SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE LABIOPLASTY
It is not uncommon for a mother to accompany her daughter to a consultation. Generally the mothers are wanting to make sure their daughters are making the right decisions regarding firstly, the procedure such as breast reduction or breast augmentation, and secondly, their choice of surgeon. This is something I encourage for the more family support that is present, minimises the stress associated with the operation and the recovery process.
Recently a mother and daughter came to see me for something quite different.
They both requested a labioplasty.
The 20-year old daughter had wanted something to be done from the age of 17. When standing, her labia minora (the inner lips) protruded beyond the labia majora (the outer lips) and she found the excess uncomfortable when wearing tight clothing and with some sexual activity. She discussed this with her girlfriends who encouraged her to have it corrected.
Later she discussed it with her mother who not only encouraged her, but felt this was something she might have done as well. Her mother had delivered 3 children and had found her labial excess had increased with her pregnancies. Although she felt shy, her daughter had encouraged her to consider the operation as well.
This scenario was another demonstration of how society and plastic surgery has changed over the 25 years I have been in practice. Labioplasty has become more common as women are more open with each other, have more choice and have the courage to seek solutions to areas of their bodies which cause discomfort, both physically and emotionally.
In the right hands, a labioplasty is a fairly straight-forward procedure with minimal downtime and a low risk of complications. My preference is for a general anaesthetic as I feel this is more comfortable for both the patient and the surgeon. Once the patient is asleep, local anaesthetic is also used to minimise post-operative pain and bleeding. The procedure usually involves carefully removing the excess labia minora though more recently women are requesting excess around the clitoral hood to be removed as well. Most surgeons use dissolving stitches so there are no stitches to remove. The operation takes around 45 – 60 minutes and most women go home the same day.
A few days ago, I performed a labioplasty on the mother and daughter mentioned above. Both had the excess of the labia minora removed as well as some excess of the clitoral hood. They went home on the same day and I called to check on them the following day. Both had had some discomfort post operatively, controlled with Panadol, and some minor bleeding for which they used pads. This is normal in the first 24 hours. I encouraged them to shower for water running over wounds does not interfere with the healing process. Even though they were both swollen (as expected) they were already happy with the result. Both should be back to normal activities within a few days, whilst sexual intercourse is not recommended for at least 3 weeks after the procedure and only when the woman feels comfortable.
Post-operative complications such as infection, poor scarring, altered sensation can occur but they are rare when great care is taken in experienced hands.
I believe labioplasty will become more common in the future for women of all ages. With the right surgical team it is a safe operation with minimal downtime, minimal risk of complications and immense patient satisfaction.