The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) recently released its national cosmetic surgery statistics for 2016. One statistic in particular stood out to me: labiaplasty procedures increased by over 23% last year, making it the second fastest growing procedure for 2016.
Just five years ago, so few labiaplasty surgeries were performed that it wasn’t even tracked in the ASAPS rankings as a distinct procedure (all types of vaginal rejuvenation procedures were grouped together until 2013). So why is labiaplasty—plastic surgery to reduce or reshape the labia minora or labia majora, an area of the body most women consider private—gaining so much popularity among American women?
Many popular media outlets have sensationalized the statistics with celebrity accounts of “virgin vaginas”, “vagina facials,” and other exaggerated headlines, which suggest that more women are undergoing labiaplasty today because they feel pressure to look “perfect down there.”
Rather than a media-driven desire to look a certain way, increase in the popularity of labiaplasty is most likely due to better access: to information about the procedure, as well as to the procedure itself.
However, in my practice, the vast majority of Richmond labiaplasty patients have the procedure to address discomfort caused by unusually large, long or misshapen labia. Women who report pain during intercourse, discomfort exercising, or chafing from swimsuits or tight clothing often find labiaplasty can alleviate or eliminate such problems.
Moreover, while some women do choose to have labiaplasty solely for cosmetic reasons, these patients simply want to feel better about the way they look in form-fitting clothing or to have greater confidence in intimate situations—the goal is rarely, if ever, to match a “porn star” look.
Patients have always sought labiaplasty to improve comfort, self-confidence, and physical appearance. Rather than a media-driven desire to look a certain way, the recent increase in labiaplasty procedures is most likely due to better access: both to information about the procedure, and to the procedure itself.
First, internet and social media have raised awareness about labiaplasty as an option. In the past, the only way a woman might have known that labiaplasty could help her treat large or misshapen labia was to talk to her doctor about it first—and many primary care doctors even lacked awareness of the procedure. Now, with online resources such as RealSelf.com, as well as social media groups and forums, patients can learn about and discuss sensitive health and cosmetic issues while remaining anonymous.
Second, the number of qualified, board certified plastic surgeons who are being trained in and perform labiaplasty has increased—36% of plastic surgeons now offer the procedure nationwide, according to ASAPS stats—giving more patients access to the procedure without having to travel far from home.
Finally, thanks to better options for plastic surgery financing across the board, labiaplasty is more affordable to more patients. Although labiaplasty is frequently sought for restorative reasons, most insurance companies still do not cover the procedure, and costs come out of pocket for the patient. Financing allows patients to pay in manageable installments while still having their procedure when they are ready.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how popular any plastic surgery procedure is if it’s the right option for you. If the shape, size, or appearance of your labia or vulvovaginal tissues affects your physical or emotional well-being, or you simply wish to improve the appearance of this area, labiaplasty could help you enjoy a more confident, comfortable life.
If you live near Richmond, I encourage you to contact my office for a personal consultation to discuss your goals and concerns with me and my nurse. Together, we can help you better understand the surgery and recovery, so you can decide if labiaplasty is the right option for you.