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Labiaplasty Articles

More Women Seek Vaginal Plastic Surgery

Run Date: 11/14/04
By Sandy Kobrin

WeNews correspondent

Surgery to reshape the labia and other areas of the vagina is picking up fast, say  plastic surgeons. While some women undergo the operations to improve comfort, many want to conform to ideals set by the porn industry.
LOS ANGELES (WOMENSENEWS)--She was 20 years old and had never contemplated plastic surgery. But one day at the gym, the pretty, smooth-faced receptionist in a Los Angeles doctor's office looked at her vagina and noticed that her inner vaginal labia stuck out past her outer labia. She was horrified.
"I looked in like, those magazines, and saw that inner labia shouldn't stick out like mine did," said Crystal, who requested her last name be withheld. "So I had a labiaplasty and now I love the way I look; nice and neat and new. My vagina looks perfect."
In a labiaplasty, the surgical reshaping of female external genital structures, larger or uneven inner vaginal lips are cut and shortened.
Dr. V. Leroy Young, chair of the emerging trends task force of the Arlington Heights, IL., American Society of Plastic Surgeons, believes labiaplasty and vaginal cosmetic surgery are the fastest growing emerging growth trend in cosmetic plastic surgery.
While the organization has no exact numbers yet nationwide, Young noted that more and more doctors were querying the organization, inquiring about learning the procedure. In addition, the physicians that perform vaginal cosmetic surgery have reported enormous increases in patients, particularly over the past decade.
Dr. Pamela Loftus, a plastic surgeon in Boca Raton, Fla., has been performing labiaplasties and vaginal cosmetic surgeries for over 20 years.
Since she put up a Web site two and a half years ago, her business has increased and she's been bombarded with queries. Loftus said she does around six labiaplasties a week. "For the past two years we have been avalanched with phone calls from women who have been made aware of the surgery and want it," Dr. Loftus said.
Physicians advertising vaginal cosmetic procedures surgeries are peppered throughout magazines across the country as this type of cosmetic surgery grows in popularity. As society pressures women to look younger and more perfect, many physicians believe the popularity of these types of surgeries will continue to grow.
Cosmetic surgery in general is on the rise. About 870,000 cosmetic procedures were performed in 2003, a 6.7 percent increase over 2002, according to American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery statistics. These surgeries include breast augmentation, gluteal implants, liposuctions, face lifts, and others, including labiaplasties.
"The numbers for labiaplasty are increasing every year and I think the procedure has finally been accepted in the mainstream," Young said. "This was once a procedure that fell under the radar and now you have women coming in and asking for it."
Former Domain of Sex Workers
Labiaplasty was once the domain of sex workers, nude entertainers, nude models, swimsuit models and the occasional woman who needed her labia reduced for medical reasons such as infection or pain. Not anymore. Doctors have reported that women from every walk of life and from ages 15 to 75 are having labia and cosmetic vaginal surgery.
Many doctors who perform the surgeries say while there are some women who opt for the surgery because they are unhappy or their labia has caused them physical discomfort, the bulk of the women getting this surgery are ultimately being pressured by men who want them to conform to a idea of beauty most often seen in the porn industry. Doctors say these women request the procedure because they are afraid of having "old looking" vaginas. Doctors Loftus and Young say feedback from male partners is the number one reason women request the surgery.
"The most common reason we hear is that they have had a negative comment made by a male sexual partner. Women are made to feel that they are not perfect the way they are and often it's the partner that sets this off," Loftus said.
"My feeling is that women who aren't sex workers are getting this kind of thing because there's pressure from someone who's telling them they're not perfect," Young said. 'There's often pressure from a man who tells them they need it," adding "I assume that their standards for labial beauty were set by a combination of the porn industry, sex-oriented magazines and the Internet."
Sign of Aging
Los Angeles gynecologist Dr. David Matlock, who says he performs more vaginal cosmetic surgery than anyone else in the country, claims women are having labiaplasties and other forms of vaginal cosmetic surgery because "longer, lose hanging inner lips is a sign of aging and women don't want to look old there, either."
"Even young women will look at loose hanging labia as a sign of aging and want to have it done," he said.
Loftus, the Florida surgeon, agreed. "Youth-enhancing surgery is very common now. Why should it stop with the face? Girls 20 to 30 years old now want every part of their body to look as young as they are."
"Women want to be tight," said Matlock. "They don't want sagging or loose labia. I can't tell you how many pages and pages of pornographic material woman have brought into me saying 'I want to look like this.'"
"Ever since I had the surgery, I feel young and free and prettier for my boyfriend," Crystal said. "Even if it's something nobody else can see, I feel better. It's not on my mind all the time anymore."
Another cosmetic surgery--vaginal rejuvenation--is also rising. It entails tightening the vaginal and perineum area, often stretched during childbirth. Some doctors also claim it increases sexual pleasure for both partners.
"I've had women who come in and say to me, 'He's small can you tighten me up'" said Matlock, who said he performed between 40 to 60 vaginal cosmetic surgeries a month in his Beverly Hills practice, charging around $5,000 for a labiaplasty. He said he grosses $250,000 a month performing these surgeries and noted he has had women come in from all over the world for vaginal cosmetic surgery.
Downside Risk
Some doctors dispute whether constructing a tighter vagina increases a woman's sexual pleasure. "Yes you can do the rejuvenation to have a tighter vagina," said Young. "But anytime you make an incision you cut nerves, induce scarring and there is a downside risk, including pain."
"Plastic surgery is being way over used in many different ways" said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. "There's something off about what's going on in our culture that makes women feel they need to live up to some ideal."
Ileana Vasquez is a 29 year-old Southern California housewife with four children. She read about vaginal rejuvenation after she saw an ad in a magazine. Her marriage was in trouble and she noted that her husband wasn't happy with her sexually.
"One time he had a few beers and told me that because I had all our kids and was looser now he didn't want me as a woman anymore," Vasquez said. "He did say he was sorry later on but I knew he was telling the truth."
Vasquez had the surgery and she noted her marriage is back on track and her sex life is good again. "He's become my sweetheart again," she said. "He bought me a house and he wants me all the time."
Then she paused. "But there are times I still can't forgive him for how he made me feel," she said. "Sometimes I get so mad, so hurt. I mean I had the kids, he should have understood."
Sandy Kobrin is a Los Angeles based writer who specializes in writing about women's issues and criminal justice.


