What is a vaginoplasty?
Vaginoplasty is a surgical method used to create or lengthen a vagina. Vaginal creation can include options such as vaginal dilation and surgery. There are different surgical techniques for vaginoplasty, some of which require harvesting a tissue graft from different places on the body, such as the skin, bowel or buccal mucosa (lining of the cheeks).
Those who choose to pursue vaginoplasty often make the decision during adolescence or adulthood, when they are ready for surgery and postoperative care. Sometimes, we perform vaginoplasty for patients during infancy or childhood, at a time when we are also performing a larger reconstructive surgery for complex colorectal and urogenital anomalies, such as a cloaca.
At Children’s Hospital Colorado, vaginoplasty may be considered for patients with an underdeveloped vagina (vaginal agenesis or MRKH), that are unable to elongate native vaginal tissue through the process of vaginal dilation. Vaginoplasty may also be considered for patients with vaginal scarring from prior vaginal surgeries or prior cancer treatments. Children’s Colorado supports gender diversity through programs like our TRUE Center, but we do not offer vaginoplasty for gender affirmation at this time. However, we proudly partner with our colleagues at UCHealth and their Integrated Transgender Program for those who may need this service.
What to expect from vaginoplasty
Surgeons perform the procedure in an operating room while the patient is under general anesthesia and it can take several hours. Depending on the complexity of the case, the procedure may involve surgeons from pediatric gynecology, pediatric urology and pediatric colorectal surgery.
What to expect after vaginoplasty
After the procedure, patients may complain of genital soreness, which can usually be managed with over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen. They may also experience light vaginal bleeding. Depending on the patient’s age, the surgeon may leave a vaginal stent in the vagina or advise postoperative vaginal dilation to prevent vaginal scarring.
Why choose us for vaginoplasty
Vaginoplasty is a procedure that requires an experienced surgical care team. At Children’s Colorado, our team includes experts from radiology, pediatric anesthesiology and psychology, as well as surgical specialists from gynecology, urology and colorectal surgery who work closely and collaboratively.
Our radiology and anesthesiology experts help us prepare for the procedure. Our radiologists consult with our surgical specialists to decide the best approach for the surgery, using detailed images to help surgeons visualize the unique characteristics of each patient. Our anesthesiologists are specially trained to work with children and teenagers, ensuring they administer precise dosages based on age and body type to keep them asleep and safe during the procedure.
Both before and after the surgery, our psychologist provides emotional support for patients to ensure their physical and mental well-being. They are also happy to talk to parents and siblings to help them understand what their loved one might be going through.
At Children’s Colorado, we have the experience to manage complex conditions needing vaginoplasty and the multidisciplinary team to optimize the surgical outcome and psychosocial well-being of children and teens.
When should I consider vaginoplasty?
In some cases, vaginoplasty is performed during infancy or childhood as part of a larger reconstructive surgery. In other cases, the timing to pursue vaginal creation either by dilation or surgery is a personal decision and completely up to you.
Will there be scarring after vaginoplasty?
Formation of scar tissue is a risk with any surgical procedure including vaginoplasty. Your surgeon may recommend vaginal dilation after surgery. It is very important to follow these instructions as dilation can help prevent scarring in the vagina.
Will there be pain or bleeding after vaginoplasty?
Some spotting and discomfort are expected in the first few weeks after vaginoplasty. Please contact your surgeon or one of our gynecologists if you experience any pain or bleeding with sexual intimacy or vaginal dilation after vaginoplasty.
Is discharge after vaginoplasty normal?
Some tissues used to create the vagina, like bowel or colon, produce discharge. This discharge provides lubrication for the vagina and is not from an infection. Your surgeon or gynecologist can teach you how to clean the vagina if the discharge is excessive or bothersome.