There has been an abrupt increase in the number of Australian girls, some as young as 11, undergoing genital cosmetic surgery, reports a pilot study.
A cross-sectional study has been done earlier by M Simonis et al to explore general practitioner’s (GP) knowledge, attitudes and practice regarding female genital cosmetic surgery (FGCS) in Australia. The popularity of female genital cosmetic surgery (FGCS) is increasing and genital modification for cosmetic reasons has many social and medical implications.
Young women who took medical advice about their genital appearance were interviewed by University of Melbourne researcher Emma Barnard.
The median age of the 41 girls and young women was 14.5 who were referred to the Royal Children’s Hospital between 2000 and 2012 were primarily concerned with the appearance of their labia, and in most of the cases, their mothers were the major influencers.
Female genital cosmetic surgery most commonly involves “labiaplasty” to cut the edges of the labia minora so that it doesn’t extend beyond the outer skin folds, the labia majora. It can also extend to procedures like vaginoplasty to tighten the vagina, or vulval lipoplasty to remove fat around the vulva.
Young ladies are inquisitive about the how their vagina looked after noticing textbook drawings which looked different to their body.
“Something has changed in the last 10-15 years to make women and girls more aware of the appearance of their genital anatomy,” said Ms. Barnard, of the School of Population and Global Health.
“For nearly all the women I spoke to, this experience of having concerns is happening from around 13 to 16. It is a very specific and fraught time when they are trying to figure out who they are and how their bodies work,” she added.
According to the participants, they had only seen vaginas in stylised or airbrushed images in textbooks, magazines, social media or on the internet. Moreover fashion for Brazilian waxing, tight-fitting clothing and G-strings were also influential, but surprisingly pornography was found to have no role to play in this.
“You don’t have to be an adult to have these worries, yet the voices of young women aren’t in any of the research literature, possibly because it is a difficult thing to talk about. If we have a better idea of how girls experience genital appearance concerns, then we can potentially improve clinical practice, and reduce or eliminate unnecessary surgeries,” Ms. Barnard said.
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