The Most Private of Makeovers

From The New York Times
November 28, 2004
By MIREYA NAVARRO

THE 39-year-old yoga instructor was like a lot of women these days: she was unhappy with her body and thought that a little sculpturing by a plastic surgeon would help. But her goal was not the usual smoothing out of facial wrinkles or expanding her bust.
Instead she wanted to achieve her beauty ideal in the most private part of her anatomy ‹ her genitals.
"I was very, very self-conscious about the way I looked," said the woman, who lives in Boston and spoke on the condition that her name not be used, to protect her privacy. "Now I feel free. I just feel normal."
As millions of women inject Botox, reshape noses, augment breasts, lift buttocks and suck away unwanted fat, a growing number are now exploring a new frontier, genital plastic surgery. They are tightening vaginal muscles, plumping up or shortening labia, liposuctioning the pubic area and even restoring the hymen, sometimes despite their doctors' skepticism about the need for such cosmetic measures.
Procedures that once were reserved for problems like incontinence, congenital malformations or injuries related to childbirth are now being marketed by some gynecologists and plastic surgeons as "vaginal rejuvenation," surgical techniques to enhance sexual satisfaction and improve the looks of the genitals.
Even doctors who do not advertise say they get inquiries from patients every month.
"There's remarkably amazing patient interest in this," said Dr. V. Leroy Young, chairman of the emerging trends task force for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "This is at that early stage where there's a lot of enthusiasm for it." Dr. Young said his group, the largest organization of plastic surgeons, has not yet started tracking how many doctors are making "gynecologic cosmetic care" or "vaginal rejuvenation" their specialty, but he said that anecdotal evidence suggests that while the numbers may be relatively small compared with other surgeries, demand for genital procedures is growing rapidly.
The most popular of those are tightening of the vaginal muscles, or vaginoplasty, and reduction of the labia minora, called labiaplasty. Doctors who perform the surgeries, which are usually done on an outpatient basis in less than two hours and can cost from $3,500 to $8,000, say that the reasons for the procedures are not always purely cosmetic; some women with large labia, the surgeons said, suffer discomfort wearing tight pants or during activities like bicycle riding.
But primarily, doctors say, aggressive marketing and fashion influences like flimsier swimsuits, the Brazilian bikini wax and more exposure to nudity in magazines, movies and on the Internet are driving attention to a physical zone still so private that some women do not dare, or care, to look at themselves closely.
"Now women shave," said Dr. Gary J. Alter, a plastic surgeon and urologist with offices in Beverly Hills, Calif., and Manhattan who has come up with his own "labia contouring" technique. "Now they see porn. Now they're more aware of appearance."
Dr. Bernard H. Stern, a gynecologist in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., began to focus exclusively on genital cosmetic surgery four years ago and said he had seen his business quadruple this year, to four to five surgeries a day on patients who come from all over the United States and abroad.
"It is lucrative and it has patient appreciation," said Dr. Stern, who has a Web site and runs ads in strip club magazines.
Other doctors who perform genital surgeries as part of broader medical practices say they are seeing at least a handful of patients a month concerned with the aesthetics of the vagina.
Some procedures, like hymen reconstruction, are relatively rare and confined to a minority of women who need to conform to religious or ethnic rules on virginity, doctors said. A greater number of patients complain of stretched vaginal muscles because of childbirth and aging, or inner labia that are too big, too uneven or unsightly.
"The women feel undesirable or unpretty," Dr. Stern said. "Even if nobody sees it, they see it."
The yoga instructor from Boston, who flew to Dr. Alter in Beverly Hills for a labiaplasty four years ago, said she was "asymmetrical": part of her inner vaginal lips extended about half an inch beyond the outer labia.
"The only women I could compare myself to was women in pornographic movies," she said. "They were tiny and dainty and symmetrical. Nobody looked like me."
A 34-year-old housewife from Long Island said a similar problem nagged her through adolescence, marriage and three children. Like other women interviewed for this article, she would speak only on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the subject and fear of ridicule.
