Friday, 22 May 2015

Why Labiaplasty Is So Controversial

If you could imagine a body part that could be changed in any way, chances are that it can or has been done. You feel like you’re a bit on the shorter side and you want to grow a few inches? Check. You can do that with limb-lengthening surgery. Bothered by your outie belly button? No problem. Get an umbilicoplasty to transform it into an innie belly button.

What about surgery for the areas down below? For women who loathe the appearance of their genitalia or just find it uncomfortable to have enlarged labia, it’s possible to address these concerns. It’s called labiaplasty, and it’s increasingly performed now.  

What is it?

Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure that reduces the size of the outer labia or the inner labia. This procedure alters the shape and size of the labia for a more pleasing appearance or to improve the patient’s comfort. Labiaplasty usually takes about 30 minutes to perform. Some things to consider about this procedure are that patients should be at least 18 years old. That’s because a woman’s body can keep developing until her early 20s, so it’s best to wait until they’re fully developed.

Recovery time is not extensive—usually, 3 days to a full week are needed as time off from work. Patients shouldn’t be having sex for 6 weeks after surgery.

The demand for labiaplasty has exploded in popularity over the last two years. There were 5,070 labiaplasty procedures performed in the U.S in 2013, which is a 44% increase from 2012. 

Why is labiaplasty so controversial?
Why would a woman get labiaplasty?

- Cosmetic concerns: size, length of the inner and outer labia, discolouration
- Pain and discomfort during sex or physical activities
- A lot of women find larger or asymmetric appearance of their labia looks “abnormal” or undesirable
- They don’t like their inner labia protruding over the outside labia
- Discomfort when walking or exercising
- Discomfort when wearing certain underwear like thongs
- Loss of sexual confidence or pleasure

The controversy 

Not everyone agrees with offering labiaplasty as a procedure. According to this CBC article, obstetricians and gynecologists believe physicians have a responsibility to educate patients on what is “normal”. They say they don’t perform these procedures because there’s no valid medical reason to do so. This Salon article writes that in 2007, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published an opinion stating its opposition to all forms of vaginal rejuvenation. They said:

 “'The appearance of the external genitalia varies significantly from woman to woman,' and the 'safety and effectiveness of these procedures have not been documented' due to lack of 'adequate studies.'”

Meanwhile, plastic surgeons believe patients have the right to make their own personal decisions—with that said, labiaplasty is performed by mostly plastic surgeons. 

Without a doubt, this procedure is a touchy topic amongst physicians and regular folks. Cosmetic surgery is already a controversial issue for some people in general, but perhaps the idea of going below the belt for surgery seems invasive—like an intrusion of privacy. Some people even consider labiaplasty “genital mutilation”.

But like with any other cosmetic procedure, is it wrong for someone to want to change something about their body if it truly bothers them both physically and emotionally? While labiaplasty is not as commonly performed like breast augmentation, the fact that it’s growing says something. Some physicians may say that women don’t need it, but numbers don’t lie. People want it.


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