More Teenage Girls Seeking Genital Cosmetic Surgery


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Credit Oliver Munday

Fat thighs. Hairy arms. Muffin tops. Breasts that are too big or not big enough. To the long list of body sections that adolescent girls worry regarding and wish to tinker with, the Internet age has actually added a brand-new one: the vulva.

So lots of teenagers are seeking cosmetic surgery to trim or shape the external genitalia that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued guidance from its Committee on Adolescent Good health Care to doctors last week, urging them to teach and to reassure patients, suggest alternatives to surgery that could alleviate discomfort, and screen them for a psychiatric disorder that triggers obsession regarding perceived bodily defects.

As for why there has actually been an increase in requirement for the surgery among teenagers, physicians are “sort of baffled,” said Dr. Julie Strickland, the chairwoman of A.C.O.G.’s committee on adolescent Good health care

For adults, the procedure is marketed as “vaginal rejuvenation,” tightening the inner and outer muscles of the vagina, as well as frequently shaping the labia; it is geared to older women and women that have actually offered birth. Yet gynecologists that care for teenage girls say they receive requests every week from patients that want surgery to trim their labia minora, mostly for cosmetic reasons, Yet occasionally for functional reasons, such as to relieve discomfort.

The guideline does not rule out surgery on the labia, or labiaplasty for teens, Yet says it is rarely appropriate. “It must not be entertained until growth and development is complete,” Dr. Strickland said.

“The big thing I tell patients regarding labiaplasty is that there are a lot of unknowns,” she said. “The labia have actually a lot of nerve endings in them, so there could be diminishment of sexual sensation after surgery, or numbness, or pain, or scarring.”

A 2007 A.C.O.G. committee opinion on cosmetic vaginal procedures for adults, which was reaffirmed in 2014, said the procedures were not medically indicated, had not been proved safe or effective, and could cause serious complications.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery says that 400 girls 18 and younger had labiaplasty last year, an 80 percent increase from the 222 girls that had cosmetic genital surgery in 2014. While the overall numbers stay small, the data probably understates the trend because it does not include procedures performed by gynecologists. A 2013 British report found the number of labial reductions on girls and women done by the National Good health Service had increased fivefold over 10 years.

Girls 18 and younger account for much less compared to 2 percent of all cosmetic operations, Yet almost 5 percent of all labiaplasties. (The most popular cosmetic procedures for teenagers are ear surgery, along with 11,288 procedures last year; nose surgery along with 10,308; and breast reductions along with 3,698.)

What’s driving the trend for labia surgery? Well, for one, doctors say, lots of young girls shave or wax their pubic hair, exposing the genital area. According to a 2012 study, much more compared to 70 percent of girls and young women ages 12 to 20 said they routinely shaved or waxed the pubic area.

These girls have actually come of age at a time as quickly as they can easily go online and look up images of the vulva, doctors say. Yet the images are frequently air-brushed and do not portray the range of normal variation in shape, color, size and asymmetry, experts say.

“I believe the essential thing to understand is that there’s huge variety in anatomy,” said Dr. Veronica Gomez-Lobo, the director of Pediatric and Adolescent Ob/Gyn at MedStar Washington Hospital Focus and the president of the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. She frequently recommends young women consider unretouched photographs of vulvas, like those in the timetable “Petals by Nick Karras.

The brand-new committee opinion says doctors must screen patients for body dysmorphic disorder, a psychiatric disorder that can easily be debilitating and involves being obsessed or preoccupied along with a bodily defect that is being imagined or exaggerated. Dr. Katharine Phillips, the director of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder program at Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University, said cosmetic treatment does not advice the condition, and “sometimes, patients get hold of a lot worse.”

But Dr. Jennifer Walden of Austin, Tex., that has actually done labia surgery on teenagers, dismissed the suggestion that girls that wanted the surgery had a psychiatric disorder. “If they’re coming to a cosmetic surgeon, they do not like the cosmetic appearance of it,” said Dr. Walden, that added that she performed the procedure only on patients that she deemed emotionally steady and had their parents’ consent. “Yet that frequently goes hand in hand along with a functional element in teenagers as well.”

Doctors agree that not all of the comes to regarding large or misshapen labia are strictly cosmetic. Adolescent girls that are involved in certain sports could experience discomfort, such as chafing or itching in the labia, Dr. Strickland said.

For some girls, surgery could be appropriate, Dr. Gomez-Lobo said, like the teenager that stayed house as quickly as she had her period because her labia became so painful and swollen that she was incapacitated, and one more girl that quit basketball as a result of painful, irritated labia. “That’s not an aesthetic issue,” Dr. Gomez-Lobo said.

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