Is Labiaplasty Worth the Risk?

A recent story reported by the BBC has raised questions about women who are are ignoring a “shocking lack of information on the potential risks of [Labiaplasty or labioplasty],” following the publication of research on the procedure in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The study reveals that women are undergoing cosmetic labial surgery to create what they perceive to be more attractive vaginas.

Here are some of the most important and interesting details surrounding the debate.

1. The most common cosmetic labial surgery reduces the size of the vaginal lips, and often costs around $6,000.

2. The most common reason cited for the surgery is the appearance of the vagina, followed by issues related to low self-esteem and sexual function.

3. Gynecologist Sarah Creighton and psychologist Lih-Mei Liao challenged the ethics of offering the surgery to women, and identified the problem as a social preference for “homogenised, pre-pubescent genital appearance.” They suggest counseling over surgery.

4. Creighton also suggests that surgery can actually exacerbate any physical issues by damaging the nerve supply to the area, and that women who have the procedure could have problems in childbirth (such as excessive bleeding and tearing), comparable to those who have experienced female genital mutilation.

5. Douglas McGeorge, past president of the the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, argues that the procedure is a relatively minor operation, with few possible complications. “Essentially this is just about removing a bit of loose flesh, leaving behind an elegant-looking labia with minimum scarring. The procedure won’t interfere with sexual function.”

6. Angelica Kavouni, a cosmetic surgeon who performs labiaplasty, said it was wrong to “terrorise patients” with suggestions of long-term consequences. “This is a procedure which we have been doing since the 1970s. Any operation performed poorly carries risks, but when it’s done properly there are very few issues at all.”

So what do you think? Are these procedures any different from Botox or breast implants? Would you ever consider it? Should women just ditch these procedures and stop getting so hung up on their perceived imperfections?