You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Teen girls seek genital cosmetic surgery

AAP logoAAP 5/10/2016 Sarah Wiedersehn

A concerning number of Australian girls under the age of 18 are seeking cosmetic surgery to change the look of their genitalia, according to a new study.

Research published in the medical journal BMJ Open shows girls as young as 15 are undergoing labiaplasties - a surgical procedure that removes excess tissue from the labia - and other procedures, even though the medical consensus is that female genitalia do not reach maturity until the age of around 18.

Of the more than 400 Australian GPs who took part in the study, more than a third said they had requests from girls under the age of 18 for female genital cosmetic surgery.

Most of the girls cited concerns about the size of their labia as the reason for wanting cosmetic surgery, reported the GPs.

Dr Magdalena Simonis from the University of Melbourne, who led the world-first study, said at least half of the requests came from girls and women considered emotionally vulnerable, suffering from either anxiety, depression or body dysmorphic disorder.

Dr Simonis, who is also a member of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), says there is an "epidemic of anxiety about normality" and has accused the cosmetic surgery industry of exploiting women's ignorance of their biology.

"The industry is brilliant at using social media to convince women and girls that they have 'redundant' or 'excess' tissue, when in fact we know that the labia are rich with nerve fibres," Dr Simonis said.

"The fact that surgery rates for 15-24 year olds are the same for 25-45 year olds is especially worrying, because female genitalia don't reach maturity until around age 18," she said.

Dr Simonis warns surgery to "trim" labia can affect sexual response, because the clitoris is not just a "pea" as described in textbooks, but is actually a larger organ of which most is not visible to the eye.

The Medical Board of Australia now advises that girls under 18 seeking genital cosmetic surgery receive mandatory counselling and a three-month cooling-off period.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon