What is a 'designer vagina', and why do more and more women want them?

4th Oct 17 | Lifestyle

Far from just being a celebrity fad, there are real health benefits for those who opt for this procedure.

woman holds hands over her genital

In today’s image-obsessed world, beauty isn’t just about lovely facial features – having a ‘designer vagina’ is the private part of some women’s dreams.

Apparently, increasing numbers of women – and even teenage girls – are consulting doctors about female genital cosmetic surgery (FGCS), sometimes for health reasons, but often because they don’t like how their private parts look.

Generic photo of orange cut in half to symbolise female genitalia (Thinkstock/PA)
(Thinkstock/PA)


What’s the point of a ‘designer vagina’?

So what’s driving the trend? Some women seek treatment in a bid to reverse the effects of ageing or childbirth, which can leave vaginal muscles slack. For some, this is about wanting to improve appearance ‘down there’, or increase sexual sensation. Treatment may also improve vaginal dryness after the menopause.

Medical reasons for having vaginal surgery – plus non-surgical treatments, including a type of laser treatment –  include helping after bowel and bladder prolapses, and improving urinary incontinence.

A pregnant businesswoman standing with briefcase (Thinkstock/PA)
Pregnancy can play havoc with your body (Thinkstock/PA)

It’s probably no coincidence that the topic’s been cropping up among celebs, too. There was Khloe Kardashian’s comment  about the women in her household (though she didn’t name names): “All they do is talk about this vagina laser.”

Former EastEnders actress Danniella Westbrook, 43, had it done – and even filmed the laser treatment to post on Snapchat, while TOWIE’s Gemma Collins also declared on TV: “I paid £2,000 and my vagina is perfect now. It looks like something you see in a movie.”

What does the treatment entail? 

So-called ‘designer vaginas’ are created through a variety of either surgical or non-surgical treatments, mostly performed privately. Female genital cosmetic surgery (FGCS) changes the structure and appearance of women’s external or internal genitalia. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says the most common FGCS procedure is labiaplasty, which reduces the size of the labia minora – the flaps of skin on either side of the vaginal opening.

Another surgical procedure is vaginoplasty, also known as vaginal reconstruction or a ‘vaginal facelift’. It aims to tighten a vagina that’s become slack from childbirth or ageing, and may also be necessary for certain medical reasons. Carried out under either local or general anaesthetic, the procedure involves removing a portion of skin from the back of the vagina and stitching the edges of the remaining skin back together. Excess external skin can also be removed.

A group of surgeons in gowns and masks before an operation (Thinkstock/PA)
Ready to operate (Thinkstock/PA)

Non-surgical procedures include the use of either radiofrequency (RF) energy or lasers, to heat vaginal tissue, rejuvenating collagen and thus improving vaginal tone.

No anaesthetic is needed, and a small wand is inserted into the vagina to deliver either RF or laser energy to the tissues. Although improvements can often be seen after one visit, a course of three treatments is usually recommended, costing between £2,000-3,000.


Are there any medical reasons for getting a ‘designer vagina’?

Dr Rekha Tailor, who runs the health+aesthetics clinic, which provides a vaginal laser treatment called ‘Femilift’, says the treatment can help reduce stress urinary incontinence and increase sensation during intercourse, plus improve vaginal soreness and dryness, and reduce infections like recurrent thrush. Vaginoplasty may be used to help the bladder or rectum get back into position after a prolapse, or reduce urinary incontinence by helping tighten the tube that empties the bladder.

The RCOG says there are no medical reasons for a woman to have a labiaplasty, and spokesperson Dr Naomi Crouch says if women are concerned about the appearance of their genitals, they should speak to a healthcare professional. She stresses it’s important for doctors to give sensitive advice to women, and notes that counselling may help.

Young woman is bored at home. She is sitting on floor near window and watching laptop. Coffee and cereals near her (Thinkstock/PA)
Counselling can help with body-confidence issues (Thinkstock/PA)

Too young for a ‘designer vagina’

Consultant gynaecologist Professor Janice Rymer, RCOG vice president for education, says the college is “alarmed” about reports of adolescent girls requesting labial reduction surgery for cosmetic reasons. She says such requests are often not based on understanding normal variations between different women’s genitals, but are influenced by the media, advertising and pornography.

“This is of particular concern in adolescence, when changes in the labia minora are part of normal development during puberty,” Rymer says. “Performing irreversible cosmetic surgery while physical and psychological development are still evolving will risk harm and lead to further dissatisfaction.”

RCOG recommends that if girls still insist on having a labiaplasty after receiving advice from medical staff, the treatment shouldn’t be performed until they are fully developed, usually when they’re aged at least 18.

Could exercise help?

If stress incontinence – often caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles linked to ageing, pregnancy and childbirth – is an issue, RCOG spokesperson Dr Linda Cardozo notes that pelvic floor exercises can help improve muscle tone, bladder and bowel control, and sensitivity during sex. It’s a good idea for anyone to get in the habit, and pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant should start pelvic floor exercises as soon as possible, to reduce the risk of incontinence after childbirth.

While there are various different pelvic floor exercises, the easiest is to sit or stand with knees slightly apart and then draw up the pelvic floor muscles, as if trying to hold in a pee. Don’t tighten the stomach, buttocks or thighs during the exercises – as that’ll mean you’re not working the right muscles.

Do 10 slow contractions and hold for about 10 seconds each, increasing the length of time gradually, and then following the slow contractions by a set of quick contractions. Repeat three or four times a day.

© Press Association 2017

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