"It never bothered my husband," she said, "but it was always like `Yuck!' All I know is that what I had I didn't like."
Just two years ago, she said, she could not find a doctor in her area with experience in labiaplasty or who would not play down the problem and try to keep her from seeking a surgical solution.
Last year she went online and found Dr. Edward Jacobson, a gynecologist in Greenwich, Conn., who performed a labiaplasty using a laser technique.
Now, she said, "I look down and I say, that's the way it should be."
But, some doctors warn, buyer beware. Vaginoplasties are often touted as a way to improve sexual satisfaction for women, but Dr. Thomas G. Stovall, president of the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons, the principal group for gynecologic surgeons with academic appointments, said there is no scientific data to back up the claim.
The opposite is true, he said; painful intercourse can result if the vaginal muscles are too snug.
Other possible risks from genital procedures are painful scarring or nerve damage that could result in loss of sensation or hypersensitivity, according to some doctors. But they added that the procedures have a low rate of complications and that their happy customers reject those qualms.
A 41-year-old police officer in Fort Lauderdale who saw Dr. Stern for vaginal surgery last June said that after having four children she thought her vaginal muscles needed improvement, both for her and for her partner.
Like many other genital surgery patients, the officer has had other plastic surgeries, including breast augmentation and liposuction.
"I just felt that I keep myself in shape everywhere else, and this would make me feel better," she said, adding that the surgery has given her more intense sexual enjoyment.
One patient, a 22-year-old college student from Toronto, said she had never had intercourse until after her labiaplasty because she felt "insecure and ugly" about excess labia tissue.
"It's just that when you feel bad about your body, especially this part of your body, it's kind of impossible to let your true feelings and passions show," she said.
Now, after the surgery last May, she said, "I have nothing to hide."
Some sex therapists are troubled that the emphasis on a youthful look in the doctors' ads are creating demand. And some pointed out that there are dissatisfied customers as well.
Dr. Laura Berman, director of a treatment clinic for female sexual dysfunction in Chicago, the Berman Center, said some of her patients complained that they ended up with pain or could no longer be sexually aroused after undergoing some of the procedures. Unlike most other cosmetic procedures, she said, genital plastic surgery has the potential to harm function.
"Any time you're having surgery that involves any kind of intervention in the genitals you're asking for trouble in regard with your sexual function," she said.
Dr. Berman, who this year completed a national survey on the effect of women's "genital self-image" on sexual function, said most women "walk around with a feeling of anxiety about their genitals" because women are not usually brought up feeling confident about that part of the body. "These surgeries kind of play into that," she added. She said her research showed that a woman's comfort level with her genitals affects her sexual enjoyment.
But she and other sex therapists say they recommend less drastic measures, like Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles, as a way to deal with any insecurities.
Some plastic surgeons, who note that there is no such thing as "normal" female genitals, are scratching their heads.
"It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, to be honest," said Dr. Young, of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, who said he does a small number of labiaplasties in his practice in St. Louis. "I try to discourage most patients."
Even people in the pornographic film industry say there is no universal standard of beauty for genitals and that, in any event, men fantasize about the woman, not any one body part.
Mark Kernes, a senior editor with the trade magazine Adult Video News, said, "I really don't think most men care."
Some doctors said men would be flocking to their offices for their own genital surgery if such procedures as penile enlargement were not fraught with complications and unintended outcomes.
Dr. Alter, the plastic surgeon and urologist, who performs genital surgery on both women and men, said, "With female genital surgery it's predictable, and women are extremely happy."
The housewife on Long Island agreed. "I'm not saying you should do it on a whim," she said. "But if you think it'd make you feel better, why wouldn't you do it?"
New wave of cosmetic surgery: Vaginal rejuvenation

