Health Fears Over 'Designer Vaginas'

EXPERTS have warned of a shocking lack of evidence on the safety of "designer vagina" surgery.

A team have called for more research into the effects of of the cosmetic procedure known as labiaplasty.

They say the op - which can cost £3000 if carried out privately - can carry a risk of damaging the genital nerve supply and has been linked to impaired sensitivity and sexual function.

The scientists from University College London issued their warning after reviewing dozens of studies carried out between 1950 and April 2009.

In an article for BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, they said no properly designed studies were found among the literature.

They compared reducing the size of the labia to genital mutilation, which is linked to problems in childbirth, including haemorrhage and the need for Caesarean sections.

Their report said increasing numbers of healthy women were asking for the surgery.

It added: "Once considered the special domain of glamour models, female genital cosmetic surgery is being mainstreamed in economically affluent nations."

"Medically non-essential surgery to the labia minora is being promoted as an effective treatment for women's complaints but no data on clinical effectiveness exist."

One of the authors, consultant psychologist Lih-Mei Liao, said healthy women were being commercially targeted for "invasive and irrevocable surgery".

The surgery was promoted as an "easy answer" to women's insecurities about their genital appearances. Another author, Sarah Creighton, consultant gynaecologist at University College Hospital, added: "This paper offers a critical review of available scientific knowledge on labial surgery and identifies a shocking lack of solid evidence.

"Risks and complications are rarely documented. Labial surgery needs to be rigorously evaluated in future, and for longer term.

"Alternative solutions, such as counselling and support, should be developed for women and girls."

Professor Philip Steer, BJOG editor-in-chief, said: "Commercial images and social pressures often serve to distort public perceptions about what is physically normal.

"Healthy messaging about the normal variation in female genitalia, as well as body shape and size more generally, is needed and important."

SOURCE: Daily Record

AUTHOR: Jane Kirby

URL: Click here

DATE: 12/11/2009

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