Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure usually done to reduce the size of your labia minora — skin folds that surround your urethra and vagina. Excess skin can get twisted and pinched, causing discomfort during exercise, physical activities and intercourse. You may also have labiaplasty for cosmetic reasons or as part of gender-affirming surgery.
Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure to reduce or increase the size of your labia. People usually get this procedure to reduce physical discomfort or as part of gender-affirming surgery. Sometimes, you might want it for cosmetic reasons, but there’s a wide range of normal labia. Everyone’s labia are unique and there’s no ideal or “normal” way for them to look.
Your labia are the folds of skin around your vagina opening. You have two folds of skin there. The outer folds are called the labia majora, which means large lips. These are the larger fleshy folds that protect your external genital organs. They’re covered with pubic hair after puberty. The inner folds are called the labia minora, which means small lips. These skin folds protect the opening of your urethra (where your pee leaves your body) and vagina.
During a labiaplasty and depending on why you’re having it, your surgeon either:
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There are medical reasons for labiaplasty. There are also physical, cosmetic and emotional reasons. Sometimes, labiaplasty is part of gender-affirming surgery.
If surgery is part of a gender-affirming process, your surgeon can create labia using existing genital tissue. You may also have labiaplasty before or after other reconstruction surgeries.
Most people who have labiaplasty are between the ages of 18 and 50. But, since your labia may stretch during pregnancy and childbirth, you might want to wait until after you’re done adding to your family. A child may have labiaplasty, but only to correct problems related to daily function and activity.
First, you and your surgeon will discuss why you want to undergo labiaplasty. You’ll discuss your expectations and goals, as well as the risks of the surgery. They’ll conduct a psychological exam and ask about depression and anxiety.
Next, your surgeon will explain the details of your surgery, including where they’ll make the incisions and what to expect regarding changes to the size and shape of your labia.
You may undergo presurgical tests, including blood work, urinalysis and chest X-ray. Your surgical team will also give you instructions about:
They’ll also give you other information on how to prepare for your surgery.
You’ll change into a surgical gown. A healthcare provider will take your vitals (temperature, pulse, blood pressure, oxygen level and breathing rate). You may have some blood work and urinalysis done again. They’ll place an intravenous line (IV) in your arm or hand, and they may place a urinary catheter in your urethra.
Next, your provider will cleanse your labia and the skin around it and shave your pubic area if needed. Then, they’ll start anesthesia. You may have IV sedation with local anesthesia or general anesthesia, depending on your procedure. Your provider will discuss which type of anesthesia is best for you during the planning stage of your surgery.
Your provider chooses the surgical technique according to how your labia (labia majora and/or labia minora) will be resized or reshaped. They usually perform this surgery with a scalpel, scissors or laser.
There are two general approaches to reducing your labia (labia minora and/or labia majora):
Your surgeon may have other preferred approaches depending on their surgical expertise or your desired result. You and your surgeon will work together to choose the best surgical approach to meet your goals and concerns.
To enlarge your labia majora, your surgeon takes a small amount of fat from another body area, like your abdomen or thigh (in a liposuction procedure) and injects it into your labia majora. Injecting hyaluronic acid into your labia majora is an alternative option.
Your surgeon can use tissue from the penis to create your labia. Labiaplasty is one step in the entire gender-affirming reconstructive surgery process.
All incisions in the procedures described above are closed with absorbable stitches (sutures) that dissolve on their own over time. Finally, your surgeon covers the site with a surgical dressing.
Labiaplasty is an outpatient procedure. Labiaplasty typically takes less than two hours. Gender-affirming surgery requires more time.
After surgery, your provider removes your urinary catheter (if you have one) and you’ll become more alert as the anesthesia wears off. Your healthcare team will check to see if you’re bleeding more than expected. Before being discharged, your providers give you instructions about how to care for your wound while it heals. They’ll also discuss pain control, activity restrictions and follow-up appointments.
You’ll have some swelling, discomfort and pain, but it’s usually easy to manage with over-the-counter (OTC) medication — like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) — or with prescription medication for a day or so. If your discomfort isn’t well managed with the recommended medications, contact your surgeon. Home remedies — like a cold compress or icepack — are helpful, too. Apply an ice pack to the operative area (on top of a cloth undergarment) on a 20-minutes-on/20-minutes-off schedule to reduce pain and swelling. Most people report only mild pain or tenderness for a few days.
Your healthcare team may give you an oral antibiotic prescription or topical antibiotic to apply to your surgical wound to prevent infection.
Wear loose-fitting pants and undergarments during the healing period. Tight-fitting clothes or undergarments can cause friction against the wound and prevent or delay healing.
You may have some bleeding for up to a week or so. You can wear a pad to absorb this minor bleeding.
The initial swelling, soreness and temporary discoloration decrease over the first couple of weeks after surgery. Most swelling is gone after six weeks. But it may take up to four to six months of healing time for swelling to completely go away before seeing the final results of your labiaplasty. There’s usually little to no scarring.
Use lukewarm water only (no soap) to wash your wound. Gently wipe or dab the area dry after peeing; don’t rub the surgical area.
Your surgeon may have you take medication or recommend a diet to prevent constipation so that you don’t strain, which could stretch or break your stitches.
Follow all your provider’s post-op instructions about:
You should be able to return to work and other light activities after a few days. But if your job involves physical activity or lifting, you may need to stay home longer. You should avoid the following for four to six weeks or until cleared by your surgeon:
Returning to these activities too soon can put pressure on the wound, tear stitches and delay healing.
Labiaplasty performed as a reduction surgery is meant to be a one-time, long-lasting procedure. Unless complications develop, you may never need this surgery again. Enhancement labiaplasty with injections of fat or fillers may need additional “touch-ups” over time.
You should know that choosing to have children after your procedure may affect your labiaplasty. Many people choose to wait to have their labiaplasty until after they’ve completed their families.
Call your surgeon’s office if you experience:
No, your surgeon won’t cut or move any nerves as part of labiaplasty.
Although some people think that labiaplasty might improve sexual satisfaction, there’s limited evidence to support this. Research suggests no significant change in sensation, lubrication or orgasm. But labiaplasty can decrease pain associated with sex for some people, which can increase your enjoyment of sex. Also, changes in self-esteem and satisfaction with the look of your genitals may positively impact your sexual experiences.
Labiaplasty changes how your genitals look, but not how they function. If you didn’t have problems with vaginal dryness before the procedure, you should still have vaginal wetness with sexual stimulation. You should avoid sexual activity for four to six weeks to allow your genitals time to heal. When you see your surgeon for a follow-up, ask them what type of lubricant you can use and when you can start using it.
After labiaplasty, your skin won’t grow back. But it can still stretch, especially during childbirth.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you’re bothered by the appearance of your labia or experience discomfort when wearing tight clothing, performing certain exercises or engaging in sexual intimacy, labiaplasty could be an option to consider. If you’re undergoing gender-affirming surgery, labiaplasty is part of the surgical reconstruction process.
Talking about your genitalia can be uncomfortable. Know that your surgeon is here to support you for all the reasons you might be considering labiaplasty. Don’t hesitate to discuss your goals and concerns with your surgeon. Your surgeon will listen to you, provide extensive details about how they’ll perform the procedure and what results to expect, and answer all your questions.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/15/2023.
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