A surgery once confined to professionals in the adult entertainment industry, cosmetic vaginal surgery, also known as vaginal rejuvenation, has hit the mainstream. And it has doctors and medical bodies that monitor the ethics of the profession worried. Is cosmetic vaginal surgery just a legal form of female genital mutilation?
Labiaplasties are the most common type of cosmetic vaginal surgery. In this procedure the size of the labia minora is reduced. According to the latest figures available, the number of labiaplasty surgeries have risen fivefold in the past 10 years to 2,000 performed in 2010 on the NHS.
The benefits of the cosmetic vaginal surgery
Although sometimes dismissed as surgery done purely for aesthetic purposes, vaginal rejuvenation, in the form of either labiaplasty or vaginoplasty (tightening of the vagina) can greatly improve a woman’s life, both physically and psychologically by reducing discomfort and enhancing sexual satisfaction.
These procedures can correct the following issues:
- Enlarged labia minora
- Enlarged labia majora
- Clitoral hood
- Changes to the labia after childbirth
- Disproportionate prominence of the mons pubis
- Reducing the mons pubis after menopause
If a woman sufferers vaginal tearing during childbirth, the residual scar tissue can lead to pain and discomfort during intercourse. A vaginoplasty procedure can help reduce this.
Cosmetic vaginal surgery can be done through the NHS if the symptoms are causing the woman distress or harming her health; for example, the, vaginal lips are obviously abnormal and causing pain. However, most procedures are performed in private clinics.
What problems can arise?
Following surgery, it is normal to experience tenderness and swelling. However, if the procedure is performed negligently it can cause:
- scarring of tissue
- reduced sensitivity of the genitals
Comparing cosmetic vaginal surgery to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
In 2014, the then Home Secretary (now Prime Minister) Theresa May, gave a report to Parliament in which she warned that cosmetic surgeons who performed cosmetic vaginal surgery could be criminally prosecuted, regardless of whether or not the woman consented to the procedure.
According to a report in The Guardian, Theresa May’s comments responded to a Home Affairs Select Committee report on FGM, in which the MPs called on the Government to consider a ban on cosmetic genital surgery on girls aged under 18.
A report by the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology on labia reduction said there was, "no scientific evidence" to support the practice and added that health risks, particularly to girls under 18, include bleeding, infection and a loss of sensitivity.
Prior to this report by the Home Secretary, the Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians Ethical Opinion Paper entitled Ethical considerations in relation to female genital cosmetic surgery (FGCS) 2013 raised a number of concerns regarding the procedure in Britain.
The report stated:
- There are as yet no controlled or prospective studies investigating the clinical effectiveness, the risks or the long-term outcomes of labiaplasty.
- The number of these procedures has increased in Britain (and elsewhere in the western world) very considerably in the last decade, in both the public and the private sectors
- These procedures are increasingly advertised as being beneficial by private clinics, despite the lack of robust evidence concerning their benefits.
- The scope of these procedures is widening.
- They involve significant numbers of girls under the age of 18 years
The conclusions reached in the report were that there was not a strong case for an outright ban on cosmetic vaginal surgery. However, if a woman asks for the procedure purely for aesthetic reasons, then ethical concerns can arise. The authors stated that women who requested such surgery, especially in the form of labiaplasty, ‘should be provided with accurate information about the normal variations in female genitalia and offered counselling and other psychological treatments for problems such as body image distress’. It also added that a labiaplasty should never be carried out on a girl under 18, regardless of consent, as the genital region of the body is not fully developed before this age.
It is clear that cosmetic surgeons performing cosmetic vaginal surgery have strong ethical responsibilities to not only inform patients on the risk of their choices, but to ensure that the request for such a procedure is not simply a manifestation of body dysmorphia if the patient is seeking surgery for purely aesthetic purposes.
At IBB, our personal injury team, led by Malcolm Underhill, has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you if you wish to make a compensation claim for a personal injury caused by poorly performed vaginal cosmetic surgery or any other medical negligence incident. To talk about how we might be able to help, please phone our experienced and compassionate lawyers on 0333 123 9099, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our contact form. Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence.