The most intimate of confessions! Why so many women like me are having surgery in a VERY private area – and why I’ll NEVER tell my partner

WHILE having coffee with a group of close friends recently, we started discussing cosmetic surgery – a topic of conversation that has become increasingly common as we enter our 40s.

A friend confessed that she “overdid it with Botox” in the beginning, but says she now uses it more sparingly. Another calmly admitted that she now feels her breast enlargement has made her cleavage too plump for her slim body.

“It’s okay for you,” says another. “You didn’t do any of that.”

I smile, but don’t answer. If only they knew; I had cosmetic surgery five years ago, and I’ve never told anyone about it.

You might wonder why, since cosmetic procedures used to be taboo, but these days it seems like everyone has had a spot of filler on their forehead, or contoured their thighs with liposuction.

However, there is one type of cosmetic modification that is still verboten: surgery to improve the appearance of your genitals.

That’s exactly the procedure I had when I was 37 – and it looks like I’m not alone.

Rapid trend: Labiaplasty – an operation to reduce the inner or outer folds of the female vulva – is one of the fastest growing cosmetic procedures

Labiaplasty – an operation to reduce the inner or outer folds of the female vulva – is one of the fastest growing cosmetic procedures. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), there were 194,086 labiaplasty procedures in 2022. That’s an increase of 46 percent over the previous four years, and the numbers continue to rise.

My surgeon, a gynecologist with thirty years’ experience based in central London, tells me: ‘I’ve performed labia reduction surgery on hundreds of women, but no one talks about it.’

This rise in labiaplasty has been linked to the prevalence of pornography and the trend among women to ditch all their body hair, with extreme waxing exposing every inch of previously hidden body parts. Celebrities like Gemma Collins have shared intimate details of their tightening and rejuvenation procedures. Thanks to them, labiaplasty is seen by some as a silly, unnecessary “Barbie” surgery for impressionable young women who just want to impress potential lovers.

Yet this does not reflect my experience at all. I wondered about the appearance of my labia for ten years before I made the decision to go under the knife.

In my mid to late twenties, I felt that the inner folds of my genitals – my labia minora – were swollen and I could see that they were protruding from my outer labia. When I cycled, which I did regularly, they became uncomfortable and painful.

I thought the rest of my body was fine, even though my breasts are a bit on the small side and my butt could be a bit perkier. I had no need for surgery other than my genitals.

What may surprise you is that my desperate need to “fix” myself there wasn’t motivated by the fear that it would turn people off. In fact, I’ve never felt self-conscious during sex; I often felt like a goddess in the bedroom and had a satisfying and active sex life throughout my twenties and thirties, with several long-term partners.

Men have never judged my body. On the contrary, they were completely accepting of all my curves and just seemed happy to be intimate with me, and me with them.

Instead, it was the terrible habit of comparing myself to other women that fueled my worries. As I watched them in the showers at my local pool, I noticed that their labia seemed neatly tucked away. What, I thought, would they think of mine if they happened to look?

Look at an ad for swimwear or underwear and the female pubic area is represented by a smooth curve. And my genitals were by no means supple.

So I googled ‘labia surgery’ – something I’d heard of but didn’t quite understand – and finally worked up the courage to visit a private consultant in Harley Street.

I was nervous the first time I discussed this – it felt way too private and embarrassing to talk about with friends or family – but I didn’t have to worry.

The doctor performed a simple physical exam, which took less time than a Pap smear, where he just looked and gently examined my vulva. Without making me feel like a freak, he agreed that my labia were visibly enlarged. The cause, he said, could possibly be my cycling behavior; I commuted to and from my office every day and cycled all over London, probably covering about ten miles a day. In general, however, aside from the changes caused by childbirth, a woman’s labia will not change size once she goes through puberty.

Although the consultant emphasized that there is no such thing as ‘normal’ when it comes to our genitals, he also judged that in his surgical opinion I was a suitable candidate for a labiaplasty.

He then drew some diagrams, showing the 5mm of excess tissue he would remove. The costs, including medicines and private hospital charges, are said to be £2,750. Potential risk factors, as with all types of surgery, included excessive bleeding, infection, and a possible loss of sensitivity or nerve damage.

He also offered me a session with a psychotherapist to discuss any wider body image issues, which I declined.

To be honest, I had no other problems or doubts about the surgery; it became a kind of disgust, and I didn’t want to hate a part of my body that was so closely tied to my sense of femininity.

The surgeon arranged an appointment for me just five weeks later, but I didn’t tell anyone what I was going to do. Instead, I told my new partner that I wanted to wait before we started having sex, and he agreed to be patient.

In the end, my surgery was surprisingly simple. It was performed under general anesthesia and was the most common form of labiaplasty: cutting back the inner labia so that they are hidden within the outer labia, or labia majora.

The excess tissue was removed using a technique called diathermy, which uses high-frequency electrical currents to remove tissue, minimizing bleeding and inflammation.

It took less than an hour. I came to without feeling any pain and was sent away to use the toilet. I was afraid of what I would find, but to my surprise all I saw were neat stitches on both sides, with a little swelling. My labia didn’t stick out at all. A few hours later I took a taxi home and spent the rest of the day on the couch working on my laptop.

I had been advised to wear sanitary pads, but there was very little bleeding. I also wasn’t supposed to shower for three days or not bathe for a week. Ice packs helped with the throbbing, and witch hazel compressed my itchy stings. After a few days I was back on the road and after fourteen days I felt completely recovered.

Sex is not recommended for four to six weeks after surgery, but by the fourth week I was completely healed. I waited six weeks to have sex with my new partner – and that wait only increased the anticipation for both of us.

My feelings during sex were not affected – if anything there is greater sensitivity. There are also no visible scars. And of course it was exciting to experience this with a new man.

Now, my fiancé, we welcomed a baby girl two years ago, and the labiaplasty had no effect on my pregnancy or birth.

My partner still doesn’t know about my surgery and I never plan to tell him. I worry that if he did, he might fixate on it, making it more of a problem than it needs to be.

Of course, surgery on such a vulnerable area is not something to be rushed. It is essential to find a doctor qualified in genital surgery. I chose an experienced gynecologist, not a cosmetic surgeon.

You should discuss every aspect of the procedure and also review online testimonials from previous patients. An experienced surgeon will trim the labia without affecting the clitoris and surrounding area.

Thanks to my own homework, I am one of the estimated 90 percent of patients who are satisfied with their labiaplasty. I feel neater and more comfortable.

While I am so glad I underwent the procedure, I feel sorry for any woman who would do this just to please a man.

I know some people may feel the same way about me, thinking such a procedure is unnecessary or frivolous. Still, I consider it a ‘corrective’ rather than a ‘cosmetic’ operation, like removing an unsightly growth or a mole.

Simply put, I did it for myself – I thought my vulva was ugly, and now it’s beautiful. I’m so happy to say I now love it as much as any other part of me.