'Designer vagina' surgery a 'worrying trend' - researchers

Labiaplasty is the most common form of cosmetic genital surgery.
Photo / 123rf
Labiaplasty is the most common form of cosmetic genital surgery. Photo / 123rf

Almost one in five women are interested in having "designer vagina" surgery, according to new Australian research.

The study found women who had greater exposure to images of female genitals were more likely to consider the procedure.

Labiaplasty is the most common form of cosmetic genital surgery and involves reducing the size of the labia so they do not protrude.

Researchers at the school of psychology at Flinders University, in South Australia, surveyed 351 women aged between 18 and 69 and found 17 per cent were interested in having labiaplasty.

They found 13 per cent of women had received negative comments from romantic partners about the appearance of their genitals.

And 19 per cent of women had discussed genital appearance with friends.

The findings will be presented at a conference in Bristol in England on Wednesday.

"Our study is the first to systematically examine the role of the media, romantic partners and friends on women's consideration of labiaplasty," said Gemma Sharp, who conducted the study.

"Our findings suggest a worrying trend of women becoming dissatisfied with the appearance of their genitals.

"We think that if women and their partners were made aware of the large variation in normal genital appearance this might help to alleviate some of their concerns about their own genitals."

Watch: Labiaplasty: Creating the perfect vagina?

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The study found women who had greater exposure to images of female genitalia through a range of media sources - from television, online, advertising and pornography - were more likely to be dissatisfied with their own genital appearance and consider surgery.

Those who received negative comments from romantic partners or discussed genital appearance with friends were also more likely to desire the procedure.

Dr David Veale, consultant psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and The Priory Hospital North London, is convening the genital surgery symposium at the Appearance Matters conference.

"This study suggests that the media, romantic partners and friends are influential in shaping women's perceptions of their own genital appearance and decisions to undergo labiaplasty," Dr Veale said.

"It is possible that women (and their partners) are not aware that women in porn may have had surgical modification of their labia.

"Therefore, women who have perfectly normal labia may think they look abnormal compared to women who have been modified."

The Appearance Matters 6 conference will also feature research on visible difference, body image, cosmetic surgery, ethics, education, media, weight and provision of care.

- PAA

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