tissue is removed from the center of the labia. The two sides are stitched together.
- De-epithelialization method: The tissue that lines the labia is removed using a scalpel or laser. The area will be closed with stitches.
Talk to your doctor about which procedure method might be right for you.
Pain during the procedure will be managed through anesthesia. You will have some pain after the procedure. Ask your doctor about medication to help with the pain.
After the operation, you will be taken to the recovery room for observation.
At the Care Center
Right after the procedure, the staff will monitor your recovery. Pain medication will be given.
Most people are able to leave the care center the day after surgery.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incisions
It will take a few weeks for swelling to go away. Certain activities will be limited during recovery. For example, sexual intercourse should be avoided for up to 4 weeks. You can generally return to work within a week if it does not involve vigorous activity.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
- New or worsening symptoms
If you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Committee opinion No. 662: Breast and labial surgery in adolescents. Obstet Gynecol. 2016 May;127(5):e138-140.
Labiaplasty. Brigham and Women’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.brighamandwomens.org/Departments_and_Services/surgery/services/PlasticSurg/cosmetic-procedures/body/body-labiaplasty.aspx. Accessed April 22, 2016.
Labiaplasty. NHS Choices website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/labiaplasty/Pages/Introduction.aspx#risks. Updated August 20, 2014. Accessed April 22, 2016.
What are the types of labiaplasty procedure? Health Development Advice website. Available at: http://www.hda-online.org.uk/cosmetic-surgery/labiaplasty/types-of-labiaplasty.html. Accessed April 22, 2016.
Last reviewed July 2016 by James Cornell, MD
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