Many of our patients know that I offer cosmetic labiaplasty as one of my surgical services,and several times a year I read an article or posting suggesting that labiaplasty is sexist, demeaning to women, dangerous, or a variety of other uncomplimentary adjectives.
Patients most frequently present to me bothered by the labia minora, the inner lips that protrude further than the patient wishes causing her physical and emotional discomfort. These patients are never “abnormal” since there is no established “normal” measurement for labia; rather just like breasts or noses they come in all shapes and sizes and some women prefer a shape or size that God did not give them. I counsel all of my prospective labiaplasty patients that they are normal; we look at pictures of all types of anatomy in case they are not aware of the range of shapes and sizes in the population, and we talk about the fact that surgery is not a treatment for issues that are not anatomic (low self esteem for example). But despite this conversation most patients are eager to have the “problem” that they perceive removed.
Having done hundreds of cases over the past 6 years, I can say that the satisfaction rate post surgery is very close to 100%. Of course in this self selected group, they perceived a problem, I fixed it, so they are happy. When patients are happy or not bothered by their larger noses, breasts or labia I am truly happy for them and would never suggest that they alter their bodies. But I do believe that safely altering a body part that displeases us can improve self esteem dramatically.
Many patients who perceive their labia to be abnormally large shy away from intimate relationships, avoid bathing suits and other tight clothes, and are terrified to be seen naked. I can understand that. After my twins were born I got my weight down to lower than in high school, ran a marathon, lifted weights, but could not get rid of the flap of skin that fell over the top of my pants and almost laid on my lap when I sat down. I hated my husband seeing it, I hated looking at myself in the mirror and would not be seen in public in a swimsuit. I could have gone to counseling I guess and tried to learn to love my body as it was, but instead I opted for a tummy tuck. Not a day goes by that I am not happy with that decision (every day when I get dressed and see myself in the mirror). I am more confident, and yes, dare I say happier. Being worried about a flap of skin falling out at an inopportune time makes one stressed and unhappy.
So to those who criticize the decision of individuals to pursue labiaplasty (or any other cosmetic surgery) I say, “to each her own”. If you are happy with your body I am thrilled and a bit jealous, but cosmetic surgery including labiaplasty does help a small subset of women, and I have worked with lots of them.
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