An increasing number of under-18's are worried about the appearance and symmetry of their labia
An increase in the number of girls under 18 asking their doctors to perform cosmetic surgery on their labia is showing that growing adolescent concern over body image goes well beyond what is shared on social media.
Despite natural variations in size and shape of the labia between women, an increasing number are becoming more worries about the appearance and symmetry of their labia.
It seems that the appearance and symmetry can have a particularly distressing psychological effects on young women. In fact, the number of girls aged 18 and under undergoing labiaplasties nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015. In 2014, 222 girls underwent the procedure, up to 400 in 2015, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgery.
Labiaplasty surgery reduces the size of the labia, and is mainly requested for cosmetic reasons but the surgery comes with the risk of serious complications, including pain, infection and scarring.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has issued guidelines about how doctors should talk to adolescents about labiaplasty.
"Variety in the shape, size, appearance and symmetry of labia can have particularly distressing psychological effects on young women" said Julie Strickland, the chair of ACOG's Adolescent Health Care Committee and the lead author of the guidelines.
Alongside the suggestion the young women are increasingly considering labiaplasty because of "increasing trends in pubic hair removal, exposure to idealised images of genital anatomy, and increasing awareness of cosmetic vaginal surgery", the paper encourages gynaecologists to recommend nonsurgical alternatives, educate and give reassurance to adolescents seeking medical treatment.