Concern Mounts over Rise of Labiaplasty in Teenagers

Young girls are being directed to an online page that gives advice and visual examples of female genitalia and changes during puberty. Designed by health experts, it is hoped the resource will give body confidence and discourage girls from desiring “designer vagina” surgery.

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What Is Labiaplasty?

Labiaplasty, or vulval cosmetic surgery, is intended to shorten or reshape the labia or vaginal lips. It costs thousands of pounds and is performed privately by medical practitioners. Labiaplasty is only performed by the NHS if the vulva is abnormal, harmful to the woman’s health or causing distress. GPs are restricted from referring girls for surgery based on cosmetic reasons alone.

Cause for Concern

According to NHS statistics, between the years of 2015 and 2016, over 200 girls under the age of 18 had labiaplasty, with over 150 of those being under the age of 15. The NHS states it is vital that the surgery not be performed on girls younger than 18. This is because the labia continue to develop and grow well into puberty and early adulthood.

The new online resources are designed to help girls understand and appreciate their vulva whilst being reassured that it will develop and change during puberty. This will prove particularly useful for girls who are worried and concerned about how they feel or look. It is hoped the resource will teach young women that their vulva is entirely healthy, normal and unique, and will likely change throughout their lives.

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It is hoped the resource will restore confidence in young women and explain that vulvas come in various sizes and shapes, while also providing support, advice and further information on where to go if they are worried.

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The Risks of Labiaplasty

Experts at the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology, which is involved in the project, have emphasised that there is no scientific evidence for any benefits of labiaplasty, and it carries a significant risk of harm. This is especially true for teenagers, who will still be developing psychologically and physically.

The occasional risks of labiaplasty are:

•       Infection
•       Bleeding
•       Reduced sensitivity in genitals
•       Scarring of tissue
•       A bad reaction to anaesthetic
•       Development of a blood clot in a vein

Richard Anderson


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