Dr Mark McGovern

Dr Mark McGovern

There are a few reasons why you might consider a labiaplasty. Whether it’s genetics, trauma or childbirth, having a labia that you’re not comfortable with can be extremely debilitating. Dr Mark McGovern from VIE Institute on the Sunshine Coast in QLD does this procedure regularly for women of all shapes and sizes and we chatted to him about it.

What is labiaplasty?

Labiaplasty is a surgical operation to reduce the size and protuberance of the labia minora. Nowadays, an extended wedge labiaplasty is available and it is performed by plastic surgeons. In previous decades, gynaecologists sometimes amputated the most prominent edge of the labia minora with a large pair of scissors! This produced poor cosmesis and scarring at the introitus, which then caused pain on intercourse (or dysparunia) – a poor operation.

Extended wedge labiaplasty can be performed for purely cosmetic reasons, but this is seldom the case. Most ladies pursuing labiaplasty have localised and sometimes asymmetric enlargement of their labia, either as an inherited trait or after repeated childbirth. This will predictably produce self-consciousness in addition to an array of symptoms including:

  • Unable to wear tight clothes, especially tights or swimwear due to the bulge;
  • Hygiene problems (it may be more difficult to clean or be more exposed;
  • Irritation – they can rub together even just walking or moving, and can be especially troublesome when doing activities such as going to the gym or riding a bike or horse riding;
  • Pain and discomfort (not to mention embarrassment) during any sexual activities

Dr McGovern says there is now a lot less stigma attached to this type of surgery and women are relieved to have a surgical option to alleviate any physical issues, and help with the social/psychological ones as well. He says, “The best candidates for Labiaplasty are healthy, emotionally stable women who are realistic about what the surgery can accomplish. If you’re planning to have more children, it may be a good idea to postpone your surgery until after your last child.”

The labiaplasty procedure

A labiaplasty procedure usually takes around an hour under general anesthesia. Dr McGovern says labiaplasty with him at VIE Institute will take place in a hospital as a day procedure.

Dr McGovern says it’s essential to be completely honest and direct from the start with your surgeon in order to get the best results. “It’s important to discuss your expectations frankly with your surgeon, and to listen to his opinion. Every patient has a different view of what is desirable. Your surgeon should describe the procedure in detail, explaining its risks and limitations and making sure you understand the scarring that will result. He should also explain the anaesthesia to be used, the type of facility where the surgery will be performed, and the costs involved. Don’t hesitate to ask him any questions you may have, especially those regarding your expectations and concerns about the results. Ensure that you are consulting with a specialist plastic surgeon.”

Katie’s Labiaplasty

Katie shared her story with us about her and her sister’s labiaplasty at VIE Institute and their relief at its success. “When I reached puberty at around 12 years old I noticed that my labia minora protruded quite significantly and that it didn’t look quite ‘normal’. At the time the appearance didn’t really bother me; it wasn’t until I started experiencing discomfort such as chafing, or when wearing particular types of clothing (such as tight jeans) or participating in different forms of exercise (such as bike riding) that I started to take particular notice of the discomfort that it caused. Due to embarrassment I didn’t tell anyone about the discomfort I was feeling until I was about 16.

“When I first told my mother she didn’t really understand what I was talking about and said something along the lines of, ‘It can’t be that bad’. This reaction only caused further embarrassment and made me feel even more abnormal so again I didn’t talk to anybody about my problem for several years. Eventually at about 19 years old my younger sister and I were talking and discovered that we both shared the same problem. My sister and I both underwent the procedure on the same day. Both my sister and I are extremely happy with the results – we were both quite shocked when we saw the pre-operative photos in comparison to how we look now. There is no longer any discomfort when I exercise and I can wear all types of clothing (even tight denim jeans!). The scarring is minimal and will only improve with time.”

Dr McGovern says patient satisfaction with this procedure is extremely high. “Our patients report a huge improvement in their self esteem, and an elevated level of physical and emotional satisfaction.”

Katie* shares her story about her labiaplasty experience at Vie Institute on the Sunshine Coast.

When I reached puberty at around 12 years old I noticed that my labia minora protruded quite significantly and that it didn’t look quite ‘normal’. At the time the appearance didn’t really bother me; it wasn’t until I started experiencing discomfort such as chafing, or when wearing particular types of clothing (such as tight jeans) or participating in different forms of exercise (such as bike riding) that I started to take particular notice of the discomfort that it caused. Due to embarrassment I didn’t tell anyone about the discomfort I was feeling until I was about 16. When I first told my mother she didn’t really understand what I was talking about and said something along the lines of, ‘It can’t be that bad’. This reaction only caused further embarrassment and made me feel even more abnormal so again I didn’t talk to anybody about my problem for several years. Eventually at about 19 years old my younger sister and I were talking and discovered that we both shared the same problem. We were both unsure of what the treatment options were for large labia minora so the first place we looked for information was the internet – probably the worst idea we had! After reading a myriad of painful stories regarding surgery options from around the world my sister and I abandoned the idea of surgery for several months, however, we finally decided to take the first step of visiting our local GP to get more accurate information. After a brief assessment from our GP we were each given a referral for a consultation at the Vie Institute for labiaplasty surgery.

My sister and I had a joint consultation at the Vie Institute where detailed information regarding the labiaplasty procedure, possible problems, post-operative care and our expectations of the procedure were discussed. After receiving all of this information my sister and I both made the informed decision that surgery was the best option for us.

So, in December last year my sister and I both underwent the procedure on the same day and spent the next week recovering together. The procedure was approximately one hour in duration and we were both back at home within a few hours following the procedure. The pain and discomfort over the next week was minimal as the after-care ointments and pain medication were quite effective. Within six days we were both back at work and doing our usual daily activities.

It has now been approximately four months since we underwent the labiaplasty procedure and both my sister and I are extremely happy with the results – we were both quite shocked when we saw the pre-operative photos in comparison to how we look now. There is no longer any discomfort when I exercise and I can wear all types of clothing (even tight denim jeans!). Even after only four months the scarring is minimal and will only improve with time. Even though the thought of any type of surgery was quite daunting for the both of us, we both agree that we would go through it again – we were reassured and clearly informed throughout the whole process, the after-care instructions were clear and simple, and we always knew that help was only a phone-call away (not that it was ever needed!). All of the staff at the Vie Institute were friendly and professional, abating any sense of embarrassment that I used to feel.

Further Reading About Labiaplasty Surgery

 

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Trish

Trish is a plastic surgery blogger. She is passionate about wellbeing, health and beauty, and doesn't mind a little bit of 'help' from the amazing cosmetic and beauty procedures that are available today. Trish spends her days talking to women and men who are looking for suggestions and advice on procedures that are available to them. Cutting through the sales pitch and hype, a down-to-earth response on general information is what you will get.

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