Few areas of the human body cause as much confusion as the female genital area. Many people know the names and general structures involved but often aren’t sure which area is which. For example, people often use the term vagina when they are referring to an entirely different part of the anatomy, such as the labia. These common misunderstandings can lead to confusion when it comes to understanding and choosing plastic surgery for the rejuvenation of the labia and vagina. It’s not uncommon for people to talk about a vaginoplasty when they’re really describing a labiaplasty and vice versa.
If you’re not sure how a labiaplasty is different from a vaginoplasty or which option (if not both) is right for you, here’s what you need to know.
Labia vs. Vagina: What’s the Difference?
To get to the heart of the difference between a labiaplasty and vaginoplasty, it’s important to understand the difference between the labia and the vagina. In the simplest of terms, the vagina is a part of the female genitals that is located inside of the body. It’s a muscular canal that connects the cervix and uterus to the exterior of the body. When a baby is born, it travels through the vaginal canal on its way out of the uterus and into the world. The vagina is usually very elastic and is designed to stretch so it can accommodate a full-term baby of 8 pounds or more.
While the vagina is located inside the body, the labia are on the outside of the body. They surround the opening to the vagina and the urethra. There are actually two parts of the labia: the labia majora and the labia minora. The labia minora are smaller and are located on the inner side of the labia majora. Labias come in a wide range of sizes and colors. Some women have larger labia majora than minora, while others have the opposite. The labia’s size and color can change as part of the process of getting older or after childbirth.
What Happens During a Labiaplasty?
The goal of labiaplasty is usually to remove excess skin and tissue from the labia. After childbirth, and in particular after a vaginal delivery, it is common for the labia to become “stretched out.” This can make the labia seem bigger or longer than before. Labiaplasty helps to trim away the excess tissue, creating a more sculpted and youthful look.
Usually, the surgery takes about an hour to complete. It can be performed using local anesthesia or a general anesthetic. Typically, a surgeon will use dissolvable sutures during the procedure so that there’s no need to remove stitches afterward. Recovery after the surgery usually takes about one to two weeks. Patients can expect some swelling and discomfort in the area, but prescribed pain medications can help.
What Happens During a Vaginoplasty?
While labiaplasty focuses on the exterior part of a woman’s genitals, vaginoplasty is an internal procedure. The goal of the surgery is usually to tighten the vaginal canal after childbirth or age-related changes. Although many women who decide to have a vaginoplasty do so after giving birth, women who aren’t mothers can have the surgery as well. A vaginoplasty can help increase comfort and sensation during sex and improve muscle control.
During a vaginoplasty, the surgeon will make an incision at the back of the vagina, removing a portion of the vaginal wall. Muscles inside the vagina will be tightened as well. As with labiaplasty, a surgeon will use dissolvable sutures during the procedure. There’s also the option of using either general anesthesia or a local anesthetic and IV sedation.
Recovery after a vaginoplasty typically takes about a week. Many women feel comfortable enough to go back to work after three to five days. There might be some bleeding and soreness initially, but both usually resolve after a day or so.
Combining Vaginoplasty and Labiaplasty
Labiaplasty and vaginoplasty are two different procedures that focus on two distinct areas of the female genitalia. However, it is possible to combine the two, and many women choose to do so. Combining a vaginoplasty with a labiaplasty means that the entire area can be rejuvenated at once.
Whether you’re a mother who’s unhappy about the change childbirth has brought to your body or a woman who’s long felt embarrassed by how “down there” looks, vaginoplasty and labiaplasty can help. To learn more about either or both procedures, call 281-484-0088 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Paul Vitenas, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Houston, Texas, today.