Most cosmetic procedures—like breast augmentation, liposuction, tummy tucks and others—are fairly well understood by prospective patients these days, thanks to the Internet and media attention. Labiaplasty, however, is not on that list. There may be more misinformation floating around about labiaplasty than most other cosmetic surgery.
For one thing, it’s not necessarily easy to talk about modifying your labia, and with just a few thousand women choosing surgery annually, it’s not exactly commonplace to follow through. In addition, labiaplasty is part of a new field: female genital plastic surgery (FGPS). It’s an emerging medical specialty that touches off a significant amount of controversy.
To be very clear, labiaplasty involves reducing and reshaping the labia minora and labia majora (either or both) – the flaps of skin outside the vaginal opening. It’s done on an outpatient basis using either a laser or advanced surgical techniques. Plastic surgeons take care to preserve the natural color and feel of the delicate skin during surgery, carefully placing small sutures that dissolve over time.
Labiaplasty is just one of several forms of FGPS. Another is vaginoplasty, or tightening of the vagina.
Some negativity about labiaplasty may result from a stance the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) took a few years ago about FGPS in general. In a press release from 2007, the ACOG advised against “cosmetic vaginal procedures,” stating that these surgeries are “not medically indicated, nor is there documentation of their safety and effectiveness.”
The press release went on to allow that some procedures for “genuine medical conditions” such as “labial hypertrophy” (enlargement) may be reasonable. But this statement was somewhat buried in the ACOG’s concern about FGPS procedures being marketed to women with the promise of increased sexual satisfaction and little regard for potential risks.