Have you ever wondered if your nether regions are normal? Many women have, and new data shows they may be going under the knife in a quest for what they believe are more aesthetically pleasing genitals.
Data released Wednesday by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found a 39% increase in labiaplasty surgeries in 2016, with more than 12,000 procedures. The procedure can range from $2500 to upwards of $6000 and involves lifting or trimming the labia or injecting fat or filler into the area.
Debra Johnson, the president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said the increase could be due to a number of cultural changes ranging from more information about the procedure on social media to new grooming practices.
“People used to not really see their parts down there, but nowadays with so many women waxing and shaving, they are just much more aware of what they look like, and so sometimes they feel self-conscious,” she said.
In the past, a woman who may have felt uncomfortable because of chaffing or rubbing from extra tissue below the belt, may not have known there was a surgical option, but with the Internet, the procedure is getting a lot more attention.
“Social media plays a huge role,” Johnson said. “Many times a person will start with a Google search to see if anyone else out there has the same problem, and you have a whole cadre of people who have the same concerns…and it allows you to hear about other stories and what they did and their experience.”
Typically a woman who is interested in labiaplasty will reach out to a surgeon for a consultation that includes an examination.
“Every woman is different, and there is a huge variation of what is normal,” Jeffrey S. Palmer, MD, FACS, FAAP, Director, Cosmetic Urology Institute said. “A woman may say “my labia is too large,” but have a variation of normal, so the question is why is it bothering them?”
Some women may experience discomfort from longer tissue, which can rub the wrong way during sex or in tight clothing, while others may feel uncomfortable sexually because their genitalia doesn’t look like the women they see in adult films or online.
Palmer said he’s had women come to his office who have remained virgins because they are uncomfortable showing a partner their genitals.
“I’ve seen an increase in women of all ages, and especially in the much younger population the 18-year-olds and sometimes younger than that also,” he said.
While the labiaplasty won’t make your sex life better unless extra tissue was getting in the way, it may improve a woman’s self-confidence, but only if she is getting it for the right reasons.
Johnson said she’s had patients come in that want a labiaplasty because their boyfriend “doesn’t like the way things look down there.” She stresses that in those cases women should find a new boyfriend, not opt for unnecessary surgery.
“To me, it really has to be driven by the woman herself that she is doing it for herself because she wants to feel more comfortable,” she said. “There are some women I turn away because I say there is nothing wrong with your labia, so we try to make sure the people who are seeking the operation are educated and counseled.”
Johnson stresses that women who are interested in the procedure should do their homework before choosing a surgeon, and use resources like plasticsurgery.org to ensure they choose the correct person.
And while the ASPS found that labiaplasty is occurring more often, the procedure is still a small portion of overall cosmetic surgical procedures performed in 2016.
According to ASPS, there were 17.1 million surgical and minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. in 2016.
Of the almost 1.8 million cosmetic surgical procedures performed in 2016 these are the top 5:
- Breast augmentation
- Nose reshaping
- Eyelid surgery