Labiaplasty Recovery: Timeline + Tips
Previously published on August 29, 2018. Updated on June 23, 2023 with additional recovery tips.
Labiaplasty, also known as a labial reduction, is a surgical procedure that involves altering the labia minora or labia majora, which are the inner and outer folds of skin surrounding the vaginal opening. The vaginal rejuvenation surgery is performed to reshape and reduce the size of the labia for functional or aesthetic concerns. Labiaplasty is a relatively straightforward in-office procedure, but allowing ample time for a proper recovery is crucial.
Following a labiaplasty surgery, patients typically achieve full recovery and can comfortably resume sexual activity and vigorous physical activity after approximately six weeks; however, the exact timeline for recovery depends on several factors including the patient’s unique healing response and pain tolerance, the surgeon’s skill and technique, the type of labiaplasty technique performed, and how closely the patient follows their post-procedure care instructions. In this post, we will explore the details and recovery timeline of a labiaplasty and outline some recovery tips for patients.
Preparing for Labiaplasty
Preparing ahead of time for your labiaplasty can decrease discomfort, give you more time to rest, and will generally make your recovery more smoothly. To reduce risk of complications and hasten your recovery time, consider the following:
As your surgery date approaches, it’s never too early to start hydrating, eating healthy, whole foods, and getting more sleep. The healthier your body before surgery, the faster your recovery. Make sure that your protein intake is adequate as they provide the building blocks (i.e. amino acids) for healing. I like my patients to double their protein intake in the weeks leading up to surgery.
Take a Break
Plan on taking at least one week off from work so you can properly rest and heal before you return to activities.
Prepare Your Home
Purchase all post-surgery prescriptions and medications ahead of time, so you have them as soon as you return home. Consider stocking up on groceries and comfort items so there’s no need to run errands while you’re resting.
Remove Pubic Hair
Consider shaving or waxing before your surgery to help keep the area clear of hair while your tissues heal.
Timeline of Labiaplasty Recovery
The recovery timeline for a labiaplasty surgery can vary from person to person, but here is a general overview:
1–3 days after surgery
During this initial period, it is common to experience some swelling, bruising, and discomfort in the treated area. Patients may be prescribed pain medication to manage any post-operative pain. It is not uncommon for one side of the labia to be more swollen than the other side in the early period. Rest is extremely important. Most patients will be advised to minimize walking for the first 2-3 days. It is important to rest and avoid strenuous activities during this time. Applying ice packs can help reduce swelling, but patients should always talk to their surgeon first.
1 week after surgery
Most patients start to feel more comfortable and experience a significant decrease in swelling and bruising after one week. Patients may still have some mild discomfort, but it should be manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers. Many women begin to feel well enough to walk and perform normal physical activity. Most patients will be cleared to go back to work. Some patients may notice a persistent itchiness as their incisions continue to heal. It is important to not scratch or rub the treated area. It is crucial to continue following the surgeon’s instructions regarding wound care and hygiene.
3–4 weeks after surgery
By this time, most of the swelling and bruising should have subsided. Patients may begin to feel more like their normal selves, although some patients may still have residual swelling. It is important to continue practicing good hygiene and avoid any activities that could put strain or pressure on the surgical area.
Dissolvable stitches that are frequently used to close labiaplasty incisions should fully be gone. Patients are often cleared to undertake more active forms of exercise, but your surgeon may still advise you to refrain from insertional sexual intercourse or using tampons.
6 weeks after surgery
Around this time, most patients have achieved full recovery (90% healed) and can typically resume sexual activity, use tampons, and engage in vigorous physical activities. However, it is essential to gradually reintroduce activities to avoid any discomfort or complications. While most of the swelling will have subsided, the true final result will not become apparent until 4-6 months following the procedure.
The primary type of labiaplasty procedure commonly performed is the reduction of the labia minora length. Various techniques are available, but the most prevalent approach involves making discreet incisions on each side, carefully removing excess labial tissue, and skillfully suturing the area back together.
While labiaplasty is considered a relatively minor procedure, it is still an invasive surgery that requires a recovery period. Most of the pain should subside within the first 3 to 5 days and can be controlled with prescribed pain medication or over-the-counter pain relievers. Here are some additional tips to alleviate pain:
- Pain medication: Follow the plastic surgeon’s instructions regarding pain medication usage. Take it only as needed and as prescribed.
- Cold compresses: Applying cold compresses to the surgical area can help reduce swelling and minimize pain. The cold temperature restricts blood flow, which helps to alleviate discomfort.
- Ample rest: Allow for plenty of rest during the initial days following the surgery. Avoid engaging in strenuous activities that could strain the surgical site. Taking it easy will aid in a smoother recovery.
- Loose-fitting clothing: Opt for loose-fitting underwear and bottoms to avoid any unnecessary pressure or constriction on the surgical area, which could cause discomfort. Comfortable clothing allows for better airflow and promotes healing.
- Doughnut pillow: When sitting, consider using a doughnut-shaped pillow, which helps relieve pressure on the surgical site.
- Hygiene considerations: When urinating, opt for warm water cleansing instead of using toilet paper. This approach can minimize potential irritation.
Itching and Swelling
Swelling and itching after any surgery are both extremely common and completely normal. These are the most common issues cited by patients and, while they are signs of healing and recovery, they can be irritating and uncomfortable. Swelling peaks 3 to 5 days after surgery while itching at the incision site can last 7 to 10 days post-surgery. If these symptoms are particularly severe or last longer than this time frame, it is important for patients to reach out to their plastic surgeon to discuss potential causes.
