Here’s two short words guaranteed to spark debate – ‘designer’ and ‘vagina’.
Try as you might, you can’t ignore the procedure…or the controversy which surrounds it.
Interest in ‘labiaplasty’ has never been greater here in the UK, as more and more women seek out the most personal of all aesthetic treatments.
And let’s make one thing clear from the start – bodies come in all shapes and sizes.
There’s really no such thing as normal, and it’s my duty as a surgeon to inform people of that fact. There’s no ‘right’ way for a vagina to look.
That message is particularly important when I’m talking to young women, whose bodies are likely to be still be developing and who may be prone to bouts of insecurity.
But while labiaplasty has vociferous critics, I’m here to defend it.
Because I’ve seen at first hand the vital medical, functional and psychological benefits it can bring to those who truly and genuinely need it.
The recent surge in labiaplasty has been unprecedented.
According to figures from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery almost 100,000 women across the world underwent labiaplasty surgery in 2015.
At my clinic alone, I’ve seen a sevenfold rise in enquiries and operations over the past three years.
And, yes, I’ve seen a marked increase in the number of teenagers who want to undergo this operation too – but appear to have no medical need to do so.
Those young people – around 50 women in the past 12 months – are promptly turned away. It would be inherently wrong for me to treat them.
But the others simply are deserving of help, and very often surgery is entirely justified.
What’s fuelling this apparent obsession with naval-gazing…and beyond?
Some would have you believe that readily-accessible internet pornography is to blame, as women compare their bodies to those of the adult actresses they see on screen.
But I’d question whether that argument is actually a nonsense.
It’s much more complicated than that.
A big factor in the trend is our increasing openness as a society. Women are now talking more frankly about the appearance of their genitalia, breaking down taboos and becoming more aware of the options they have.
There are genuine reasons why women over the age of 18 should be free to make informed decisions about their own bodies.
And it’s got nothing to do with ‘vanity’.
Reasons for the surgery can vary from difficulties during sexual intercourse to not being able to exercise because their labia is too large.
Some patients are unable to wear tight clothing, and some don’t have intimate relationships at all because they are too embarrassed of their own appearance.
That can lead to very real physical and emotional issues.
Why discourage a procedure that can have benefits for these women who often suffer in silence?
If you’re one of the many females in Britain affected, do your research. Think about the risks. Ask yourself, ‘Am I embarking on this journey for the right reasons?’
After all, no surgery should be undertaken on a whim.
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The treatment itself, which can cost between £2,500 and £4,000, sees excess tissue removed from the labia – the areas skin either side of the opening of the vagina – with either a scalpel or laser.
Patients are advised to avoid sexual intercourse for around three weeks following surgery and to wear loose underwear and clothing.
But if labiaplasty can empower women, putting them back in control of their own bodies, it’s my view that a ‘designer vagina’ can often be a very good thing indeed.
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