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Doing Repair 'Down There'

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Maggie Baumann, MA: According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, cosmetic (a.k.a. "aesthetic") surgery is still big business, despite our economic downturn. Some of the most popular cosmetic surgeries today include rhinoplasty (reshaping the nose), breast augmentation and liposuction. Minimally invasive cosmetic procedures (which are less costly) -- such as Botox, chemical peels and hyaluronic acid fillers -- have actually increased in number during this recession. Now there's a new hot cosmetic surgery: the vaginal facelift.

This can include vaginal rejuvenation/tightening, labia reduction (of either the labia minora or labia majora) and clitoral-hood reduction -- all of which can help you achieve a symmetrical, "less bulky" look. Yes, female genital surgery is one of the fastest-growing cosmetic surgeries out there.

Vaginal rejuvenation surgery"The procedure actually tightens the vaginal canal all the way up to near the top of the vagina," explains Dr. Red Alinsod of the Alinsod Institute for Aesthetic Vaginal Surgery in Laguna Beach, California. "It is for women who have had large babies or traumatic deliveries and whose vaginal opening is so wide it can prevent them from having enjoyable sex." According to Dr. Alinsod, widening of the vaginal canal can result in reduced friction (i.e., pleasure) for both partners; the goal is to reduce the diameter of the vagina by 50 percent or more, to create the sensation of tightness and help improve intimacy. Tightening surgery can be superficial and only involve the opening (a surgery called "perineoplasty"), or it can involve the full length of the vagina ("vaginoplasty"). Gynecologists and urogynecologists typically perform the deeper vaginal procedures; most plastic surgeons concentrate on external labial procedures only.

Labiaplasty, or labial reduction surgery"Torn or malformed labia minora can be caused by a trauma -- such as a biking accident or giving birth -- or, more commonly, by simple genetics, wherein one side of the labia is bigger than the other," says Dr. Alinsod. "Sometimes the labias are so large, both sides drop down to the inner thigh -- which can cause embarrassment to women in tightfitting or wet clothing. However, the majority of patients requesting labiaplasty do so to improve their physical appearance, even if they have normal-sized and -shaped labias. It is a personal choice to improve their self-confidence." Dr. Alinsod says that labia minora plasty is commonly requested by women in their 20s and 30s; he's even treated teens. Women in their 40s and 50s, on the other hand, tend to request labia majora plasty; they apparently feel that their labia majora are "saggy" due to aging, and therefore not pleasant to look at. (Some surgeons use the patient's own fat to plump up this area; in South America -- particularly in Brazil -- many surgeons use permanent fillers.) 

Dr. Alinsod prefers a formal surgical labia majora plasty -- a modification of a partial vulvectomy. He says that removal of the excess majora tissue results in a more youthful and tighter vulvar appearance, with "less sweating" (as compared to fat injections). Vaginoplasties and the like are considered elective aesthetic plastic surgeries (read: not covered by insurance) and are most often performed on an outpatient basis. (Dr. Alinsod performs his surgeries in his office, using local anesthesia.) If pelvic reconstruction and incontinence surgery is required, however, a one- or two-night hospital stay may be called for. "Many of my patients want to have their leaky and fallen bladders and fallen rectums repaired, then have the entire vaginal canal narrowed -- all in one hospital stay," notes Dr. Alinsod. "They also want to get a vulvovaginal facelift at the same time."

How safe is it? Well, blood loss from the surgery is common, but generally is not a safety issue. Nerve damage is extremely rare -- though pain with intercourse can be present early on, when things are quite tight. There's a small (about 1 percent) risk of damage to the bowels. It usually takes six weeks for the wound edges to close completely; softening of the scars from sutures may take an additional two to four weeks. (To be safe, don't plan on having sex for two months.) The typical vaginoplasy costs approximately $7,000, with labiaplasty of the minora or the majora priced at just a bit less (around $6,000). The cost of a surgical suite and anesthesiologist will usually run you extra, unless the doctor performs the surgery in his/her office (as Dr. Alinsod does).

And now the big question: Is it worth it? Well, that answer is up to you.

What's your opinion on the "vaginal facelift?" Share your thoughts.

23 comments so far | Post a comment now
JR April 16, 2010, 8:25 AM

Once again stupidity wins the day.
So doctors take an oath to “do no harm.” then why on earth are they allowed to play into the insecurities of )primarily) women by doing all the crazy surgeries.
Be happy with who you are and how your body is.

Sarah April 16, 2010, 10:47 AM

It’s not stupidity to provide a service to women if they feel their genitals are so displeasing that they’re unable to initiate sex.

