How do you feel about your labia? If you’re like me, well, I’ve never really given it much thought at all. It’s just, there. It’s fine. It doesn’t bother me. (But I am relatively young and haven’t had any kids..) So when I heard that a friend of a friend around my same age had recently had labiaplasty (the surgical procedure that removes excess tissue from the external genitalia for cosmetic or functional reasons, and the exterior part of vaginal rejuvenation) a few years after having her first child I was surprised, fascinated and curious to learn more. Was this a new trend? Who else is having this done? And what exactly is labiaplasty?
I reached out to renowned New York City based, board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Lara Devgan, whose Upper East Side practice regularly caters to high-net worth individuals and celebrity clientele, such as Kim Kardashian, to learn more.
How popular is labiaplasty, really?
“It’s become one of the fastest growing plastic surgery procedures and one of the most common procedures in my practice,” explains Dr. Devgan, “As recently as three and a half years ago, I was getting a few labiaplasty inquires per month. Now I get 5-10 per week and end up operating on over half of those patients, which is very interesting. I think for decades and decades this has been bothering people and they just haven’t known that there is an option.”
“In my practice people come to me with functional complaints: difficulty with intercourse, pain with sports or exercise activities, difficulty with hygiene, rashes or chaffing. And then there are also people with more aesthetic complaints: feeling uncomfortable nude in front of an intimate partner, or feeling uncomfortable with the way their body looks when they are wearing a certain type of fitted clothing.”
Are you mainly seeing women who have had children?
The common misconception (and my own assumption) was that only women seeking this procedure are ones who have had kids, when it fact according to Dr. Devgan, they only make up one third of the procedures performed in her practice. Here are the three main buckets of patients.
–Women in their late teens, early twenties who have never had kids, but since adolescence have had something that bothers them functionally or aesthetically. (Chaffing is real, people.)
–Women in their thirties who are done having children and experienced changes in their anatomy due to child birth, including tears, stretching or overgrowth of external genitalia from pressure being placed. (Sigh, men have it so much easier…)
–Post-menopausal women in their 50s and 60s who have always had something that bothers them, but were unaware of their options to treat the issue. (Ahem, maybe you should let mom know about her options.)
How do you keep a woman looking natural…down there?
No visible scars – “The way I keep women looking natural is by burying all of the scars in anatomically hidden locations that even an intimate partner would not notice even if they were looking really closely.”
Gentle touch – “The second thing I do is very careful tissue handling. The less traumatic the surgery is (less blood loss and less aggressive the surgeon is with tissue handling) the more likely you are to have a beautiful and natural looking result.”
Natural, not plastic – “The third way is thorough anatomic knowledge of what the female genitalia should look like, what the anatomical proportions are and respecting those relationships.”
What is the procedure like?
“For most patients I do the vast majority of my labiaplasties with local anesthesia, so the patient is wide awake. I inject numbing medicine in the area, like when you have your cavities drilled at the dentist’s office.”
“The woman walks right into the operating room and we numb the external tissues and do the surgery. After the surgery I use a long acting numbing medicine that lasts for up to 72 hours, which helps keep the patient very comfortable for the time period when you normally have the most discomfort.”
1-7 days post op – “Recovery is relatively easy. The next day after surgery includes icing the external genitalia and pelvic elevation. I suggest women take 3-7 days off of work, but in New York people are busy, so normally my patients take three days off of work or plan the procedure over a weekend.”
6 weeks post op – “I do request my patients refrain from strenuous exercise, intercourse, and swimming for six weeks after surgery to allow the tissues to heal.”
Any possible complications?
“My complication rate is very low, but there are risks with any operation. For labiaplasty there could be bleeding, infection, wounds and undesirable scarring. But I think with a careful and judicious surgeon you can avoid these complications.”
Bleeding – “In my practice I use an electric cautery device so that the blood loss is 5-6 drops of blood; It’s a very minimal amount of bleeding.”
Infection – “To avoid the risk of infection I do a very thorough surgical scrub on all of the patients, and any patient who has a history of yeast infections I consider for the possibility of putting on prophylactic anti-yeast medications after surgery.”
Wounds – “To avoid the risk of wound dissonance I do a very robust full layered closure for all of my patients.”
Scarring – “And to avoid the risk of undesirable scarring I am very careful to hide the scars in inconspicuous locations.”
Depending on your surgeon and where you have the surgery done, the labiaplasty cost can range from $3,000 – $8,000.
Does this have you considering labiaplasty? Well, maybe not considering it, but realizing that a medically safe option is there if you ever need/want it. For now I’m good where I’m at, but maybe after I have a couple of kids we’ll talk then.
Read about the second part of vaginal rejuvenation, vaginoplasty, that many women are opting for to, ahem, tighten their vaginal tracts, here.
-by Amy Chang
Photographed by Wing Ta