While there are a myriad of possible gynecological surgeries, which ones do women elect to have performed? In the past tubal ligation and varying degrees of hysterectomy have been the most popular elective gynecological surgeries. In the 1990s, though, elective c-sections began to boom. Recently, however, a growing movement has developed in backlash to the increased number of unnecessary c-sections in the United States–both voluntary and involuntary. Now, there is a new trend towards cosmetic gynecological surgeries such as “vaginal rejuvenation” procedures.
What are currently the most popular “vaginal rejuvenation” surgeries? Labiaplasties are rising in popularity. A labiaplasty is a plastic surgery that involves tightening of loose labial folds or removal of extra tissue of the vulva. After childbirth, with age, because of disease, or because of genetics women may have labia that they feel is large or perhaps too loose. Surgeons can perform reductions of this tissue to make it smaller and/or tighter feeling. These surgeries can now be done with the assistance of laser, which are meant to help the healing process. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a statement in 2007 stating that there is no documentation of the efficacy and safety of such a procedure. The risks include those inherent with any surgical procedure (clots, bad reaction to anesthesia, etc), botched outcome leading to further complications or surgeries, and the ring of scar tissue created causing issues with childbirth. A woman with such scar tissue would be less likely to be able to deliver vaginally, and would face enormous complications if she did. Young women have labiaplasties more often than older women, thus the concern for childbirth.
Other “vaginal rejuvenation” surgeries include hymenorrhaphy and vaginoplasty. Hymenorrhaphy is rarer than labiaplasty and bears fewer risks. It is a simpler surgery in which an already ruptured hymen is recreated in order for the woman to prove (or feign) virginity. Vaginoplasties are much more invasive and dangerous. A vaginoplasty is performed in order to tighten or reconstruct vaginal muscles. Reasons for vaginoplasty can include disease, childbirth, or other trauma to the vagina. However, many women now seek vaginoplasties because they feel it will increase their pleasure and sensitivity during sex. As the ACOG points out, though, there is no evidence to support this assumption. Vaginoplasties are also very common among males seeking gender reassignment surgeries, as a vagina can be created out of penile or scrotal tissue. Most associations and societies of plastic and cosmetic surgeons do not yet count or keep track of the abovementioned plastic surgeries, or have only recently begun tracking them. So it is difficult to say how many such surgeries are performed every year. However, it is clear even from the basic figures that the numbers of these elective surgeries are increasing exponentially every year. (One figure shows that about 600 were performed in 2005, 1,000 in 2006, and over 4,000 in 2007.) It is a whole other topic to discuss the socio-psychological reasons why women choose such surgeries, but what do you think? Would you ever be willing to go under the knife for such a procedure? Other comments or questions? Shoot!