Voice Over: 23 year old Claire came to the Embarrassing Bodies clinic concerned because the size of her labia was causing recurrent problems with infection as well as physical and emotional discomfort.
Claire: I have really bad dreams sometimes that I am just so sick of it that I end up cutting it off.
Voice Over: Dr Christian referred Claire to see surgeon Ms Angelica Kavouni to see if she could help.
Ms Kavouni: There is a procedure where we can reduce the size; it is usually done under a light anaesthetic. It is called a labiaplasty or a reduction of the labia minora and basically it means removing the excess skin using a very fine laser and then using some very fine sutures in order to close the wound. It feels somewhat sore so we have to give you some pain killers and also we have to recover you with some antibiotics in order to avoid any infections in the area.
Claire: Once it’s all healed will it look normal?
Ms Kavouni: During the healing phase there is some swelling and bruising and the skin will feel somewhat thickened but that’s not a permanent thing, it does settle down after approximately 4 to 6 weeks and after that it’s not really noticeable.
Claire: I’m relieved, I am so relieved that there’s something I can do about this and that I can just feel like it’s normal for once, it’s really made me happy.
Ms Kavouni: There is a fair amount of skin protruding so I think the procedure is going to make you quite happy, there’s going to be quite a big change.
Voiceover: Claire has taken the difficult decision to have surgery to reduce the size of her labia. She’ll undergo a labiaplasty procedure which can be performed to correct damage caused during childbirth or because the size causes pain during exercise or sexual activity which can lead to low self-esteem.
Ms Kavouni: There is a degree of asymmetry between the 2 sides and also on the right side there is an extra fold that goes up to the clitoris that creates even more bulkiness on that side. So, we’ll try to reduce both sides and make them more symmetrical.
Voiceover: Having put Claire under using a general anaesthetic, Ms Kavouni begins by removing a fold from Claire’s labial area. The excess tissue is removed.
Ms Kavouni: The procedure has become increasingly popular. It’s not common that it’s just a cosmetic procedure, usually there are functional reasons as well and these vary. They have to do with the type of clothing that one wears or how easy it is to do certain sports. It’s quite painful, it’s a piece of tissue that is under pressure and gets pulled and it hurts. Of course it has a major impact on their confidence as well. There have been some concerns, comparing this procedure with female circumcision or other mutilating type of procedures performed by some cultures. It is very clear from this operation itself that one has nothing to do with the other and there is a specific aim of reducing the size of the inner labia in order to increase the comfort that the patient feels.
Voiceover: Next the wound is cauterised to minimise bleeding. Finally, the affected area is stitched up using dissolvable stitches which will help to aid the healing process and avoid an uncomfortable removal procedure.
Ms Kavouni: Now that the extra tissue has been removed they look a lot more symmetrical in terms of size and also it is going to be a lot more comfortable for her. There is considerable swelling and bruising for possibly I would say the first 2 weeks so it’s quite important that she rests. After that it should be OK, most patients are absolutely fine after that.
Claire had a very valid reason for having this operation because there was a lot of excess tissue that was causing her discomfort and affecting her confidence and I’m sure she will be very pleased with her results.
Voiceover: A few months later Claire is back at the clinic to give Dr Christian an update.
Dr Christian: So Claire it’s been what, I think 3 months since you had your operation? All has healed well? It went ok?
Claire: Yeah, absolutely fine. I expected quite a bit of pain but it was only sore for a couple days and pain free.
Dr Christian: And all went according to plan? So, no complications afterwards?
Claire: No, everything was absolutely fine.
Dr Christian: Really, one of the main problems you were having was that you were getting recurrent fungal infections and thrush infections, probably you thought because of this condition. Has that now stopped?
Claire: Since it’s been healed I haven’t had any problems.
Dr Christian: You’ve had nothing since?
Dr Christian: Well, that’s a good sign. Whereas before you might well have had a few in that time.
Claire: Probably about 3 or so.
Dr Christian: Really? Well that’s good, that’s definitely good. Are you happy with how it looks?
Dr Christian: Because I think psychologically you were very upset and disturbed by the way you looked down below. Has that all now gone?
Claire: I feel a lot more confident now. I found that before it was an area that I would probably look at maybe 3 or 4 times a day when I was going to the toilet and before I was like ‘I can’t stand it’ and ‘I don’t like it’ but now all that’s gone away and I feel a lot better.
Dr Christian: It’s not an issue for you anymore?
Claire: It’s not an issue at all.
Dr Christian: Now listen I want to have a quick look just to make sure it really has all healed up and got better. Do you want to go over to the couch and I will get some gloves, ok?
Dr Christian: All right, let’s have a quick look. Ah, that’s a big difference from how it was before, isn’t it? The first and most obvious thing that I notice is actually now you have pretty good symmetry between the two sides, whereas before when we met the right labia was much, much longer than the left, wasn’t it? But I think over and above that actually is how you are. Psychologically you seem much happier and much more confident with your body.
Dr Christian: And that’s the result that you wanted?
Dr Christian: Then that’s a good result for me. I’m happy.
23 year old Claire came to the Embarrassing Bodies clinic concerned because the size of her labia was causing recurrent problems with infection as well as physical and emotional discomfort.
Patient Name: Claire Webb
Condition: Enlarged labia minora
Specialist: Ms Angelica Kavouni, Cosmetic Surgeon
Location: Cadogan Clinic, London
Length of Operation: Approx 45 minutes
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