An Introduction to Genitoplasty and Labia/Vaginal Reconstruction

A woman’s vagina is the most sensitive place on her body. On both a physical and emotional level, it is an area that affects not only their physical health, but their self esteem and self identity. When it is not functioning properly, pains them, is not aesthetically pleasing or in some cases is non existent, women can experience feelings of discomfort and pain.

When this happens, a viable option is often Genitoplasty. Genitoplasty is defined in a number of different ways depending on the focus of the surgery. However, it can easily be defined as “ plastic surgery on the genital organs( 1) ” or “surgical alteration of external genitals, as in neonatal sex reassignment (2) ”

For women, this often shows up as Labiaplasty or more widely, Vaginoplasty. Some very clear and concise definitions of these two terms come from Webmd

Vaginoplasty is a procedure that aims to “tighten up” a vagina that’s become slack or loose from vaginal childbirth or aging. Some surgeons claim it can even improve sensitivity — a claim the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has strongly challenged.

While it’s true that vaginal tissues can stretch, surgically tightening the vaginal tissue in itself cannot guarantee a heightened sexual response, since desire, arousal, and orgasm are complex, highly personal responses, conditioned as much by emotional, spiritual, and interpersonal factors as aesthetic ones. In addition, sexual “sensitivity” doesn’t automatically lead to more pleasure – it can actually lead to pain.

Labiaplasty, plastic surgery on the labia (the “lips” surrounding the vagina), can be performed alone or with vaginoplasty. Surgery can be performed on the labia major (the larger, outer vaginal lips), or the labia minor (the smaller, inner vaginal lips). Labiaplasty changes the size or shape of the labia, typically making them smaller or correcting an asymmetry between them.

Both surgeries require a lot of consultation from trained professional doctors who are educated specifically within women’s health. Part of these consultations will be to evaluate the nature of the procedure, whether is reconstructive or cosmetic. Knowing the difference between these will be crucial to reaching the patients ultimate goal.

Lastly, it is important to understand how deep the personal nature of these procedures go. Women seek out genitoplasty and labia/vaginoplasties for a number of reasons:

  • Incontinence: This can be the result of having children. Muscles become looser than normal and can lead to urine incontinence.
  • Purely Cosmetic Motivations: Many women desire to fix asymmetrical labias or other cosmetic issues. Doing so can lead to heightened levels of comfortability during sexual relations.
  • Damage Repair: when the vagina is damaged, surgery might be the best option in order to restore functionality and healthy appearance. Damage can come from accidents, childbirth, tears, etc.
  • Sexual reassignment: many intersected or other individuals choose to have a vagina constructed for them. This can help foster positive feelings of self identity and worth.

It cannot be reiterated that these surgeries are not to be taken lightly. When considering any of these options, it is important to receive thorough consultation from a licensed professional.

Footnotes

(1) Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

(2) Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012