Vivek Kemp
Columbia News Service
Apr. 20, 2005 10:42 AM
NEW YORK - First she had her breasts done. Then 12 years and two kids later she changed something else, something more private, much more private.

Her vagina.

Lu Henderson, a real estate investor from Los Angeles, noticed that her enjoyment of sex diminished after she gave birth for the second time. Then three years ago, while she was in a fancy health club, she overheard a conversation about a surgery that could help. And last month she decided it was time to commit. 
 
"It's the most amazing thing I've ever done," said Henderson, 34, about her surgery. "I really do just feel more feminine."

Henderson is one of a growing number of women who have turned to cosmetic surgery to reverse the ravages of time and birth through a surgical procedure called vaginal rejuvenation.

The process, which tightens vaginal muscles and reduces the size of a woman's labia minora, is designed to increase sexual gratification and reduce forms of incontinence.

The actual procedure of tightening the muscle tone of interior vaginal walls is nothing new; women have been receiving such corrective surgery since the 1970s for medical reasons. But the outpatient surgery is the latest thing for the nip-tuck set.

The recognized grandfather of the industry in the United States is Dr. David Matlock, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Los Angeles.

Matlock put rejuvenation into the public sphere in the late 1990s, when he founded the Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute of Los Angeles. Since then, he has been the subject of multiple articles in magazines ranging from Cosmopolitan to Playboy.

Such coverage has been the best commercial for the surgery, Matlock said.

"Sex sells, and the media has an integral part in selling it," he said. "Women will come in and say, 'I want to look like this,' while they hold up a Playboy."

Yet some plastic surgeons feel that being saturated with images of sex leads to a false notion of normality.

"Part of this is the mainstreaming of pornography," said Dr. V. Leroy Young, a plastic surgeon in St. Louis. "People see images of naked women on magazines and movies and that becomes a reference point of normal."

However, Henderson said health concerns drove her decision as well.

She said that when she gave birth, the incision made on her perineum, the muscle and tissue between the vagina and the anus, never healed properly. She suffered many bladder infections as a result, she said.

"At first I went to just get that fixed," Henderson said.

But when the doctor examined her, he told her she had vaginal relaxation, which causes interior muscles to go limp.

Never mind the motives for the surgery, the result is great sex.

"I wasn't doing it for anybody but me, but my fiance benefits from it," said Nelly, an executive assistant for an investment firm in Los Angeles who requested that only her first name be used.

Both Henderson and Nelly said men are easy to please in general, and that vaginal rejuvenation is truly for the enjoyment of women.

"Let's be honest," Henderson said, "guys aren't really picky; they could care less. It was really more for me."

But rejuvenation isn't only the realm of mothers and grown women.

Many teenage girls seek the help of doctors in reducing the size of their labia, in an offshoot procedure called labiaplasty.

Matlock has operated on a 14-year-old who was accompanied by her parents and her younger sister. "Mothers are in 100 percent support," the doctor said.

Speaking about the physical development of the young teens, Matlock said, "These are mature young ladies. If they weren't I wouldn't do it."

But some doctors like Young think some colleagues may be going too far. He performs labiaplasty on occasion, but said he's not necessarily a fan of the surgery or its cousins.

"This is not something I promote," the doctor said. "If the labia minora is too large they can become irritated with clothes and swimsuits, but it's easier to just get a different swimsuit."

A new set of clothes would definitely be less expensive. Rejuvenation comes at a price, costing anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000. Young said he was not sure if the recent popularity of vaginal rejuvenation would last.

"We don't understand very accurately what's driving this," he said. "We're still in the unknown area with this, is it a fad or a longer lasting trend?"

If this is a fad, it's not going away anytime soon. The industry is too lucrative and growing too fast, according to doctors.

Last year Matlock earned $1.4 million and said the demand is too much for him to handle alone.

At his center in Los Angeles, Matlock says he has trained hundreds of ob-gyns, including 40 doctors from the United States and many more from Asian Pacific countries like Korea, to perform the surgery.

"The women are driving this," Matlock said.

