Body image

Young girls, concerned that their genitals appear abnormal, increasingly ask doctors about surgery

Dr. Magdalena Simonis (Vimeo)

Girls as young as 15 are asking doctors about genital cosmetic surgery because of concern that their genitals don’t look “normal,” according to a new groundbreaking study. Dr. Magdalena Simonis from the University of Melbourne’s department of general practice, the lead author of the study, said she began growing concerned when many of her own patients began asking her about labiaplasty, a surgical procedure that removes tissues from the labia.

“When I spoke to colleagues who were also working in areas of women’s health, they also expressed the same sort of experiences with women questioning whether their genitals looked normal,” said Simonis. “Many of them volunteered that 20 or 25 years ago, this was never an issue.”

Simonis and her research team interviewed 443 Australian General Practitioners (GPs), many of them specialists in women’s health, asking them questions about their patients and requests for female genital cosmetic surgery. Fifty-four percent of respondents said that patients had requested the surgery, and 97 percent said that they had been asked by women of all ages about genital normality. Over half of the GPs said they suspected psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphic disorder among those requesting surgery.

More than 1,500 labiaplasties were performed in Australia in 2013 — a threefold increase compared to the previous decade — despite no increase in genital abnormalities in the country. According to Simonis, the increase in demand may be fueled in large part by “young women and teens impressed by what they see online and what a lot of the portrayals are like in pornography.” Cosmetic surgeons, she added, need to be more careful in screening patients so that young girls avoid undergoing the surgery unnecessarily.

“The question is, why is there demand? It behooves [surgeons] to look more closely at the psychological background of women and girls,” Simonis said. “Surgery for mental health issues is not an appropriate therapy.”

Watch video below of Dr. Simonis talking about the issues that impact fertility in young people.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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