The most popular procedures performed are Labioplasty and Vaginoplasty cosmetic surgeries. Picture: File

With the popularity of vaginal rejuvenation and genital cosmetic surgeries on the rise, most gynaecologists are warning women to get a real understanding of what is normal as far as their vulva and vagina is concerned before considering surgical or cosmetics options. 

“There has been an increase in the number of referrals and requests for treatments of this nature and the main reason is that women don’t believe they look normal ‘down there’,” says Dr Katrien Dehaeck, a leading Gynaecologist at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town who specialises in vulvovaginal health.

The most popular procedures performed are Labioplasty and Vaginoplasty cosmetic surgeries. 

 A Labioplasty involves surgery to the labia minora (inner lips) and less frequently, the labia majora (outer lips). Labioplasty of the labia minora is the most commonly performed and generally reduces the size of the inner lips so they do not protrude below the outer lips. 

Whereas a Vaginoplasty involves tightening the inside of the vagina and the vaginal opening by removing excess tissue from the vaginal lining. It effectively results in a vagina with a smaller diameter. Vaginoplasty is often promoted as a solution for women who have experienced a loss of vaginal tone due to childbirth and also known as a 'vaginal rejuvenation'. 

In the last few years other methods of rejuvenating the vagina have become popular. One such treatment uses a micro carbon dioxide (CO2) laser, which has shown good results and is less invasive than surgery; whilst Botox is another popular method of treatment.

Studies published by the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology have found that most women seeking labial reduction procedures had normal-sized labia minora, as there is nothing unusual about having labia minora that are longer than the labia majora.

“It is very important that women put the look of their genitals into perspective and understand that it’s not a one look fits all scenario. I would suggest that surgery only be considered if it interferes with your quality of life. If the condition causes pain or is consistently uncomfortable, such as in the case with active horse riders or cyclists, then surgery would be an option. Other cases in which surgery would be a valid option are for young girls born with congenital issues or women who have given birth to many, or large babies as well as those who have experienced big episiotomies or tears,” explains Dehaeck.

She cautions that “there are unnecessary and inappropriate practices occurring in the industry and that women need to be cautious not to undergo surgeries that can lead to additional problems such as a women’s vulvovaginal area being tightened too much or excessive scarring. I would suggest that women consult their gynaecologist to get an objective opinion of the issue that concerns them. Women’s genitals come in all different shapes and sizes and these variations are usually completely healthy and normal,” adds Dehaeck.