And what do you think, JR, about women who’ve had babies, or who’s uterus is prolapsing painfully to the outside of their body because of the stretched width of their vaginal canal? Sex is an important part of marriage and more than one has ended because one partner or another can’t get what they need where the ought.

lysha April 16, 2010, 11:16 AM

i think the rejuvenation surgery would be a good idea esp for the people who had alot of children or really big children who are trying to improve their sex life

Kristin April 16, 2010, 5:19 PM

I can understand if a woman has a had a large baby and can no longer enjoy sex - as long as she knows all the risks and pain involved in these types of invasive surgeries. HOWEVER, in general, women should be happy with their bodies…who cares if one labia is longer than the other? NO ONE! Plus these surgeries can be extremely painful, and if you’re in your TEENS you are not ready for that type of decision. How can you be against female genital mutilation and support these practices that are only slightly better because they’re in sterilized environments. Love all your lady parts, and think rather than following the pack.
Watch “The Perfect Vagina” a documentary and see a labiaplasty for yourself…it’ll open your eyes.

anon April 16, 2010, 6:28 PM

fix those lips!

Melissa April 16, 2010, 10:32 PM

I understand the judgment where strictly aesthetics are concerned, however, there are often other reasons that people may have it done. I had labioplasty when I was 14 because each of my inner labia were about 6 inches long, causing extreme discomfort. The only possible way to fix that was to have the surgery and my doctors deemed it medically necessary. So yes, just evening out a side that might be half an inch longer is a little ridiculous, but sometimes it’s necessary.

Katzilla April 17, 2010, 12:54 AM

I actually do want a Labiaplasty, I didn’t even realize until reading this article that the surgery was actually quite common. I got into an accident when I was a child—I did the splits on the sidewalk while riding a Big Wheel bike the wrong way—and my labia is ‘shredded’ and is actually blue/purple at the end. I have little to no feeling at the edge of it but because it is so dense with scar tissue it causes irritation.

Now I just wish I had about $10,000, because I know that I will never find insurance that will cover this. I’ll probably never have the surgery.

Mani April 17, 2010, 12:46 PM

I think these surgeries are sometimes necessary for women who have had injuries or who experience discomfort if their labia is too long, but just to do it for cosmetic reasons because your genitals are not perfectly symmetrical is ridiculous.
Be proud of your vagina. It is beautiful the way it is. Also, for those women who feel that they need the surgery after having children, because everything is loose, I suggest reading the Kama Sutra for information on alternate ways of giving and receiving pleasure especially if your individual parts don’t exactly fit anymore.

Kim April 19, 2010, 11:33 PM

I’d be very interested in hearing from women who have had a vaginoplasty as opposed to the more superficial perineoplasty and labioplasty. This surgery is touted as improving sexual pleasure and performance — does it actually do that?

Intuitively, I find the ‘vaginal rejuvenation’ industry insulting, but if it actually helps some women of a very specific subset, then I’ll qualify my opinion.

luvn4grlz April 27, 2010, 11:09 PM

I have been wanting to get the vaginal tightening, facelift, and labiaplasty for as lomg as i can remember. I have given birth to 4 beautiful girls and my vajayjay has never been the same! I think this surgery would make a great mothers day gift!

Debbie  May 11, 2010, 9:05 AM

I gave birth to 2 large babies and I would very much like to explore the option of vaginal tightening cause I don’t enjoy sex anymore, My babies we’re 9 8 oz and 10 6oz , If I had the money to I would do it, I’m not a fan of surgery but I think it would help our sex life which would make me feel closer and more affection with my husband. I didn’t ask for large babies it was gestational diabetic which 30 yrs. they weren’t talking about the dangers of blood sugar and pregnancy. I say each person has the right to do what they want safely and its nobody elses business but theirs. as long as Dr. is licensed and in good standing. Basically do your homework on the Drs., its your life. lecture over

jenny May 19, 2010, 2:40 PM

I dont know what that saggy part is, but I suckd on it anyway….. YUMMY!

baker May 23, 2010, 9:38 PM

well I believe if women need it then okay but I haven’t had it done but for those ladies who want it but don’t think they can afford it try care credit make sure your doctor uses it as a payment plan and look at there website and it also helps you find a doctor good luck to you ladies

mohammad June 1, 2010, 11:46 PM

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Kinda Shina February 17, 2011, 11:46 PM

It is for women who have had large babies or traumatic deliveries and whose vaginal opening is so wide it can prevent them from having enjoyable relationship. Thanks
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