Q. I've had two kids in three years and my sex life has suffered. I heard about something called "vaginal rejuvenation." What is that, and can it help?
A: It's like a facelift for your vagina and vulva—sort of. If you search "vaginoplasty" or "vaginal rejuvenation" online, you'll find a host of plastic surgery facilities offering procedures that promise to either enhance the appearance of your vulval area, make your vagina tighter to enhance sexual pleasure, or both. Some of the procedures that are commonly advertised include:
- Vaginoplasty: a reconstructive surgery on the vagina, often done to tighten the vaginal muscles.
- Labiaplasty: cosmetic changes to the labia, the outer lips of the vagina. This usually involves reducing their size.
- G-spot amplification: injecting "filler" into a sensitive area in the front of the vagina in order to plump it up—like collagen injections into the lips, but with the intention of achieving a more intense orgasm. (Note that there is still no agreement on whether the G-spot actually exists.)
- Clitoral unhooding: removing some of the tissue that "hoods" the clitoris, with claims of faster and stronger sexual arousal.
But much like penile enlargement surgery for men, vaginal rejuvenation is rarely needed, and the benefits are oversold. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warns that there have been no reliable studies of the safety and effectiveness of these surgeries. "It is deceptive to give the impression that vaginal rejuvenation, designer vaginoplasty, revirgination [surgery to restore the hymen], G-spot amplification, or any such procedures are accepted and routine surgical practices," the organization said in a 2007 statement.
Like any surgeries, these procedures have risks, including infection, loss of sensation, painful intercourse, scarring, and adhesions (internal scar tissue).
What's "normal" about female genitals varies widely. If you're experiencing problems with your sex life, such as difficulty becoming aroused or reaching orgasm, it's best to start by talking with your regular ob-gyn (not a plastic surgeon) about your options. Often sexual problems are related to relationship challenges or psychological stress. Resolving those issues may improve your sexual function. You can also try strengthening your pelvic-floor muscles through Kegel exercises, in which you practice contracting and releasing the same muscles you use when urinating. Some research suggests this may help improve sexual function in both men and women. Plus you can do them anywhere, they don't cost anything, and they have no side effects.