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Thousands of women seek ‘designer vaginas’ through cosmetic genital surgery

November 22, 2013

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First it was facelifts. Then breast enhancements. Now, an increasing number of women across all age groups are opting to undergo invasive genital surgery in order to attain so-called “designer vaginas,” according to new reports. And in the U.K., the National Health Service (NHS), a.k.a. taxpayers, are in many cases footing the bill for this medically unnecessary procedure, which some say carries with it the potential for dangerous complications.

The U.K.’s Independent reports that many modern women who desire the procedure have a skewed view of what their vaginas are supposed to look like. Whether from images in popular culture, plastic surgery advertisements or even pornography, the perception is that female genitalia is supposed to look one certain way. And if there is any deviation, some women are willing to go to great lengths to “correct” what they see as an abnormality.

While this may sound ridiculous, the trend appears to be growing. Some 2,000 labial reduction surgeries, which involve removing excess tissue from around the labia, were performed in the U.K. just in 2010 alone. Compared to 10 years prior, this represents a 500 percent increase. But this figure represents only those procedures that took place at public NHS facilities — many more are likely taking place at private clinics, which are not required to record their data.

All of this is highly concerning to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) Ethics Committee, which is urging the NHS to stop performing the procedure on girls under the age of 18. According to the available data, some 266 labial reduction surgeries were performed on girls younger than age 14 between the years of 2008 and 2012, and this number will only increase if steps are not taken to teach girls that their vaginas are just fine.

“Providing patients with a much more accurate range of what is normal will help them make more informed choices,” says Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the RCOG Ethics Committee. “If you are anxious about your genitals and you look things up on the internet you either come across advertisements for cosmetic surgery or you come across pornography. You don’t come across information on what normal, healthy vulvas can look like.”

Many women who get labial reductions are still not satisfied with how they look

While there are a small number of isolated cases in which labial reduction surgery is medically necessary, such as in the event of a labial pathology, most girls and women do not actually need the procedure. Just like with breast enhancement surgery, labial reductions are increasingly being performed simply for cosmetic reasons, and in women who have a negative self image.

Yet many of the women who opt for the surgery are still not satisfied with the appearance of their genitalia afterwards, say experts. In fact, there is little-to-no evidence showing that women who undergo the procedure even for legitimate medical reasons experience lasting positive outcomes, which is especially concerning in light of the fact that younger and younger women are getting it done.

“Some women are requesting it solely for cosmetic reasons and these decisions are not always being made on an informed understanding of the normal variations that exist,” adds Dame Leather. “We need to inform women that everyone is unique and that variation in appearance is normal in the vast majority of cases.”

RCOG and a cohort of doctors are urging the NHS to stop funding the procedure using taxpayer dollars. They are also urging doctors to altogether stop performing unnecessary genital surgery on girls young than age 18, as their genitalia have not yet fully developed.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.independent.co.uk

http://www.dailymail.co.uk

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk

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