In the world of cosmetic surgery, breast augmentations and nose jobs are among the top requested surgery, and now vagina modifications are moving higher in rank. The rise in popularity for reducing the size of the vagina’s labia has turned into a designer demand.
The National Health Service (NHS) has performed five times as many labiaplasties since 2001, making it the most popular request by women 18 to 24 years of age. Each year, an average of 1,150 women had undergone labia reduction surgery in the past four years in order to create a “designer vagina” to conform to what they believe a normal vagina should look like.
According to a study published in December 2013 from the University of Queensland, women don’t realize how much vagina appearances can vary. After showing women images of surgically modified vaginas and non-surgically modified vaginas, women were more likely to believe the surgically modified labia was “normal” and “society’s ideal.” “The rise in genital cosmetic surgery for women is a very worrying trend,” the study's lead researcher, Claire Moran said in a press release.
The data was released by UK-based Transform Cosmetic Surgery, who wrote on their website, “cosmetic surgery isn’t just about enhancing the way we look. It’s about making us feel better about ourselves too.” They go on to say they want to disseminate the stigma of talking about surgery for the vagina, and encourage people to stop feeling embarrassed when they inquire about a labia reduction surgery. The labia comprises the inner and outer folds of the vagina. The labia majora are the larger, outer lips that serve as the first wall of protection, while the labia minora is the smaller inside flap.
The surgery is for the smaller of the two, which can change shape after childbirth, or from the natural aging process it can lose tone or seem enlarged. In certain situations, women can be born with a large or thick labia, known as labial hypertrophy, which could cause discomfort or sexual discomfort and confidence, according to the Center for Young Women’s Health.
“We've been helping patients for 40 years and in that time there's been a massive change in what they enquire about. We've had 350,000 from all over the country in the last four years alone,” Patricia Dunion, chief operating officer of Transform Cosmetic Surgery told The Telegraph UK.
But for those who are doing it solely for aesthetic purposes, there is cause for concern because they’re trying to alter their bodies to fit the images seen in pornographic videos or the misconstrued perceptions they have of other women’s vaginal areas.
“There are misconceptions around normal genital appearance,” Moran said as she explained why she wanted to further explore the reason behind this new trend. “This is due to airbrushing, lack of exposure to normal women's genitals, greater genital visibility due to Brazilian and genital waxing and the general taboo around discussing genitals and genital appearance.”