In days gone by, female genitalia remained out of sight, tucked away from prying eyes. They truly were 'private parts'. However, all this has changed.

Women are showing increased interest in what their vaginas look like – something most of us would never have considered a generation ago.

A Johannesburg gynaecologist, Dr Julian Bassin, offers laser surgery that can alter the appearance of your vagina or vulva, and give you the look you want.

"We offer two types of surgery," explains Dr Bassin, "either cosmetic surgery, or rejuvenation of the vagina, where we decrease its diameter. Or we can do a combination of both. The cosmetic aspect has attracted huge attention, and we can change anything you don't like – the inner or outer lips, the clitoral hood – we can even repair the hymen."

The cosmetic procedure is known as Designer Laser Vaginoplasty® (DLV®), pioneered by US obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr David Matlock. This is a broad description for various plastic surgeries. These include:

  • Reduction of the labia minora, labia majora and clitoral hood.
  • Reconstruction of vulvar structures damaged by childbirth, trauma, ageing, and certain deformities.
  • Hymenoplasty for restoration of the hymen.
  • Augmentation of the underdeveloped or ageing labia majora.

    The procedure – what to expect?
    Both DLV® and LVR® (Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation®) are performed using a laser instead of a scalpel as a cutting tool. "The reason we use a laser is for the precision it offers, and because it promotes healing," says Dr Bassin.

    If you want your labia plumped up a little, you can take advantage of one of cosmetic surgery's latest innovations – fat transfer. Some of your own fat is harvested from another site area you want to plump out.

    The procedure is usually performed under a general anaesthetic, which means you're out for the count for the entire procedure. If for some reason you can't have a general anaesthetic, or don't want one, it can be done under spinal/epidural anaesthesia, intravenous sedation or even local anaesthesia.

    After the operation, you'll probably be prescribed some painkillers and some Valium. And depending on what kind of work you do, you can be back in the office in five to seven days. You will have to abstain from sex for six weeks after the procedure.

    Dr Bassin explains that the usual risk associated with having a general anaesthetic remains, but there don't tend to be many complications that accompany this surgery. "To put the risk into perspective, pregnancy is associated with far more risk than any of these procedures," he explains..

    "If a woman requires work on both the upper and lower vagina then there is risk of injury to the bladder and the rectum. However, this is exceptionally rare. Of course, with any surgery one can encounter scarring, and over-correction can potentially result in painful sex.

    What the surgery can't address
    There are some issues that the surgery can't address – you can't augment your clitoris, for example, or repair a botched female circumcision.

    More importantly, however, altering the appearance or tightness of your vagina is not going to repair any broken relationships – if he's not interested in you, it probably has very little to do with the appearance of your vagina.

    Rands and cents
    Clearly a procedure of this nature is likely to be expensive, and as it is cosmetic, your medical aid is unlikely to cover the costs. "However, they will sometimes reimburse patients for vaginal rejuvenation, where we tighten everything up," says Dr Bassin.

    Don't hold your breath, though – chances are this is a bill you're going to have to foot yourself.

    Would you consider this surgery? Or have you had it done before? Tell us your thoughts in the comment box below.