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Women's Health

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Vaginoplasty and Labiaplasty

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Vaginoplasty is a procedure that aims to "tighten up" a vagina that's become slack or loose from vaginal childbirth or aging. Some surgeons claim it can even improve sensitivity -- a claim the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has strongly challenged.

While it's true that vaginal tissues can stretch, surgically tightening the vaginal tissue in itself cannot guarantee a heightened sexual response, since desire, arousal, and orgasm are complex, highly personal responses, conditioned as much by emotional, spiritual, and interpersonal factors as aesthetic ones. In addition, sexual "sensitivity" doesn't automatically lead to more pleasure - it can actually lead to pain.

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Labiaplasty, plastic surgery on the labia (the “lips" surrounding the vagina), can be performed alone or with vaginoplasty. Surgery can be performed on the labia major (the larger, outer vaginal lips), or the labia minor (the smaller, inner vaginal lips). Labiaplasty changes the size or shape of the labia, typically making them smaller or correcting an asymmetry between them.

Reconstructive Surgery vs. Cosmetic Surgery

In order to decide if you should consider vaginoplasty or labiaplasty, it’s important to understand the difference between reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery.

Reconstructive surgery improves the function of a body part, while cosmetic surgery changes the aesthetics of essentially normal anatomy. You can think of it like a nose job: a surgeon can restructure the interior nasal cavities to help you breathe better or reshape the nose, just for the sake of appearances.

It's a critical distinction, because the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists evaluates surgeries and outcomes to fix functional problems, such as urinary incontinence. But ACOG remains skeptical and cautious about cosmetic vaginal surgery due to its risks and lack of scientific data on safety and effectiveness.

Some vaginoplasty procedures, for instance, were originally developed as reconstructive surgeries to repair birth defects when the vagina was malformed, too short, or absent (such as in vaginal agensis), so that a girl could grow up to have normal urination, menstruation, and intercourse.

Surgeries Related to Vaginoplasty and Labiaplasty

More recently, vaginoplasty has grown into a group of cosmetic surgeries marketed as "vaginal rejuvenation" and "designer vagina" procedures. Plastic surgeons and gynecologists are marketing their own array of designer vaginoplasty surgeries, claiming the same benefits to women as with other cosmetic surgeries, such as beauty, self-esteem, and confidence.

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