Vaginal Rejuvenation, Labiaplasty, and Other Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery
Frequently Asked Questions Expand All
The external female genital area is called the vulva. The size, shape, and color of the vulva varies widely from person to person. The labia minora often extend past the labia majora, but it also is normal if they do not. Some people have labia that are uneven in size. All of these differences are normal. It also is normal for the size, shape, and color of the vulva to change during puberty, as you age, and during pregnancy or menopause.
This surgery changes the look or feel of female genitals, such as the labia and vagina. Cosmetic surgery is an optional surgery. As with all cosmetic surgery, female genital cosmetic surgery is something done based on your personal preference rather than a medical need.
Labiaplasty is the most common type of this surgery. Labiaplasty can make the labia smaller or give both sides the same shape. Other types of female genital cosmetic surgery include:
- Clitoral hood reduction, which makes the covering of the clitoris smaller (usually done with labiaplasty)
- Vaginoplasty, which tightens the walls of the vagina
- Perineoplasty, which strengthens the perineum
You also may have heard of “vaginal rejuvenation.” Sometimes this term is used to describe all female genital cosmetic surgery in general, but usually it refers to vaginoplasty, perineoplasty, or both.
You may see energy-based treatments marketed as non-surgical options for vaginal rejuvenation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any laser or other energy-based treatment for vaginal cosmetic surgery. These treatments also have not been approved for treating menopause symptoms, urinary incontinence, or other sexual problems.
The FDA has warned that laser and other energy-based treatments for vaginal rejuvenation can cause serious complications. These can include vaginal burns, scarring, pain with sex, and long-lasting pain.
Talk with your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) if you have concerns about your genitals. Genital size, shape, and color are different in every person. Other than diagnosed medical problems, there is no right or wrong way for genitals to look.
There also is no good research to show that female genital cosmetic surgeries are safe or work well. Some ads can mislead people about what is possible with surgery or what is normal for the body. There is no evidence that these surgeries will improve your libido (sex drive), body image, or sexual pleasure. Genital cosmetic surgeries also can cause serious problems.
Risks of surgery can include:
- Changes in sensation
- Dyspareunia (painful sex)
- The need for more surgeries
Federal law makes genital cosmetic surgery illegal for girls under age 18. Labiaplasty may be legal for girls under 18 if they have a medical problem, such as a birth defects or labia pain.
In some states, labiaplasty and other genital cosmetic surgery also may be illegal for adults. Sometimes genital cosmetic surgery is considered a kind of “female genital mutilation.” Learn the laws on female genital mutilation in your state at www.equalitynow.org/us_laws_against_fgm_state_by_state.
Sometimes surgery is needed to repair childbirth injuries or other types of injuries. Some types of surgery also are used to treat problems that can cause painful sex, such as Vulvodynia (see When Sex is Painful). Other reasons genital surgery might be done include
There are many other ways to improve sexual satisfaction. Learning more about your body and how it works may help. If you have a partner, building better communication with them may help too. You also can talk with your ob-gyn or other health care professional about ways to address specific problems. Medication, physical therapy, counseling, and many self-help options are available. See Your Sexual Health for more information.
Ask your surgeon to explain the following:
- Possible risks of surgery and how often problems happen.
- Their experience with the surgery you may have. (How many of the surgeries have they done? What results did their patients have?)
Some people have a mental health condition called body dysmorphic disorder. People with this disorder think their bodies have physical defects that do not really exist, or they worry obsessively about minor flaws that others wouldn’t notice. If your surgeon or ob-gyn thinks you may have this disorder, they may ask you to see a a specialist for evaluation before you have cosmetic surgery.
Birth Defect: A physical problem that is present at birth.
Complications: Diseases or conditions that happen as a result of another disease or condition. An example is pneumonia that occurs as a result of the flu. A complication also can occur as a result of a condition, such as pregnancy. An example of a pregnancy complication is preterm labor.
Clitoris: A female sex organ found near the opening of the vagina.
Dyspareunia: Pain with intercourse.
Genital: A sexual or reproductive organ.
Labia: Folds of skin on either side of the opening of the vagina.
Labia Majora: The outer folds of tissue of the external female genital area.
Labia Minora: The inner folds of tissue of the external female genital area.
Libido: The desire for, or interest in, sex. Also called sex drive.
Menopause: The time when a woman’s menstrual periods stop permanently. Menopause is confirmed after 1 year of no periods.
Obstetrician–Gynecologist (Ob-Gyn): A doctor with special training and education in women’s health.
Perineum: The area between the vagina and the anus.
Puberty: The stage of life when the reproductive organs start to function and other sex features develop. For women, this is the time when menstrual periods start and the breasts develop.
Urinary Incontinence: Involuntary loss of urine.
Vagina: A tube-like structure surrounded by muscles. The vagina leads from the uterus to the outside of the body.
Vaginal Vault Prolapse: Descent of the vagina after a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).
Vulvodynia: Pain in the vulva that does not go away or keeps coming back and does not have a specific cause.
Vulva: The external female genital area.
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Published: October 2020
Last reviewed: October 2020
Copyright 2020 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid to patients and sets forth current information and opinions related to women’s health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care, nor does it comprise all proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for a treating clinician’s independent professional judgment. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.
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