Women seeking labiaplasty report a wide range of physical and functional symptoms, according to a new study in the April issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®.
In the study of 50 women, nearly all women consulting with a plastic surgeon regarding labiaplasty had multiple physical symptoms in addition to concerns regarding appearance.
The women averaged 35 years old, with a range from 17 to 51 years. Most patients said they first noticed elongation of their labia with aging and/or after childbirth. However, some said the issue developed after puberty, or was always present. The women reported a wide range of symptoms related to elongated labia, including pain during intercourse in nearly half of patients. Many patients cited problems related to discomfort and visibility while wearing certain types of clothing, such as yoga pants or bathing suits. Nearly all patients experienced at least four symptoms.
Regarding appearance, almost all patients were self-conscious and over half felt less attractive to their partner, experienced restricted clothing choice, and noted a negative impact on self-esteem and intimacy, the study showed. "Women seeking labiaplasty suffer from physical and appearance-related symptoms that affect the quality of their lives," write study authors who were led by Heather J. Furnas, MD, a plastic surgeon at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif.
"This patient perspective is crucial in understanding why women request labiaplasty, and it will ultimately serve as a valuable tool in assessing post-procedure outcomes. The more physicians understand the symptomatology associated with elongated labia, the better supported patients will feel as they search for surgical relief."
Labiaplasty has been a controversial procedure, with critics claiming it is an unnecessary procedure driven mainly by exposure to media images, including pornography. Some physicians and professional associations have opposed labiaplasty, but those negative attitudes may be shifting as the number of women seeking labiaplasty continues to increase. US plastic surgeons performed more than 12,000 labiaplasty procedures in 2016, up more than 35 percent from 2015, according to statistics from The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
The researchers acknowledge some important limitations of their study, including its relatively small size and the lack of a comparison group. They also point out that none of the women were seeking insurance coverage for labiaplasty, which lends credence to the legitimacy of the complaints.