It may take a few months to fully recover from labiaplasty surgery. But you can typically return to physical and sexual activity before then.

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“This procedure tends to have a quicker and smoother recovery for most people,” says plastic surgeon Sean Kelishadi, founder of SSK Plastic Surgery in Newport Beach, California.

Typically, full labiaplasty recovery takes 12 weeks. Meaning, it takes 3 months for swelling to resolve, scar tissue to settle, and sensation to return.

But you should be able to resume sexual and physical activity a bit before that. Usually, people can return to genital-focused sex and rigorous exercise within 4 to 6 weeks.

And depending on how physically demanding your job is, you should be able to return to work within 1 week.

“Patients have different procedures and healing processes, so recovery times will vary,” says Alexander Zuriarrain, MD, a quadruple board certified plastic surgeon with Zuri Plastic Surgery in Miami, Florida.

“Most patients report soreness and intermediate discomfort during the first few days after surgery,” says Alexis Parcells, MD, celebrity plastic surgeon and founder of SUNNIE skin care.

During the initial healing period, you’ll want to avoid doing anything remotely physical. You’ll likely be told to lay low and spend the next day or two in bed.

Some doctors will even schedule a virtual follow-up appointment so that you don’t have to schlep to the hospital.

“Patients will be prescribed a topical numbing cream and told to wear compression underwear to help expedite healing,” says Parcells.

Your clinician may also prescribe antibiotics and antifungal medications to help reduce the risk of infection during recovery.

Don’t be alarmed if you notice blood stains in your underwear or on a sanitary pad when you pull down your pants. Some blood-tinged discharge or fluid following surgery is expected.

You’ll also be instructed to shower either the first, second, or third day after surgery. (Ask your healthcare professional what they recommend).

According to Parcells, you should avoid drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or using other substances for at least 2 weeks before the procedure, as well as at least 2 weeks afterward.

“These increase your risk of bleeding,” she says.

You’ll probably be OK to return to work within a week. “Usually, we can do this procedure on a Wednesday, and you can be back to work the following Monday,” explains Parcells.

You may still be a little swollen and a little uncomfortable in some positions, however.

At this point, you should be on the tail end of your pain medications, but you can continue to take them as needed. You should also continue to take any antibiotics and antifungals as prescribed.

A new sensation you may start to experience is itchiness.

If you’ve ever noticed that a scab or papercut gets itchy as it’s healing, you won’t be surprised to learn that some itchiness is common as your body heals.

Do your best to avoid scratching the affected area. Scratching could reopen your wounds or introduce unwanted bacteria.

Two weeks post-op? Congrats, you’ve passed the hardest, least comfortable healing period.

You should continue to avoid pools, hot tubs, and oceans for at least 1 month, says Parcells. If you’re craving a dip in the water, take a sitz bath.

“You can begin vigorous exercise usually at about four weeks after surgery,” explains Zuriarrain. But before that, you’ll want to stick to less intense, lower impact movements like walking and tai chi.

Dissolvable stitches usually take 3 to 4 weeks to, well, dissolve. So, toward the end of this time period, you may notice the color and consistency of your stitches starting to change.

“You’ll need to avoid all sexual activity for at least 4 to 6 weeks,” says Kelishadi. But at the end of 6 weeks, your life can more or less return to usual.

The first time you have genital-focused sex, you’ll want to start slow. Things may feel slightly different as you adjust to the different shape or length of your labia.

If you experience stinging, burning, bleeding, or other discomfort during sexual activity, stop immediately.

Consult with your doctor or another healthcare professional as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms and determine the root cause.

Want to resume sexual, physical, and everyday activities as soon as possible? Read on. Here you’ll find seven tips that can support your healing journey.

Talk with someone who’s been there

Have a friend who got a labiaplasty? Going to a doctor who will connect future patients to past patients (with their consent)? Ask all your questions, says Parcells.

“It can be very helpful for prospective patients to connect with someone who has recently had the procedure done as they have lived the experience and can offer additional insight,” she says.

Stock up on cold compresses

The sensation of cold can help reduce swelling, as well as sensations of itchiness, says Kelishadi. So, stock on ice packs or cold compresses ahead of surgery.

But — and this is important — do not place the ice directly over your skin. Instead, place a maxipad into your underwear and then layer the ice pack on top to buffer the cold.

Keep pain medication on hand

“Following the surgery, you’ll be sent home with an oral prescription pain reliever to help with discomfort,” says Kelishadi. “But most people only need to take a couple of Tylenol and almost never take any narcotics.”

If you prefer not to take prescription pain relievers, make sure to stock up on acetaminophen (Tylenol), which Kelishadi says can usually dull any pain.

Elevate your hips

Zuriarrain recommends propping your pelvis up with a couple of pillows, especially during the first 48 hours after surgery. “This can help decrease swelling,” he says.

Eat well

“Following surgery, you want to eat well,” says Kelishadi. “Prioritize water, protein, veggies, and fruit, and limit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.”

Use doctor-approved ointments

Worried about stitch stiffness? Consult with your clinician and get their recommendation for a specific cream.

“Some providers will recommend that you use a balm or ointment, such as aloe vera or antibiotic cream, to help soften your stitches,” says Kelishadi.

Do not apply your everyday face or body cream to the area. Most face and body lotions contain irritating fragrances and chemicals that will harm — not help — healing.

Don’t look at it too much

No doubt, it might be tempting to pull down your panties after a surgery like this to take a peek at the results.

But Parcells recommends against it. She tells her patients not to inspect the area for the first month.

“During the healing process, swelling and bruising are normal, but seeing these things along your genitals can lead to increased anxiety,” she says.

The type of procedure you have, your individual body chemistry, and your personal capacity for healing will all influence how long it takes to see results.

“Some patients see their final result before the 3-month mark, while others see final results a few weeks after the 6-month mark,” says Kelishadi. “But most people see a tremendous improvement right away that continues to improve weekly for several months.”

If you or someone you love or live with is getting a labiaplasty, you probably have more questions about what labiaplasty recovery entails. We break it down below.

Is labiaplasty recovery painful?

Yes and no.

A labiaplasty is a surgery that involves a knife and sutures. So, as with any other invasive procedure, you’ll likely experience discomfort while you heal.

As such, your clinician will prescribe pain-relieving medication to help manage the pain.

Still, Zuriarrain says that recovery is typically less painful than you might expect.

When can you return to school, work, and other activities after labiaplasty?

“You can return to activities like work and school 5–7 days after surgery,” says Zuriarrain.

You’ll need to wait a few extra weeks to return to penetrative sexual activity and rigorous exercise, however.

When can you masturbate or have penetrative sex after labiaplasty?

Usually, 4 to 6 weeks.

Remember: Sex doesn’t have to include your genitals. So, if you’re craving physical intimacy while you’re healing, opt for things like a foot massage, kissing, and cuddling.

What risks are associated with labiaplasty?

“Like with any procedure, there’s a risk of decreased sensation, infection, and scarring,” says Kelishadi

When should you consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional?

“Tingling and minor stiffness in the incision area is common for the first 2 weeks,” explains Kelishadi. Some inflammation, swelling, bruising, and a little bleeding are, too, he says.

But fiery redness, excessive bleeding, seepage, pus, pulled stitches, and immediate scarring is not.

“You should also contact your surgeon immediately if you’re experiencing these or other unusual symptoms,” says Kelishadi.

Labiaplasty recovery has several different phases, each marked by its own set of sensations and activity guidelines.

But if your labia length is interfering with your quality of life and you’re a good candidate for the procedure, you’ll be happy to hear that your life will more or less return to normal within 4 to 6 weeks.

Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.