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Thinking about cosmetic surgery?

Some women have surgery on their genitals because they were born with congenital abnormalities, or have injuries and issues that cause them a lot of pain. But this isn’€™t the case for the vast majority of women. Everyone’€™s different and there is a big range of diversity when it comes to the shape, size, symmetry and colour of your labia.

Even so, some women are unhappy with the way their labia look. If you are thinking about having cosmetic or plastic surgery, here are a few things you should consider:

  • There is no such thing as a normal vulva or normal labia. There is so much diversity in the way women’€™s genitals look. Everyone is unique.
  • If you’€™re doing research on the internet or in magazines, don’€™t believe everything you see. Sometimes publishers airbrush pictures of vulvas because they’€™re not allowed to show you what women’€™s genitals really look like. If you want to see real, unairbrushed images, look here.
  • Plastic and cosmetic surgeons spend a lot of money on advertising to make women feel insecure about their bodies. And they get paid a lot to ‘€˜fix’€™ these issues with surgery. If you do have concerns about your labia, talk to a doctor who specialises in women’€™s health or a gynaecologist. They see women’€™s vulvas every day and they don’€™t have   a financial interest in suggesting that you have surgery. 
  • Professional bodies such as the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advise that there is not enough evidence to support cosmetic vaginal procedures and that the risks might outweigh the benefits. It’€™s important that women have all the information they need before making a decision about cosmetic surgery. Check out Women’€™s Health Victoria’€™s Issues Paper on Women and Genital Cosmetic Surgery for more information.
  • Risks of labioplasty (which is sometimes called labiaplasty) include things like scarring, numbness, pain, asymmetry, discoloration of the labia and an abnormal appearance to the skin along the edge of the labia. It can also affect sensation during sex. The labia minora have an important sensory role in sexual arousal and it’€™s not clear how this is affected by cosmetic surgery. 
  • Although some cosmetic and plastic surgeons say that labioplasty leads to increased sexual satisfaction and confidence, there have been no studies that objectively measure whether this is true. It seems unlikely, because labia are full of nerve endings that provide sensation and lubrication during sex.
  • Labioplasty does not improve hygiene or lead to a reduced incidence of thrush. Labia are there for a reason- to protect the vagina and provide sensation. To look after your hygiene down there, it’€™s important to wash your vulva daily with warm water or mild soap, but you should never scrub or use a douche or antibacterial wash.
  • Monash University is conducting a study to understand what women do and think about cosmetic female genital modification in Australia. This is a chance to share your stories, experiences and opinions of cosmetic genital modification with researchers from Monash University. If you are a woman aged at least 18, who has modified your genitals (either through surgery, vajazzling, waxing, colouring or piercing) and would like to participate or want further information, please contact Dr Karalyn McDonald on 03 9903 0686 or email fgcs-project@monash.edu  (Australia only). For further information, visit the Jean Hailes Research Unit at Monash University. This research is being conducted by the Jean Hailes Research Unit at Monash University in collaboration with Deakin University, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, the Australian Federation of Medical Women, Family Planning Victoria, Monash Health and Women’s Health Victoria.