Let's talk about our labia! (Part 2 of 2)
This article will outline my personal experience looking into Labiaplasty surgery.
So, carrying on from where we left off…
To be honest, the idea of surgery was completely intriguing to me but I had just toyed with the notion until about four months ago when I came to the firm decision that I would have my labia minora removed. I thought it would liberate me from the fear and self doubt that had been crippling my confidence since I first noticed them in my bedroom over a decade ago. I was exited, I was ready to be born again as a sexually driven and powerful force, a force to be reckoned with.
I have never known of anyone personally to have undertaken labiaplasty surgery, so like any, curious 21st century human – I took to google. When looking for clinics I have found a few things to be very useful but common sense is maybe the most important. If the website looks of poor quality or the wording is sub-standard, DO NOT CONTINUE WITH THEM. Make sure to google maps every clinic and their exact location and surrounding area. If they describe themselves as having ‘pristine hygiene standards’ but are WITHOUT certifications such as ‘Care Quality Commission’ (CQC), ‘British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons’ (BAAPS) or the ‘British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons’ (BAPRAS)… DO NOT CONTINUE WITH THEM.
The NHS website says,
“All independent clinics and hospitals that provide cosmetic surgery in England must be with the CQC [Care Quality Commission]. Be careful when searching the internet for labiaplasty surgery. Some clinics may pay to advertise their services on search listings. Check the surgeon is registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). They should be listed on the specialist register and have a licence to practise. Also, check the British Association of Plastic Reconstruction and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) or the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) to see if the surgeon is a "full member" on the specialist register for plastic surgery.”
After a thorough search I found two clinics I believed to be reputable and legit. One - a large private practice in London with an outstanding reputation and the second - was slightly less impressive, but closer to home with all the important qualifications and, much cheaper … I decided to book a consultation for both to give myself more options and, more points of reference.
The clinic in London would cost me £150 just to have a preliminary consultation with the surgeon and the operation itself came to the grand total of £4000. (This is not taking into account the cost of tests before surgery and aftercare)
The clinic closer to home offered a free consultation with a surgeon over zoom and the procedure itself would surmount to £3000 and promised no hidden costs.
Both sides of the coin I thought…
The consultation for the second clinic just so happened to come first in my calendar so in late July of Summer 2020 I embarked on my journey towards labiaplasty surgery.
A few days prior to my zoom consultation, I was asked to send in photos of the ‘problem area’ as they called it so we could discuss the situation better and more efficiently. They also ask you to fill out a form outlining the reasons behind your desire for surgery, to asses your mental and physical health, and understand how realistic your expectations of surgery are. In all honesty the form was easy to manipulate. They make it simple for you to see which mines to step over and lead the way to their desired outcome, which is ultimately, having the surgery. These are businesses after all. Our insecurities are their gain. But now’s not the time for judgment.
A few examples of the types of questions are as follows:
1. On a scale from 1 to 10, how affected are you by your ‘problem area’?
(The higher you score the more likely they are to deem you ‘appropriate’ for surgery).
2. After surgery would you expect to be,
a. Completely happy with my appearance
b. Much happier but still aware that there are possible complications
As you can see, you don’t have to be Einstein to see which box to tick to assure them you are of sound decision making. The time came for the consultation and after zoom failed to work my fifteen-minute time slot was suddenly down to ten minutes and I was starting to panic. I had also made my sister sit in on the call with me to have a second pair of ears (always a good idea if possible, a friend or family member) and as my most trusted voice of reason, I knew she would tell me if I was making a mistake. Finally, we managed to get hold of each but only over the phone. However, since he had seen the images of my labia in all their glory he said not to worry and just seemed in a hurry to get on with the call.
We’ll call him Paul. I had looked in advance to see if he was on the special plastic surgeon register (which they absolutely must be if you are considering surgery with them! Do not settle for a surgeon who isn’t on the register, even if the price is lower). I couldn’t find his name on any of the sites. I emailed a woman who I was told could look into it further and she wrote back clearly explaining that any surgeon performing this operation must be on the special register. She said he may have the equivalent qualification from another governing body but she did not know about that.
I was disappointed. I could see how naive I was being about the whole thing but I listened. He started to explain about the op to me. He told me it was the most common operation they did at the clinic and he had performed hundreds of them personally. If I hadn’t before, it really made me realize just how many women out there are unhappy with the look of their vulvas! I felt foolish, stupid and wrong even to be so dissatisfied with what is essentially a perfect vagina. Perfect in the sense that it performs every task I need it to wonderfully. I have orgasms, it allows me to urinate and have periods, what more do I want from it?
I felt ridiculous. I couldn’t believe something I had felt so strongly about only minutes before all came back to the age old philosophy of self-love and self-worth.
I carried on listening of course, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore and to my horror the facts only got worse from there.
He told me that although the procedure itself only took about an hour I would have to sit on a bag of peas for at least two weeks and not move at all. After that, in an oddly upbeat manner, he said something to the affect of, ‘Now Leah, don’t judge me after those few weeks okay? Because its going to look like an absolute dog’s dinner down there alright? And it will do for a long time. There will be a lot of oozing and swelling and you wont be able to exercise for at least three months provided there is no infection. After about 9-10 months you might start to see what the finished product will end up looking like.’
Almost a year! A year before I could even begin to see whether he had fucked up my vulva for good or not. Not to mention a million periods in between, most likely urinary tract infections, oozing fluids and no exercise. This is not what I had imagined, not what I wanted to put my body through and coming to the grand total of £3000!
Lastly I asked them if I could be put in touch with someone who had had the procedure to which they said they couldn’t for privacy reasons. Of course I understand this, but it led me to try and find people online who’d had a labiaplasty which was surprisingly near impossible. No forums or blogs that I could easily see, no reviews or articles giving advice. This could be because there are so many satisfied customers who don’t feel the need to black ball their surgeons or clinics, it could be embarrassment about admitting to having had the surgery but it worries me that there are so many people willing to offer up their bodies with so little security about the outcome.
… When we hung up the phone, me and my sister looked at each other in silence. After a few long seconds she said, ‘Right… lets have a coffee and think about that’.
‘Yes’ I said, ‘…a coffee sounds good’.
After that consultation I cancelled my appointment with the clinic in London. I realized that the most cost effective and simple plan going forward was just to accept, and learn to love the way my body looks. I’ve tried to outline plainly the process as I have found it, I have offered a little advice if anyone is thinking of looking into surgery but I actually don’t want to encourage anyone to undertake it. In fact, I want to discourage it. For anyone out there thinking of having this procedure for purely cosmetic reasons, by all means look into, do your own research but ultimately I would summaries it as expensive, time-consuming and wholly unnecessary. Who knows what the trend for our vulvas will look like in a few years! Flares came back within the very decade they went out of style! Fashion is fickle, trends are ever changing, please don’t take the knife to your own body for the sake of someone else’s notion of ‘ideal’ … take them to an old denim jacket instead, cut-off sleeves are bound to come dancing back into our wardrobes before too long.
(If anyone is worried, anxious or unhappy with the look of their labia please send me a message or email and I would be more than happy to talk with you about it, I can only offer my limited, personal experience but there is strength in numbers! So please do not hesitate.)
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