As cosmetic surgery becomes more popular, the demand for more unusual procedures such as labiaplasty is also increasing. Labiaplasty is a cosmetic procedure to alter female genitalia by changing the size and shape of the labia minora, often to correct asymmetry. While labiaplasty has long been used by doctors for medically necessary cases, it is becoming more common as an elective procedure for purely cosmetic reasons. Many obstetricians and gynaecologists argue that there is no medically valid reason for labiaplasty to be performed and there are significant potential risks. As there is no data on the long term consequences of these procedures, the ongoing effects later in life are not known.
The media has reported mixed views on this type of treatment. Some doctors refuse to carry out labiaplasty because they fear the potential backlash from its possible association with female genital mutilation (FGM) and genital cutting. Other gynaecological surgeons feel that women should be educated about the variety of ‘normal’ appearances as the demand for labiaplasty is largely driven by the pornography industry and a combination of an unrealistic desire to look ‘perfect’ and biological ignorance. For example, people do not realise that labia naturally shrink during the menopause.
In Canada, the demand for labiaplasty has become such an issue that new guidelines have been drafted to help physicians deal with patients, some as young as twelve, who are interested in getting their labias trimmed or cut off entirely. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada released a policy statement on female genital cosmetic surgery in December 2013 which looked at vaginoplasty, hymenoplasty and G-spot augmentation, as well as labiaplasty. It concluded that it did not support these procedures due to lack of data on long term consequences. Similarly, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists remains cautious about vaginal surgery due to the associated risks and lack of data on safety and effectiveness.
That said, some plastic surgeons believe women have the right to choose what they have done to their body and it is evident that, for some women, labiaplasty is a life line which can offer a solution to a painful or embarrassing problem. For these women, their anatomical make-up is often affecting their sporting ability, sexual relationships or confidence and having a labiaplasty could reduce their level of discomfort and raise their self-confidence.