‘Designer vaginas’: More women going under the knife

Latest research from University College London’s (UCL) Women’s Health Institute shows that more and more women and even girls as young as 11 are looking for cosmetic procedures to obtain “designer vaginas”.

Interest in genital cosmetic surgery is being driven by media images of “perfect looking” sexual organs. The upsurge in demand for cosmetic procedures has led some medical experts to urge GPs to no longer refer women who are healthy but worried about the appearance of their genitalia.

The report published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology says that at present over 2,000 cosmetic genital procedures, including labial reductions, are paid for by the National Health Service a year. Dr. Sarah Creighton, UCL lead investigator said, “that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a massive boom industry in the private sector.”

For the study the team interviewed over 30 women referred for procedures and found that most of the women were seeking help because they were concerned about appearance. Only a fifth wanted the surgery to reduce discomfort. Upon examination, all of the women were deemed to have “normal” genitalia by the doctors. Dr Sarah Creighton added, “It's shocking, particularly because we are seeing girls who are really young. They are asking for surgery that is irreversible and we do not know what the long-term risks of the procedure might be. It's a massive boom industry in the private sector.”

“A private medical insurance company seems to be able to come to a conclusion when professional bodies are reluctant to act,” the institute said. “National care standards are urgently needed.” Paul Banwell of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons said, “If the concerns are aesthetic, that should probably be seen in the private sector…We welcome the opportunity to be involved in suggesting guidelines and help for healthcare professionals seeing patients who are interested in labiaplasty.”

BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Pierre Martin-Hirsch said, “Many women who are worried may have normal sized labia minora. Clear guidance is needed for clinicians on how best to care for women seeking surgery.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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