Labiaplasty, or labia minora reduction, is the most common procedure for people who are concerned with the appearance of their vulva. The operation reduces the length of the inner folds of skin, the labia minora, and occasionally the outer folds of skin, the labia majora.
A recent international study by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, which examined cosmetic procedures in over 106 countries, showed that labiaplasty is the world’s fastest-growing cosmetic surgery.
In 2016, the number of labiaplasties performed by cosmetic surgeons increased by 45 percent. The United States, Brazil and Russia rank as the top three countries performing labiaplasties over the course of the past year.
Dr. Lina Triana, a Colombia-based plastic surgeon, and board member of organization that published the study, believes that it is important to address the misconception that labiaplasty can be compared to a form of female genital mutilation, a recognized human rights issue that involves the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia.
“Most female patients request labiaplasty to help minimize pain, while others request it to improve the aesthetic appearance of their genital area,” Triana said in a news release. “This procedure empowers women, and helps them achieve a better quality of life through increased comfort and sexual confidence.”
In early July, concerns were raised regarding the number of adolescent girls opting to have surgery on their genitals due to body insecurities rooted in social media and pornography, which idealize unrealistic examples of what genitals should look like.
Dr. Naomi Crouch, a leading adolescent gynecologist who chairs the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology, told the BBC that she believes labiaplasty should be given only to girls who have a medical abnormality, not girls who are in “pursuit of a ‘designer vagina.’”
While the cosmetic surgery industry has been criticized for normalizing the labiaplasties, some plastic surgeons have spoken out in defense of the surgery, saying it could improve a woman’s self-esteem and general well-being.
“In the right hands, the procedure is safe, effective and ranks high in patient satisfaction,” plastic surgeon Dr. Alexes Hazen, associate professor of plastic surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center told Modern Medicine Network.