Perplexing

As more teenage girls seek genital surgery, doctors establish restrictive guidelines

The number of teenage girls seeking cosmetic genital surgery has increased 80 percent in the course of a single year; 400 teenagers underwent a labiaplasty—surgery on the labia—in 2014, compared with 222 in 2014. In the face of this perplexing trend, the New York Times reports, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (A.C.O.G.) has issued new guidelines to doctors, urging them to suggest alternatives to surgery and screen teenage patients for body dysmorphic disorder, which can lead to obsessions with imagined physical defects.

Why has a surge of young adults become interested in reconstructive genital surgery? Some, to be sure, seek out labiaplasties to relieve discomfort; adolescent girls who play certain sports, for example, may experience chafing and itching of the labia. But most seem to be driven by cosmetic concerns. Doctors say that many teenage patients shave or wax their pubic hair, leaving the genital region exposed. Should a girl decide to look up images of the vulva online, she will likely find airbrushed images that do not reflect normal variations in appearance.

The new guidelines from the A.C.O.G. thus counsel doctors to reassure patients and withhold surgery until development is complete. “The big thing I tell patients about labiaplasty is that there are a lot of unknowns,” Dr. Julie Strickland, chairwoman of A.C.O.G.’s committee on adolescent health care, told the Times. “The labia have a lot of nerve endings in them, so there could be diminishment of sexual sensation after surgery, or numbness, or pain, or scarring.”

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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