Ladies bits have been getting quite a lot of press lately. Labiaplasty – the surgical procedure to redefine and sculpt the labia – has massively gained in popularity over recent years.
A previously taboo subject, ladies are now awre that there is a simple procedure to address either functional or appearance concerns.
Mr. Paul Banwell, a Consultant Plastic & Cosmetic Surgeon and leading expert in labiaplasty, has spent over 15 years helping women with their ‘down-there’ concerns
In the UK, recent statistics have shown that labiaplasty is a surgical procedure on the rise, and one that I have seen an even more notable increase in at my own practice – more than 200% in the last 12 months.
The debate around labiaplasty, and the fact that some choose to call it the ‘designer vagina’, can overshadow the reason many patients opt for this surgery. About three quarters of the patients I see in my practice pursue the operation for purely functional reasons, due to discomfort.
Labia minora or inner lips that overly protrude, may cause physical discomfort, irritation and a rash when wearing certain clothes, underwear and swimming costumes or indeed when exercising, riding a bike or horse riding. In these cases there may be friction or rubbing which can make the labia very sore.
The other 25 per cent elect to proceed with the procedure purely for aesthetic reasons and to boost their self-confidence although usually there is always a functional concern of some kind too.
Functional Reasons for Reduction
Many ladies have large breasts which they don’t like as they are heavy, uncomfortable and may not look good in clothes and therefore they might choose to have a breast reduction. It is exactly the same for the labia.
However, I like to reinforce the message that most girls’ labia fall within a spectrum of normality. In addition, I have no hesitation in turning patients away if they are not suitable, don’t understand the procedure or have unrealistic expectations. After all, elective cosmetic surgery is never an option to be taken lightly.
What’s the Norm?
All patients that I see are normal people and there is not one single common patient. They range from young to old, professionals, models, mothers and even women in their 50s and 60s.
It’s not uncommon for a woman to feel unhappy with the appearance of the inner lips of her vagina (labia minora) and this can happen at any age.
Like other parts of the body, the spectrum of the appearance of labia is huge and I always go out of my way to reassure my patients that they are normal despite their differences. Sometimes, however, there may be significant asymmetry they want correcting or ladies will have very large labia causing issues with intercourse.
The other issue I see is elongated labia, where the labia minora takes on a stretched appearance and this is not uncommon after pregnancy.
Labia on Parade: Self Confidence
In addition to the discomfort, the appearance of labia, when dressed and/or undressed can also concern ladies and may restrict their wardrobe considerably.
As with any other problem area that is visible, large labia may have adverse effects on self-confidence and personal relationships too.
Whereas once it was very much a taboo subject, many girls and ladies are talking about it, reading things in magazines and obtaining information on the internet. This is great as a well-educated, knowledgeable patient helps with the consultation process.
What Can Childbirth and Pregnancy do to the Labia?
A variety of changes can occur as a result of hormonal influences or direct effects of childbirth. These include tears, stretching, heaviness and elongation of the labia.
What Labiaplasty Surgery Can Achieve:
* • Correction of the tears or deformity that can occur as a result of childbirth
* • Address the stretching that may have occurred during pregnancy or childbirth or simply over time
* • Sculpt / Reduce the size of the labia minora (and/or majora) for aesthetic reasons
* • Correct asymmetry of the labia minora
* • Correct any scar contracture or distortion
* • Reduce the fatty excess tissue in the public region
What’s the Recovery Period like?
You can go home the very same day of surgery although most ladies prefer an overnight stay. It’s very important to take it easy for a few days following the surgery and to abstain from intercourse for 6 weeks. You will experience a level of discomfort but regular use of painkillers will help.
Swelling ranges from mild to moderate and peaks at two to three days then resolves slowly over the next few weeks. The stitches will rub out naturally within a few weeks. We advise patients take 7-10 days off work.