To address itching after labiaplasty, consider the following:
- Moisturize the surgical site: Apply a lubricating ointment or prescribed moisturizer to keep the incisions moist and prevent them from forming scabs. To minimize the risk of infection, make sure hands are clean before applying any topical products.
- Witch hazel cooling pads: Use witch hazel cooling pads to provide soothing relief for any itching sensation in the genital area.
- Maintain cleanliness and dressing: Keep the surgical site clean as per the plastic surgeon’s instructions. Follow their guidance on applying fresh, sterile dressings to promote proper healing and prevent infection.
- Sitz bath: Consider having sitz baths during the healing period, only after the surgeon has given the OK for submerging the area in water. Sitz baths involve soaking the genital area in warm water to gently cleanse the area, remove dead skin, and alleviate itching. Ensure the water is lukewarm and follow the surgeon’s recommendations for frequency and duration.
- Consult the surgeon regarding antihistamines: If the itching persists and becomes bothersome, consult the plastic surgeon before taking any oral antihistamine medication. Antihistamines can help address the physiological agent responsible for the itchy sensation at the incision site, but it is important to consult the surgeon first.
To help alleviate swelling faster after labiaplasty, consider the following tips:
- Cold compress: Use an ice pack or a pack of frozen peas wrapped in a thin barrier to ice the surgical area. Apply it for 15 minutes at a time, alternating with 15-minute breaks.
- Low-sodium diet: Consuming foods low in sodium (salt) is advisable as salt can contribute to water retention in the body, exacerbating swelling.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is essential. Proper hydration encourages elimination of excess water through urination, which can help reduce swelling.
- Gentle movement: Engage in light-paced movements to promote blood circulation and decrease swelling. Avoid strenuous activities during the early stages of recovery.
- Pillow under buttocks when sleeping: Place a pillow under the buttocks for elevation while sleeping. This positioning helps redirect blood flow away from the surgical area, reducing inflammation.
As with any surgery, there is always a chance of scarring; however, a good surgeon will place incisions in non-visible areas to minimize the risk of visible scars. Usually, any potential scarring will blend in with the naturally occurring wrinkles and folds of the surrounding labial tissue. To minimize scarring, patients should always follow all the recommended aftercare directed by their surgeon.
Most cosmetic surgery procedures are performed with dissolvable stitches, which dissolve over time as incisions heal — a process that could take up to 4 weeks. At first, the area may feel firm and inflamed, but will soften as it heals.
Personal Hygiene Following Surgery
As mentioned previously, it is crucial that patients do not submerge the area in water — such as in a bath, pool, or shower — until the surgeon has given the all-clear. In the meantime, however, patients should still adhere to their personal hygiene and keep the area clean by gently rinsing and patting dry. Also mentioned above is a tip to rinse after urination rather than wipe with toilet paper, as it can be painful and irritating to use dry toilet paper right away. Patients should also wear clean, loose-fitting underwear and clothing to allow for proper airflow to the area.
Labiaplasty Recovery Tips
Patients considering labiaplasty surgery to enhance the appearance of their vaginal area should have a clear understanding of the surgical process and the recovery involved. While the initial downtime may be up to 2 weeks, complete recovery can take longer. Here are ten tips to aid healing and expedite recovery:
Follow medication instructions: Take prescribed medications and over-the-counter remedies as directed to alleviate itching, swelling, and discomfort during the recovery period.
Use cold compresses: Applying cold compresses to the treated area in 20-minute intervals, with a thin barrier like a washcloth between the ice pack and the surgical site, can provide relief after labiaplasty and help reduce swelling.
Maintain a healthy diet: Optimize healing with a nutritious diet. Replace processed foods with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Additionally, stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Avoid alcohol and tobacco: During the healing process, refrain from consuming alcohol and smoking. These substances can impede healing and prolong recovery time.
Steer clear of strenuous activities: Avoid intense workouts and other physically demanding activities until the surgeon gives approval.
Lubrication: For the first two weeks, apply the provided lubricants to keep the surgical sutures moist and prevent them from drying out. Ensure hands are thoroughly washed before lubricating the area.
Rest: Rest is essential for optimal healing after any surgical procedure. Prioritize sleep and relaxation during the early stages of recovery.
Engage in gentle movement: While rest is crucial, occasional movement around the house is important to prevent blood clotting. Take short, gentle walks, but avoid long walks during the initial recovery period.
Change surgical dressings: Regularly change surgical dressings to maintain a clean and dry area. It’s normal to experience drainage, which can be managed by wearing period panties or using pads.
Wear loose clothing: Opt for loose and comfortable clothing, such as baggy sweats or pajamas, instead of tight-fitting garments like yoga pants, thongs, or skinny jeans. Loose clothing minimizes pressure and reduces the risk of chafing on the surgical area.
Remember to consult with the surgeon for personalized post-operative instructions and guidance throughout the recovery process.
How Long Until You See Results?
Everyone heals at their own pace. You’ll begin to see the new shape of your labia within 2 weeks as your swelling subsides and your incisions heal. It will take approximately 3 weeks before you can return to exercise, sexual activity, and baths.
Some women experience residual swelling for up to 6 months after the procedure. Following the above preparation and recovery tips, and above all the advice of your doctor, will help reduce this risk.