Young Women & Genital Cosmetic Surgery: The Need for Informed Decision Making

A recent New York Times article entitled “More Teenage Girls Seeking Genital Cosmetic Surgery” was published on on April 25th. As a medical professional who takes women’s health issues, especially those of reconstructive and cosmetic surgery seriously, I am saddened to read words like these.

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Cosmetic and reconstructive surgery is not to be taken lightly. While it is a viable option for those who need and elect it, it is not something that should be done flippantly or at a time in a female’s life when the body is still developing naturally.

The article states this:

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

So many 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 Health Care to doctors last week, urging them to teach and to reassure patients, suggest alternatives to surgery that may alleviate discomfort, and screen them for a psychiatric disorder that causes obsession about perceived physical defects.

As for why there has been an increase in demand 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 health care

A defining characteristic and mark of a professional cosmetic surgeon is that they will always offer clear, concise consultation to every individual that seeks out cosmetic surgery. This should be done with every single patient that walks in the door of an office. It is even more important to do when the potential patient is a young female. I am glad that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are pushing for more intensive education in this area. It is crucial to the long term health of the woman.

The article goes on to give these statistics:

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 who had cosmetic genital surgery in 2014. While the overall numbers remain 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 Health Service had increased fivefold over 10 years.

Labiaplasty is a procedure that I have conducted many times. It is a procedure that allows women to tighten the muscles of the vagina,, as well as to give a more pleasing aesthetic look to the labia. For women who have experienced child birth, injury or who understand the risk factors involved in the cosmetic approach of this surgery, this may be an appropriate procedure. However, for individuals that allow trends and fads to dictate their participation in this, I would advise extreme caution. Sexual sensitivity can be lost, as well as the general risk factors that come from any major surgery.

As a cosmetic surgeon, I make my living by conducting these procedures. However, I want women, especially young women, to make educated decisions when participating. 

The entire NY Times article an be read here.