Why Some People Get a Labiaplasty

A labiaplasty is a surgical procedure that decreases the size of the labia minora, the flaps of skin on either side of the vaginal opening. Many people who get a labiaplasty do so for cosmetic reasons, while many others do so for functional ones (e.g., to reduce excess labia that twists and gets irritated).

Labiaplasty an increasingly common surgery with the number of labiaplasties performed worldwide in 2019 reaching 164,667—a 24.1% increase compared to 2018, and a 73.3% rise compared to 2015.

This article explains labiaplasty and some of the reasons for why people opt for the procedure. It discusses how the surgery is performed and what most people can expect after a labiaplasty.

Female doctor talking to young woman
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Why Have a Labiaplasty?

Labia size and shape is as individual as eye color, and there’s great diversity in what’s considered “normal” for labia structure and appearance. However, when a person’s labia are especially elongated, the excess tissue can cause discomfort or get in the way of normal function.

For example, an athlete whose labia are long may find that tissue sticks to the leg during physical activity. Or, labial tissue that protrudes can make sitting on a bicycle seat uncomfortable.

Is Labiaplasty a Cosmetic Surgery?

While labiaplasty is often considered a cosmetic procedure, or associated with gender affirmation surgeries, one study of 50 people requesting labiaplasty found that more than half had physical symptoms. The symptoms included pain during sex, labia that twist, or discomfort because of how clothing fits.

Some who view their inner labia as abnormally long feel self-conscious about the outward appearance of their genitalia, causing them emotional or psychological distress during sex or while wearing a thong or swimsuit. The labia shape can be obvious in tight-fitting yoga pants as well.

These factors contribute to a person’s decision to have the procedure. In fact, a study of 71 people choosing labiaplasty found that 71.8% felt they did not have “normal genitalia.” Aesthetic, sexual, and psychological reasons were the main drivers for their decisions about labiaplasty.

Is Labiaplasty Done in People Under 18?

Yes, but many experts recommend against it for a host of reasons, including that the genitals are still developing in younger people. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises that labiaplasty should only be done in minors with significant congenital (at-birth) malformations or persistent symptoms caused directly by the labia structure.

What to Expect From Labiaplasty

Labiaplasty is performed by a surgeon who simply trims the excess tissue to allow the lips of the labia minora to sit tucked neatly within the labia majora—the outer lips of the vulva. It can be done under local or general anesthesia and recovery typically is swift and uncomplicated.

However, there are at least eight different labiaplasty techniques with varying impacts and some procedures may take longer than others. They include labial trimming—the most common type—as well as the wedge resection procedure, laser labiaplasty, and the W-shaped resection.

Healing problems are more likely to occur with a wedge procedure (the most commonly used one because it preserves nerves to the area) but for most people, recovery is swift and uncomplicated.

Pain medication is usually required afterward, but only for a few days.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons says most people take a week off from work to rest and apply ice to the vaginal area. Loose clothing and a mini-pad to absorb minor bleeding may help.

Most people can have sex or use tampons again after six weeks. The swelling will be reduced by then, although it may take up to six months for it to go down completely.

A Word From Verywell

Labiaplasty is an increasingly common procedure done for both aesthetic and medical health reasons. It’s not without its risks, though. Be sure to discuss the option with your healthcare providers and become fully informed before making a decision about labiaplasty surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does a labiaplasty cost?

    The average labiaplasty procedure costs $3,053 in 2020, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The amount may not cover anesthesia, the facility, and other related costs. There’s a chance that insurance won’t cover it when done for aesthetic reasons. Insurance also may not cover gender affirmation surgery.

  • What are the risks of labiaplasty?

    Common risks associated with surgery, such as bleeding or infection, may happen during labiaplasty too. In some cases, too much tissue is reduced (called over-resection). This can lead to chronic dryness, scarring in the vaginal opening area, and pain during sex.

  • Is there an alternative to labiaplasty?

    Yes, laser procedures may be used to perform labiaplasty, or treat menopause symptoms or urinary incontinence. In 2018, however, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning that although approved for removing genital warts and pre-cancerous tissue, laser procedures have not been deemed safe for these other uses.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kalampalikis A, Michala L. Cosmetic labiaplasty on minors: a review of current trends and evidenceInt J Impot Res. 2021. doi:10.1038/s41443-021-00480-1

  2. Sorice SC, Li AY, Canales FL, Furnas HJ. Why women request labiaplasty. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017;139(4):856-863. doi:10.1097/PRS.0000000000003181

  3. Dogan O, Yassa M. Major motivators and sociodemographic features of women undergoing labiaplasty. Aesthet Surg J. 2019;39(12):NP517-NP527. doi:10.1093/asj/sjy321. 

  4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Gynecologic Practice. Elective female genital cosmetic surgery: ACOG committee opinion, number 795. Obstet Gynecol. 2020;135(1):e36-e42. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000003616

  5. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Labiaplasty.

  6. Food and Drug Administration. Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on efforts to safeguard women’s health from deceptive health claims and significant risks related to devices marketed for use in medical procedures for “vaginal rejuvenation.”