Labial surgery (reconstruction or reduction) is performed for women who are unhappy with the appearance of their labia minora, especially if they are asymmetrical or enlarged (bulging). This is also known as labiaplasty.
The labia minora (or the inner labia) are two longitudinal skin folds on the vulva. They are also called ‘labial lips’. They are situated between the labia majora, and extend from the clitoris obliquely downward, ending between the bottom of the vulval vestibule and the labia majora.
The labia minora may vary widely in size from woman to woman. Labial unevenness or large labia may cause physical discomfort or embarrassment for a woman including:
- discomfort and irritation with certain types of clothing (e.g. tight jeans)
- pain and discomfort with physical activities (e.g. cycling or working)
- difficulties with sexual intercourse
- physical protrusion in the genital area while wearing underwear or bikini
The reasons for labial surgery include the correction of labial damage caused by childbirth, the elimination of pain and discomfort consequent to enlarged labia and personal aesthetic reasons.
The operation is usually performed under general anaesthetic. It involves removing excess labial skin and making the labia as symmetrical as possible. The edges of the incisions are closed with fine dissolvable sutures.
There are several risks associated with undergoing labial construction surgery, which include:
- The possibility of permanent scarring
- Nerve damage, resulting in sensitivity changes
Most women go home on the same day, when any discomfort is controlled. The effects of the anaesthetic will usually wear off after 24 hours. There will then be some discomfort at the operation site and the patient will need to take painkillers for several days. Paracetamol and/or Ibuprofen (Nurofen) are usually sufficient.
Most women need a week off work. They should avoid the use of tampons, tight clothing and sex for four weeks to allow adequate healing of incisions. The excellent blood supply to the labia ensures rapid wound healing.
Cysts are commonly seen in the vagina and on the labia. Usually these resolve without further treatment, but occasionally they can become infected and develop into painful abscesses. If this should occur then drainage of the cysts may be required.