A new popular cosmetic surgery trend among teen girls is labiaplasty, which is normally associated with adult women and those who have given birth to children. The procedure involves trimming and/or shaping the external skin of the vulva.
Because the teen demand for this type of surgery is so high, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently issued advice to doctors on how to educate their young patients about their bodies, give them alternatives to cosmetic surgery and screen the girls for a possible psychiatric disorder, notes The New York Times.
"Variety in the shape, size, appearance and symmetry of labia can have particularly distressing psychological effects on young women," Dr. Julie Strickland, head of the ACOG's Adolescent Health Care Committee, said in a press release. "It's one more body part that women are insecure about and it's our job, as ob-gyns, to reassure our young patients."
Strickland told The New York Times that doctors are "sort of baffled" why teens want the adult surgery.
Sometimes the girls want the surgery to relieve pain, but most of the time it's for cosmetic reasons, which is not recommended because the teens are still developing.
"The big thing I tell patients about labiaplasty is that there are a lot of unknowns," Strickland added. "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."
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there were 400 girls, age 18 and younger, who had the cosmetic surgery in 2015, which was an 80 percent increase from 2014 when 222 girls underwent the procedure from cosmetic surgeons.
However, those numbers do not include the cosmetic procedures done by gynecologists.
"Increasing trends in pubic hair removal, exposure to idealized images of genital anatomy, and increasing awareness of cosmetic vaginal surgery have been proposed as reasons for the increased interest in labial surgery," an ACOG paper states, according to Vocativ.
Vocativ translates that analysis into "waxing, porn and advertising," and adds "these things are happening against a backdrop of startlingly poor sex education in this country. That’s something even the most well-meaning ob-gyns will have a difficult time correcting."
Dr. Katharine Phillips, the director of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder program at Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University, told The New York Times that the cosmetic procedure does not ultimately help the girls: "Sometimes, patients get a lot worse."
Dr. Jennifer Walden, who has done the surgery on teens in Austin, Texas, countered: "If they’re coming to a cosmetic surgeon, they do not like the cosmetic appearance of it." She added, "But that often goes hand in hand with a functional element in teenagers as well."
Sources: The New York Times, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Vocativ / Photo Credit: Sultry/sulky/silly/Flickr