Female genital cosmetic surgery, the fastest-growing subspecialty of gynecology, is the umbrella term representing a number of elective procedures—including labiaplasty, clitoral hood reduction, hymenoplasty, labia majora augmentation, vaginoplasty, and G-spot amplification. The procedures aren’t without their critics and controversies, but overwhelmingly, women give them high Worth It Ratings and report increased confidence, better sex, and improvement in pelvic floor strength and urinary continence. We talked to three women who underwent FGCS after their breakup or divorce about their motivations. These are their stories, told to Alix Tunell, edited for length and clarity. 

Melanie’s story

Melanie* is 53 years old and lives in southwest Ohio 

I had my first child when I was 23, in 1989, followed by a second, in 1994, a third, in 1995, and finally a fourth, in 1999. I was married for almost 24 years. We lived on a small farm so that our kids would appreciate the little things, but it was a very rural area and I needed more in my life. Even though we had a pretty good marriage and sex life and there was no infidelity, I wasn’t happy. 

I asked for a divorce when he arrived home from work one day, and I left that night, which left him shaken up and surprised. We proceeded with a little therapy after that but ultimately had a very peaceful dissolution that was finalized nine months after I moved out. That was four years ago. We’re still somewhat friendly but communicate only when it involves our children. I didn’t have any open wounds from the breakup—I was on cloud nine and have no regrets. 

My ex and I started dating and becoming sexually active with other people just a couple of months after our original discussion about separating. I was pretty insecure about the look of my genitals—I felt I had extra labial tissue and a very large vaginal cavity due to four vaginal deliveries. I also had been experiencing urine leakage for a couple of years, which my OB-GYN told me was normal as you age and after so many births. I found that very unsettling and was determined to find a way to get my urinary continence back. It was awful to be out on a date, laugh, and then pee on myself. 

I read that the O-Shot has a high success rate of correcting the urethra. That led me to call [board-certified OB-GYN] Dr. Amy Brenner in Mason, Ohio, and set up a consultation. She spent more than an hour with me, doing a full examination and answering all my questions. I decided to get my visual and leakage insecurities corrected by her three weeks later. I had a labiaplasty majora reduction, my inner labia removed, a clitoral hoodectomy, a vaginoplasty, a perineoplasty, and a series of O-Shots. 

I was coherent for the most part and awake for the six hours of surgery. During recovery, I was always in great pain by the time I could take more pain reliever and ice was my best friend for well over a month. I was tender for about eight months and had to have a small revision with the perineoplasty because I had some tearing from being too active too soon. 

The entire procedure, with a year of aftercare, came to $10,000. I consider it to have been a gift to myself. I look great in bathing suits now, with the inner labia removed and just feel so much more comfortable in all my clothing. My vaginal opening is now what they measure as one finger. I was over five fingers, or fist-size, before, so there is very much the feeling of a virgin again with my new partner. Intimacy and sex are incredible now. My incontinence was also fixed almost immediately. I may have to have additional O-Shots to keep it under control, but it’s worth it! Interested in O-Shot? Please call Dr. Rodgers for a consultation.

Sandra’s story

Sandra* is 40 years old and lives in Hollywood, California 

I’d wanted a labiaplasty since puberty. Obviously, I didn’t know it was a procedure that existed at that age, but I just remember hating the way my vagina looked the first time I really saw it, when I was learning how to use tampons. I think there’s a misconception that women who get cosmetic vaginal surgeries are doing it for their partners or because someone commented on the appearance or because they’ve seen a lot of porn and compared themselves… that wasn’t the case for me. Even though I was very self-conscious during sex, no one ever made me feel bad about it. I just didn’t like how much longer my inner labia were, and I felt like I was always having to tuck them in when putting on a bathing suit. Bike shorts and leggings were absolutely a no-go.

I was in a long-term relationship for most of my 20s, and I actually started looking into the procedure when I was around 25. I really wanted it and I was ready to get it, but my boyfriend at the time hated the idea. He said it was “mutilation” and that I’d be unhappier after. He just wasn’t at all supportive and really got in my head, so I held off for a few years. We broke up for other reasons when I was 29; at 30, I decided to get the surgery. I had the money to pay for it on my own, and I was single and didn’t have to worry about a partner pressuring me to have sex or anything before I was recovered, so it seemed like the perfect time. 

I don’t remember the recovery being particularly painful or difficult, but it was 10 years ago—maybe I blocked it out, the way I did childbirth. I loved, loved, loved how it turned out and went into my next relationship, with the man who is now my husband, feeling really good in my own skin and able to be completely open sexually. I had my first child vaginally four years ago, and even though I tore a tiny bit and needed a few stitches, it didn’t really affect the appearance at all. I was worried about that, but it was a pleasant surprise. 

I never told my husband I had the surgery, but all my girlfriends know. They know it made me happy, but I don’t think they understand it. Labiaplasty gets a bad rap, but it’s the same as a nose job or a tummy tuck or any other surgery—it was something that bothered me and there was a solution, so I don’t feel any shame around being proactive and doing it for myself.   Interested in labiaplasty? Contact Dr. Rodgers for a consultation

Lisa’s story

Lisa* is 36 years old and lives in Spokane, Washington

My ex-husband and I separated more than a year ago, after 11 years together and four kids. I did a lot of healing before I decided to leave, which is how I had the strength to do it in the first place. I did a lot of searching into myself and how I failed rather than how he, or we, did. It’s easier to focus on the things you can change rather than the things you can’t. I bought a house; spent a lot of time with friends I hadn’t seen in years; and focused on my children, when I had them. 

I wanted to do something for myself at the time, so I got vaginal rejuvenation and labiaplasty, and I’m very open about why. I had always been extremely confident in my sexuality, but my ex had made me extremely insecure about my vagina during our relationship. Because of that, I was really nervous about the idea of having sex with someone else—I felt like I was unfit to satisfy anyone. 

I was already in the best shape of my life, after having a tummy tuck and breast augmentation while we were married, so I decided to fix this one thing. It was the best elective surgery I’ve gotten, in terms of my confidence. I’ve always been a sexual person, and when I became sexually active with a new boyfriend, it was priceless to know that I had what I jokingly refer to as my “platinum vagina.” It’s gotten rid of all my worries about sex after kids, so I would have paid double or triple what I did to have this confidence. And yes, the fact that my ex knows about my new vagina and can’t touch it has its perks!

*Names changed to protect privacy