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What Factors Are Driving the Trend in Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery?

What Factors Are Driving the Trend in Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery?

Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery (FGCS) is on the rise across the globe. And the average age of females requesting FGCS is steadily decreasing. A ground-breaking study in Australia found that about a third of all general practitioners had seen patients under the age of 18 who requested FGCS. Additionally, the survey found that 97% of general practitioners received questions regarding genital ‘normality,’ highlighting a widespread anxiety among females about the appearance of their genitals. Below is a look at the increase of female genital cosmetic surgery. Find out about the factors that contribute to the rising demand for FGCS procedures.

What Types of Procedures are Growing in Popularity?

FGCS is an acronym used to describe a comprehensive collection of elective procedures undertaken to alter the vagina. Here are the most common types of procedures performed during FGCS:

  • Labiaplasty: 2016 was host to a 39% increase in labiaplasty. Surgery to reduce the labia minora and/or labia majora is the most commonly requested FGCS procedure. Surgical techniques include cutting the edges of the labia and may also involve reduction of the clitoral hood.
  • Hymenoplasty: Also known as hymen restoration surgery, hymenoplasty repairs the hymen, restoring it to its original intact condition. The procedure is on the rise on all continents and is particularly popular in Muslim communities where arranged marriage is popular.
  • Vaginoplasty: Commonly requested by older women and those who have given birth, vaginoplasty is a procedure that tightens the vaginal muscles. Vaginoplasty is also on the increase across the globe.

Of the three procedures described above, labiaplasty is the most common. Therefore, researchers and the community at large have focused more attention on it. Accordingly, a growing number of researchers are studying FCGS in an effort to unveil the reasons for its growth in popularity.

An International Trend

Labiaplasty was reported to be the fourth most popular cosmetic surgical procedure in the United States following liposuction, breast augmentation, and rhinoplasty. The increase in labiaplasty is not isolated to the United States. In Australia, the number of labiaplasty procedures performed under Medicare rose from 444 annually to 1,605 annually over a 13 year period. The trend is even more pronounced in the United Kingdom, where there was a fivefold increase in labiaplasties over a 10-year period.

doctor in lab coat with stethoscope consulting charts on desktop computer in office

Factors Contributing to the Rise in Female Cosmetic Genital Surgery

As the demand for labiaplasty and other FCGS procedures continues to grow, researchers theorize about the reasons. Most plastic surgeons and researchers agree that there is no predominant reason why vaginal cosmetic surgery is on the rise. Instead, they point to the following four factors as contributors to an increase in FCGS:

1) A change in grooming practices 

“Labiaplasty ties into grooming trends where women want everything to be clean and neat and streamlined. It tends to be women who are into their appearance and also active.”

– David L Cangello, M.D., Plastic Surgeon and Labiaplasty Specialist

Findings from a 2015 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine indicate that 95% of university students sampled had removed their pubic hair at least once in the past four weeks. With a shaved pubic region, women are more likely to direct their attention to the appearance of their labia.

2) Retouched images of genitalia on social media

“Highly-curated, and extensively retouched, images on social media and the mainstream media are leaving many women and men with little idea of the real range of normal female external genitalia.”

– Cheryl Iglesia, MD

While some social media sites prohibit or discourage nudity, others have much more lenient regulations. Coincidentally, a growing percentage of photos of genitalia are “before and after” photos. Plastic surgeons are eager to showcase their labiaplasty results and promote their practice.

3) A growing focus on athleticism

“While having long or multiple folds of labia minora is normal and natural, some women can feel self-conscious about their labia peeking out through thong underwear or a bathing suit. Women may feel physical discomfort when wearing yoga pants, during sexual intercourse or sitting on a bicycle seat.” 

 Karen Horton, MD, FACS, FRCSC 

2016 was host to a 39% increase in labiaplasty. Some labiaplasty specialists attribute this spike in procedures to a preoccupation with spin classes, sports, and crafting a “designer vagina.” Other labiaplasty surgeons point to the demographic similarities that exist among patients. The majority of women seeking the FGCS are physically active and very concerned about their appearance.

4) A distorted view of “normal” genitalia

“Every woman is different, and there is a huge variation of what is normal. A woman may say ‘my labia is too large,’ but have a variation of normal, so the question is why is it bothering them?”

– Jeffrey S. Palmer, MD, FACS, FAAP, Director, Cosmetic Urology Institute

A distorted body image often plays a key role in a woman’s decision to seek FGCS. Many women may have no idea what constitutes “normal” genitalia. Some may feel that it is abnormal for their labia to extend or protrude beyond the labia majora. Medical professionals typically only recommend surgery if the enlarged labia begin to interfere with everyday life or cause problems during sexual intercourse.

Final Considerations

The statistics referenced above provide a surprising glimpse of the growing popularity of cosmetic vaginal surgery. Perhaps even more eye-opening is the likelihood that there are women who have requested FGCS but who choose not to acknowledge it in a survey due to the nature of the procedure. Given this possibility, FGCS might be even more popular than studies suggest.

With FGCS expected to continue to grow in popularity, primary care providers, gynecologists, and plastic surgeons must be prepared to respond to questions about vaginal rejuvenation. They must possess a strong working knowledge of FGCS and be willing to discuss the benefits and risks. We invite you to contact us to learn how our single-use illuminating medical devices can help bolster positive surgical outcomes among patients seeking FGCS. We look forward to hearing from you!

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