Most people have heard of cosmetic surgery for your nose, your tummy, your boobs… but what about your genitals?

There are actually several types of cosmetic surgery available for women wanting to modify their genitals in some way.

Vaginoplasty 

Purpose: To tighten the vagina.

What Does the Surgery Entail?: Incisions are made to the vulvovaginal muscle structure (either with a laser or, more traditionally, a scalpel) in order to knit the muscles and soft tissue together, and shorten them. The vaginal opening can be made smaller by removing excess “vaginal lining” (the mucosa layer). The surgery is typically done in an outpatient facility as a “day surgery” – patients are usually sent home the same day.

Average Cost: $3500 – $5000+

*To see a labeled photo of female genital anatomy, click here!

Labiaplasty/Labioplasty

Purpose: To reduce the size of the labia,, or to “correct” asymmetry in the lips

What Does the Surgery Entail?: Through various techniques, a section of tissue is cut out from the labia – generally the labia minora, although the tissues is occasionally taken from the labia majora. The tissue can be taken from the edge, or the thickest part of the lips.The loose edges are stitched up. Some clinics offer the“Barbie” treatment, where most – or all – of the inner lips are removed, in order to create a single, tight line. Labiaplasty can be performed under general or local anesthesia, depending on the complexity of the procedure.

Average Cost: $4000+

Vagionoplasty and Labiaplasty are the two most common procedures. But there are more procedures out there:

  • Hymenoplasty: “restoring” the hymen – with a membrane created from a flap of existing tissue with its own blood supply, or an artificial membrane without its own blood supply
  • Clitoral hood reduction: reducing the amount of tissue covering the head of the clitoris
  • Labia puffing: injection of artificial filler into the labia tissue, or grafting of fat from other parts of the body to inject into the labia lips

Risks of Genital Cosmetic Surgery

The The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada produced a policy statement on female genital cosmetic surgery in 2013. Below are five of the more troubling  revelations in this comprehensive document:

  1. Evidence is currently lacking for the safety and efficacy of FGCS procedures, most of which have no clearly accepted or consistent definitions.

  2. The labia continue to remodel with childbirth and can again undergo significant change with menopause… No data exists that tracks outcomes through these life transitions

  3. During the normal female sexual response the vagina must be able to dilate and “balloon.” This capacity can be adversely impacted by both physiological processes such as menopause and iatrogenic causes such as cancer treatments, radiation, and surgery.

  4. Urethra, bladder, and bowel are intimate with the vagina, and surgery to the vagina carries inherent risks of compromise of these important structures

  5. Women considering these surgeries should be informed of the risks of the procedure, including bleeding, infection, scarring, dyspareunia, alteration in sensation, pain, wound dehiscence, decrease in sexual pleasure, and possible dissatisfaction with cosmetic or other results. There are no available long-term data on the safety or efficacy of these procedures.

“The SOGC’s position does not support non-medically indicated female genital cosmetic surgery procedures considering the available evidence of efficacy and safety.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a document with similar warnings.

The risks are serious, and the cosmetic benefits are not well-documented, nor well-studied. The field is not as highly regulated as other cosmetic procedures, and the results are not often clear – especially in the case of “vaginal tightening”.

Obviously, women’s motivations for desiring such cosmetic surgery are varied, and we would never judge a woman’s choices. We respected and appreciated the choice of our previous guest poster to get a breast augmentation. And we recognize that a woman may make a fully informed, conscious decision to undergo elective surgery.

There are risks involved in any elective surgery. But genital cosmetic surgery is a relatively new field, and complications abound.

We aren’t doctors, so if you have questions about surgeries like this, talk to your health care provider.

 

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