What is labiaplasty and why do some women choose ‘vaginal rejuvenation’?

September 2nd, 2020
What is a labiaplasty? Some women feel discomfort while riding a bike, like this woman in doing.
Some women experience pain while riding a bike or having sexual intercourse. A labiaplasty can help. Photo: Getty Images.

What is labiaplasty?

The labia are tissue that surround a woman’s vagina. The labia minora are the inner lips and the labia majora are the outer lips.

Some women choose to have surgery to reduce the size of their labia minora, or less frequently, to change the shape or appearance of the labia majora. This surgery is known as labiaplasty or vaginal rejuvenation, and demand for the procedure has increased dramatically over the last 10 years, according to Dr. Rebekah Zaluzec, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at UCHealth Cherry Creek Medical Center and a women’s health expert.

“It is a very popular procedure,” Zaluzec said. “We’re seeing women who have had changes post-partum (after giving birth). Their anatomy has changed. I also see women who have not had children yet come in to see me for a labiaplasty. They can feel shy or embarrassed about this, but it’s all very normal.”

In 2019, surgeons across the U.S. performed the procedure more than 11,000 times, according to data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Zaluzec prides herself on being a great listener. For intimate issues, like a labiaplasty, it’s comforting for women to receive care from a female physician, who is a highly-trained plastic and reconstructive surgery.

We asked Zaluzec for answers to commonly asked questions about labiaplasty.

Is it normal for the labia to be big or to get larger as a woman ages?

Yes. The size and shape of the labia can vary greatly from woman to woman and there is a lot of normal variance. Some women are born with larger labia. And, hormonal changes can cause the labia to increase in size as a woman ages.

Why do some women choose to have labiaplasty?

For some women, the labia minora or inner labia can be bothersome. While having labia minora that are longer or have multiple folds is completely normal, some women can feel uncomfortable. Women can have discomfort with intercourse, bicycling, or when they wear tight clothing or bathing suits. Some women do not have any physical complaints, but rather do not like the look of what they consider to be large labia.

“They can also cause friction and rubbing,” Zaluzec said.

Who opts for labiaplasty?

Women who are cyclists sometimes request the surgery because large labia can hurt them while they sit on a bicycle saddle.

Other women report uncomfortable friction during sex.

“The labia can tuck into the vagina during intercourse, causing some women pain,” Zaluzec said.

I’ve heard about genital mutilation. How is labiaplasty different?

Mutilation of girls’ genitals has been common for centuries in some parts of Africa. This mutilation is very different from labiaplasty. Mutilation involves cutting off the clitoral glans, the sensitive part of a woman’s genitals. There is no medical reason to cut a girl’s clitoris. Labiaplasty does not involve any cutting of the clitoris.

Does labiaplasty reduce a woman’s sexual pleasure?

No. Labiaplasty does not make it harder for women to achieve orgasm. Plastic surgeons are expert anatomists and stay far away from the clitoral nerve. In fact, women who have experienced uncomfortable folding or friction during sex often report that once they’ve had labiaplasty, they experience more pleasure during intercourse. For others, the surgery boosts self esteem because women feel better about how their labia look.

How do plastic surgeons do labiaplasty?

Each procedure is unique of course. But Zaluzec generally trims the labia minora to remove excess tissue. Some women want the labia trimmed on both sides. Others feel they have asymmetrical labia and want cuts just on one side.

How long does it take to recover from labiaplasty?

It takes about a week to recover from labiaplasty, and women can resume intercourse and exercise about one month to six weeks after surgery.

Does insurance cover labiaplasty?

Generally, insurance does not cover labiaplasty. However, insurance providers sometimes make exceptions for professional athletes and for women with more extreme anatomical variances.

About the author

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon is a proud Colorado native. She attended Colorado College, thanks to a merit scholarship from the Boettcher Foundation, and worked as a park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park during summer breaks from college. She is also a storyteller. She loves getting to know UCHealth patients and providers and sharing their inspiring stories.

Katie spent years working as a journalist at the Rocky Mountain News and was a finalist with a team of reporters for the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of a deadly wildfire in Glenwood Springs in 1994. Katie was the first reporter in the U.S. to track down and interview survivors of the tragic blaze, which left 14 firefighters dead.

She covered an array of beats over the years, including the environment, politics, education and criminal justice. She also loved covering stories in Congress and at the U.S. Supreme Court during a stint as the Rocky’s reporter in Washington, D.C.

Katie then worked as a reporter for an online health news site before joining the UCHealth team in 2017.

Katie and her husband Cyrus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, have three children. The family loves traveling together anywhere from Glacier National Park to Cuba.