As far as Henderson is concerned, she is content with her body for the time being. But she's comforted by knowing that she can have more cosmetic procedures if she wants them.

"I'll have maintenance done," she said. "As I age I think I'll get Botox, or collagen injections for my lips."

Vaginal rejuvenation: the new wave of cosmetic surgery
By Vivek Kemp

First she had her breasts done. Then 12 years and two kids later she changed something else, something more private, much more private.
Her vagina.
Lu Henderson, a real estate investor from Los Angeles, noticed that her enjoyment of sex diminished after giving birth for the second time. Then three years ago, while she was in a fancy health club, she overheard a conversation about a surgery that could help. And last month she decided it was time to commit.
“It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever done,” said Henderson, 34, about her surgery. “I really do just feel more feminine.”
Henderson is one of a growing number of women who have turned to cosmetic surgery to reverse the ravages of time and birth through a surgical procedure called vaginal rejuvenation.
The process, which tightens vaginal muscles and reduces the size of a woman’s labia minora, is designed to increase sexual gratification and reduce forms of incontinence.
The actual procedure of tightening the muscle tone of interior vaginal walls is nothing new; women have been receiving such corrective surgery since the 1970s for medical reasons. But the outpatient surgery is the latest thing for the nip-tuck set.
The recognized grandfather of the industry in the United States is Dr. David Matlock, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Los Angeles.
Matlock put rejuvenation into the public sphere in the late 1990s, when he founded the Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute of Los Angeles. Since then, he has been the subject of multiple articles in magazines ranging from Cosmopolitan to Playboy.
Such coverage has been the best commercial for the surgery, Matlock said.
“Sex sells, and the media has an integral part in selling it,” he said. “Women will come in and say, ‘I want to look like this,’ while they hold up a Playboy.”
Yet some plastic surgeons feel that being saturated with images of sex leads to a false notion of normality.
“Part of this is the mainstreaming of pornography,” said Dr. V. Leroy Young, a plastic surgeon in St. Louis. “People see images of naked women on magazines and movies and that becomes a reference point of normal.”
However, Henderson said health concerns drove her decision as well.
She said that when she gave birth, the incision made on her perineum, the muscle and tissue between the vagina and the anus, never healed properly. She suffered many bladder infections as a result, she said.
“At first I went to just get that fixed,” Henderson said.
But when the doctor examined her, he told her she had vaginal relaxation, which causes interior muscles to go limp.
Never mind the motives for the surgery, the result is great sex.
“I wasn’t doing it for anybody but me, but my fiance benefits from it,” said Nelly, an executive assistant for an investment firm in Los Angeles who requested that only her first name be used.
Both Henderson and Nelly said men are easy to please in general, and that vaginal rejuvenation is truly for the enjoyment of women.
“Let’s be honest,” Henderson said, “guys aren’t really picky; they could care less. It was really more for me.”
But rejuvenation isn’t only the realm of mothers and grown women.
Many teenage girls seek the help of doctors in reducing the size of their labia, in an offshoot procedure called labiaplasty.
Matlock has operated on a 14-year-old who was accompanied by her parents and her younger sister. “Mothers are in 100 percent support,” the doctor said.
Speaking about the physical development of the young teens, Matlock said, “These are mature young ladies. If they weren’t I wouldn’t do it.”
But some doctors like Young think some colleagues may be going too far. He performs labiaplasty on occasion, but said he’s not necessarily a fan of the surgery or its cousins.
“This is not something I promote,” the doctor said. “If the labia minora is too large they can become irritated with clothes and swimsuits, but it’s easier to just get a different swimsuit.”
A new set of clothes would definitely be less expensive. Rejuvenation comes at a price, costing anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000. Young said he was not sure if the recent popularity of vaginal rejuvenation would last.
“We don’t understand very accurately what’s driving this,” he said. “We’re still in the unknown area with this, is it a fad or a longer lasting trend?”
If this is a fad, it’s not going away anytime soon. The industry is too lucrative and growing too fast, according to doctors.
Last year Matlock earned $1.4 million and said the demand is too much for him to handle alone.
At his center in Los Angeles, Matlock says he has trained hundreds of ob-gyns, including 40 doctors from the United States and many more from Asian Pacific countries like Korea, to perform the surgery.
“The women are driving this,” Matlock said.
As far as Henderson is concerned, she is content with her body for the time being. But she’s comforted by knowing that she can have more cosmetic procedures if she wants them.
“I’ll have maintenance done,” she said. “As I age I think I’ll get Botox, or collagen injections for my lips.”

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