What is Vaginoplasty?
As the name suggests, a vaginoplasty is a plastic surgery procedure for vaginal reconstruction. For most patients there are two primary reasons for wanting a vaginoplasty:
- 1. Cosmetic vaginal surgery, which includes both medical reasons (such as repairing damage from trauma or childbirth) and truly cosmetic reasons (such as wanting a more attractive vagina to improve your self-esteem)
- 2. Vaginal tightening surgery, which is a specific surgery to reduce the size of your vaginal opening, which may have been stretched from childbirth or other causes, including age and lack of muscle tone.
Both types of surgery are considered “vaginal reconstruction” or “vaginal rejuvenation.” The procedure, which tightens the vaginal opening and inner vaginal walls, can restore full feeling and by extension, sexual satisfaction. If it’s appropriate, a vaginoplasty and a labiaplasty can be done at the same time. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, vaginal rejuvenation or vaginoplasty is gaining popularity in the United States faster than almost any other plastic surgery procedure. The number of procedures rose 64 percent from 2012 to 2013 and 49 percent from 2013 to 2014. Two of the reasons cited were more awareness and better education.
Why Get a Vaginoplasty
Labiaplasty is a surgery and all surgeries carry some risk. Labiaplasty risks include:
A vaginoplasty is simply a physical change to tighten the vagina. As women age, the vagina, like other muscles, tends to weaken. As a result, sex becomes less fulfilling because the sensation isn’t as intense. A vaginoplasty can restore sensations, making sexual intercourse a rich experience again.
Most of the women who opt for a vaginoplasty are in their 30s to their 50s. Many have had children and don’t want any more. A vaginoplasty doesn’t prevent someone from having more children, but childbirth can undo the work of the gynecological plastic surgeon. And while it’s possible to get a second vaginoplasty, the procedure carries more risks and uncertainty.
Risks and Complications of a Vaginoplasty
All surgeries carry some risk. But outpatient procedures like a vaginoplasty are no more risky than operations in a hospital. In fact, outpatient specialized surgery has some distinct advantages over hospital procedures.
The most common (but still rare) complications involve:
- Excess bleeding
- An infection
- Noticeable scarring
- Necrosis (tissue death)
- An allergic reaction to the anesthesia
The Vaginoplasty Procedure
Vaginal tightening surgery is a complex surgical procedure that often takes between one and two hours. A vaginoplasty is not a reversible procedure. The surgery is often performed traditionally with a scalpel, but lately, laser vaginoplasty has become more popular in the U.S. The results are not compromised in either case.
During the procedure, the patient is unconscious, either through general anesthesia or through sedation. To tighten the inner walls of the vagina, the surgeon makes a diamond-shaped incision from your perineum (the base of the vagina, between it and the anus) into the inner floor of the vaginal lining. After removing the excess tissue, the doctor pulls the muscles together to fill that space. The vaginal opening, called the introitus, is tightened as well, usually to one-and-a-half or two inches.
Recovering from a vaginoplasty is similar to recovering from an episiotomy performed during a vaginal delivery for childbirth. The body should respond well in time, although it may take three months or longer for a full vaginoplasty recovery — longer if multiple procedures are done at the same time.
After several hours under the watchful eyes of the recovery gynecology team, patients are sent home (with a friend or family member to drive), assuming no complications. There will be some initial pain from the physical effects of the surgery, but that pain decreases as the body heals.
A follow-up visit, after either the first or second week, will be scheduled to check on healing of the surgery. At that point, the patient may be advised to begin an exercise therapy, such as Kegel exercises, to strengthen recovering muscles.
The surgeon provides post-operative instructions. These instructions advise patients what can and can’t be done during your vaginoplasty recovery. The initial swelling and bruising that occurs during this surgery usually dissipate after two days, although being tender and sore for up to two weeks is normal. Activities increase as the pain decreases. Sexual intercourse or any vaginal penetration is prohibited for six weeks. Many women return to work after three to five days, if there is no strenuous activity.