Labiaplasty may be one of the least common procedures performed by plastic surgeons, but it is part of an emerging trend as women have become increasingly interested in improving the functionality and appearance of just about any part of their bodies. The motivation of a broad range of patients who pursue labiaplasty is to obtain a solution for the bothersome implications of an enlarged labia minora or labia majora.
In this article, PSP turned to physicians from across the nation to get a sense of a procedure that many believe is becoming a mainstay in plastic surgery.
The Rise of Labiaplasty
There are several reasons why a new elective fee-for-service procedure may emerge. In the case of labiaplasty, the reason is a traditional one. The press has jumped on the bandwagon for labiaplasty, creating curiosity among women who thought that they would have to otherwise live in discomfort.
Ricardo Rodriguez, MD, of Baltimore says, “More and more women are shaving in the pubic area and, as a consequence, notice the extension of the labia. Furthermore, more women today are aware of their vaginal appearance due to their general scrutinizing of their overall appearance resulting from the focus of image in the press and the community at large.”
In addition, women are more conscious of changes in any area of the body that may signify aging—including elongated labia. The physicians PSP spoke with agreed that labiaplasty is on the rise even though only 793 vaginal-rejuvenation procedures were performed by American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) members in 2005, according to ASPS statistics.1 This was the first year that ASPS provided data on these procedures, and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has yet to include them in its statistics.
The physicians interviewed for this article perform from 20 to hundreds of labiaplasty procedures per year, depending on how they attract patients: most commonly from word-of-mouth referrals and—less commonly but becoming more popular—from the Internet. In fact, some of the physicians who participated indicated that their labiaplasty patients are often willing to travel for the procedure, even from other countries.
According to Michael S. Kluska, DO, of Greensburg, Pa, “There is definitely a need for this procedure, but not enough consumer awareness to build great volume in the practice without word-of-mouth referrals or other forms of marketing.” Others interviewed believe that media hype has been responsible for the growing interest in labiaplasty, but it potentially sends the wrong information to prospective patients.
It appears that many women have been learning about labiaplasty after first receiving information about another plastic surgery procedure in the practice. Thus, word-of-mouth referrals and current patients seem to be the targets for labiaplasty. Web sites that focus specifically on labiaplasty and obtain top-ranking search results may also produce a wealth of interested consumers.
Today it appears that women are interested in any procedure that provides relief from a bothersome situation. Gynecologist Edward Jacobson, MD, FACOG, of Greenwich, Conn, has discovered many reasons why patients come to his office for labiaplasty.
He explains, “Women interested in the labiaplasty procedure may be equestrians that are bothered during horseback riding due to the size of their labia. Female cyclists may also find discomfort bike riding. Weight lifters may be challenged as well. In fact, there may be many sporting activities that are downright functionally uncomfortable.”
Moreover, the day-to-day difficulties arising from enlarged labia majora can be quite inhibiting. As Stephen J. Ronan, MD, FACS, of Danville, Calif, explains, “Some patients have complained of the labia getting caught in jeans or underwe