If you've decided to take the plunge and schedule labiaplasty surgery, you might be wondering what the recovery process looks like. Does it involve extensive aftercare, or will there be lingering pain?
Dr. Gary Alter is an expert in labiaplasty surgery. Not only is he double-board certified in plastic surgery and urology, but he pioneered the "wedge" method used regularly by many plastic surgeons performing labiaplasties.
Below, he provides a few tips on how to maximize comfort and healing after labiaplasty surgery.
1. Get Plenty of Rest and Have Everything You Need Within Arm's Reach
As with any surgery, it's essential that you rest after your labiaplasty procedure. Drink lots of water and try to limit your movement for the first couple of weeks.
Wherever you're recuperating, make sure you have everything you need close by: water, pain medications (both prescription and over-the-counter), and snacks to ensure you're not taking medication on an empty stomach.
2. Take Pain Medication as Prescribed
Because labiaplasty focuses on a sensitive area full of nerves, you may experience some mild to moderate discomfort after surgery. You may receive prescription pain medication, but in most cases, over-the-counter pain reducers (such as acetaminophen) will suffice.
It may sting when you urinate, so keeping a spray bottle of cool water nearby to spritz the area after peeing may relieve the stinging sensation and help keep the surgical site clean.
3. Keep the Surgical Dressings Clean and Dry
Initially, you'll have surgical dressings to protect the sutures from your labiaplasty. You may experience a bit of spotting, so make sure you're keeping your labia and the bandages covering the wound clean and dry. You will also apply an antibiotic ointment for the first couple of days to help prevent infection.
4. Use a Cold Compress to Help Decrease Swelling
After your labiaplasty procedure, the entire area around your labia minora may be swollen, including your labia majora and clitoral hood. This is normal, and while the swelling will gradually decrease, it will likely take up to four to six months for all of the swelling to disappear.
You'll want to frequently apply ice to the area for the first two days after surgery, and then as needed. Cool compresses applied in 15-minute intervals also help keep swelling down.
5. Use an Inflatable Cushion to Avoid Putting Pressure on the Area When Sitting
Women do not generally sit on their vagina, so it is not likely that you will have direct pressure on the surgical area, which you should avoid. If you had a perineal repair, a small inflatable "donut" cushion may help relieve the discomfort from sitting.
6. Take Showers, but Do Not Submerge the Vagina in Bath Water or a Hot Tub
Most patients can shower using lukewarm water on the first day after surgery. When showering, you may gently rinse the area with water. You can use a mild soap (like Dove or Ivory) only after at least a week. Do not rub the area, but carefully pat it dry after washing.
You should avoid swimming or soaking in any water, including hot tubs or bathtubs until Dr. Alter gives you the all-clear.
7. Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing and Underwear
When recovering from labiaplasty surgery, you want to make sure that any underwear or other clothing you wear is breathable. Your best option is 100% cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing. Your labia will be sensitive, so you should avoid tight garments or anything that may rub or irritate the area. You can apply a soft panty liner or gauze on the vulva. Vaseline can be applied after a day or two if the sutures are irritated by the gauze or liner.
8. Take Slow, Short Walks Twice a Day
While you may be uncomfortable due to swelling or minor pain, walking slowly for a short time twice a day can actually speed up your recovery. Getting your body moving increases blood flow, which helps the healing process. Moving your body also helps prevent constipation, which you want to avoid after labiaplasty. Straining from constipation may cause more pain, so a laxative, drinking plenty of water, and engaging in gentle movement can help you avoid those issues.
9. Avoid Exercise or Strenuous Activities and Any Sexual Activity That Involves the Vagina
Again, any surgical procedure requires a period of reduced activity while you heal. While moving your body slowly and gently helps with the healing process, you should avoid any strenuous exercise for the first month after your labiaplasty. Additionally, refrain from any vaginal-related sexual activity until at least six weeks after your surgery.
10. Don't Smoke
If you smoke or vape, you should have stopped several weeks before your surgery and should continue to avoid it after surgery. The nicotine in cigarettes and vapes constrict your blood vessels, which inhibits healing. The nicotine narrows blood vessels, which prevents oxygen and nutrients from getting to the area, increasing your chance of wound separation and infection.