Labiaplasty Recovery: Timeline + Tips
Previously published on August 29, 2018. Updated on June 8, 2021 with additional recovery tips.
Labiaplasty (sometimes called labial reduction) is a surgical procedure that is performed to alter the appearance and reduce the size of the inner labia (labia minora). While labiaplasty is a relatively quick outpatient procedure, there are things about the recovery process that every patient should know.
Although labiaplasty can be performed in your doctor’s office, proper recovery still requires preparation and strict adherence to post-surgical instructions. This post will provide a basic recovery timeline for the average labiaplasty procedure, as well as some tips to make recovery as easy as possible. Note that your specific recovery experience may differ based on your unique pain tolerance, body characteristics, and the labiaplasty technique performed.
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.
Labiaplasty Recovery Timeline
1 to 3 Days Following Surgery: You may experience mild pain for the first few days after the procedure. Pain can be managed through prescribed pain medication prescribed by your surgeon. Mild to moderate swelling and bruising of the area is also quite common. 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.
1 Week Following Surgery: Pain often subsides to the point where most patients no longer require pain medication. However, swelling and bruising may persist. 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. A cold compress is helpful or you may be prescribed a medication.
3-4 Weeks Following Surgery: 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 Following Surgery: At this point most patients are approximately 90% healed. It’s common for the patient to be cleared for sexual intercourse, to undertake strenuous exercise, and to use tampons by this point. Most swelling and bruising should subside providing the first glimpse of the final results of the procedure. However, the final results of your labiaplasty will not be complete for 4-6 months.
A labiaplasty can be performed under local anesthesia or general anesthesia. During the procedure, the anesthesia will prevent you from feeling pain. The most common labiaplasty involves shortening the labia minora. While several techniques exist, this is most commonly performed by making a well-concealed incision on each side, removing excess labial tissue, and then suturing the area together again.
Following the procedure, your doctor may prescribe pain medication to decrease discomfort during your first few days of recovery. You may also receive anti-inflammatory medications to decrease swelling or antibiotics to reduce risk of infection.
Swelling & Itching
Swelling and itching are extremely common as your incisions heal. In fact, many patients complain more about itchiness than pain or discomfort. While swelling should peak within the first 3 – 5 days, itching may last for up to a week. If itching persists, see your doctor to rule out allergic reactions to medication, as well as bacterial or yeast infections.
Labiaplasty does result in the creation of minor scars stemming from incisions made along the labia. Often the scarring blends quite well with the surrounding labia tissue and is hidden behind surrounding naturally occurring wrinkles and folds. I typically use dissolvable stitches which will go away on their own as your incisions heal. This process may take up to 4 weeks. The healing area may feel firm at first, but should soften with time.
Personal Hygiene After Labiaplasty Surgery
Do not bathe, swim, or soak in water until cleared by your doctor to do so. Until then, take showers only. Avoid fragrant or exfoliating soaps, which can be irritating, and rinse with warm water instead. When exiting the shower, gently pat dry and apply clean bandages if needed.
To protect the area and avoid discomfort, chose clean, loose-fitting clothes:
- Wear clean, 100% cotton, loose-fitting undergarments
- Consider wearing boxers to prevent chafing
- Choose skirts and dresses over pants
- Follow all post-op instructions provided by your surgeon
- Attend any follow up appointments
- Refrain from sexual intercourse until cleared by your surgeon
- Use pads or liners until your doctor clears you to use tampons
- Wear loose fitting underwear and bottoms until fully healed
- Instead of wiping with toilet paper, irrigate the area with warm water (try using a squeeze water bottle)
- Use a doughnut pillow when sitting during the first week to minimize pressure
- Plan on being out of work for at least a week
- Get plenty of rest, especially for the first 2-3 days following the procedure
- Avoid touching the incision sites unnecessarily
- Use a cold compress (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off) to relieve pain, swelling, or itching
- Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water
- Refrain from smoking or drinking alcohol
- Only use pain medication as directed
- Once cleared by your surgeon, shower instead of taking a bath
- Consider using a doughnut pillow for sitting
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.