"It's now become in vogue," said Dr. Pamela Dyer-Goode, of Renew Medspa Anti-Aging & Aesthetic Medicine in Society Hill (www.renewmed-spa.com). "It's fueled by the porno industry. Back in the day, women didn't look at pornography. . . . I've had women come and tell me, 'I want to look like a porno star.' "
Dr. Alyssa Dweck, co-author of the forthcoming book V is for Vagina (Ulysses Press, 2012), sees the same thing in her Westchester, N.Y., obstetrics-gynecology practice.
"The biggest complaint is, 'Get rid of this camel toe [large labia] for me,' " she said. "Especially since people are wearing yoga clothes as regular clothing throughout the day. . . . I talk some people out of it. The first thing I normally do when somebody comes in with a complaint like this is reassure them that their labia don't look abnormal.
"I have to show pictures to women, especially young women, because they will sort of sheepishly ask, 'Do I look normal down there? Is this what other people look like?' "
Dweck, who devoted a chapter in her book to the subject of labiaplasty and vaginoplasty, added, "It's not something I take lightly."
It's difficult to say exactly how many American women are undergoing vaginal rejuvenation, a catchall term for genital procedures such as vaginoplasty, which tightens vaginal walls loosened by childbirth; G-spot enhancement, in which collagen is injected to improve sensitivity; and revirginizations. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that the number of vaginal rejuvenations in the U.S. dropped from 4,506 in 2007 to 2,531 in 2009. However, most of these procedures are believed to be performed by ob-gyns, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn't maintain statistics on them. In 2007, though, the group released a warning advising would-be patients that many of the vaginal-rejuvenation procedures were "not medically indicated."
But that hasn't stopped some women. At Renew Medspa, Dyer-Goode does regular labiaplasties, sometimes 12 to 15 a month. (The spa sees a spike in procedures during income-tax refund time.) The procedure, which typically isn't covered by insurance, generally costs several thousand dollars and is performed on an outpatient basis.
"They want their labia cut back a half an inch, the labia minora," Dyer-Goode explained. "Some of them have gotten complaints. Some of them feel that their bodies don't look attractive. . . . Many women have excess labial thickness. Some of them really need it."
The average labiaplasty procedure takes between one and two hours with full recovery taking around six weeks, according to Renew Medspa's website. Some women have excess skin around the clitoral hood that also gets trimmed back as part of this beautification.
"I have to say that the recuperation for labiaplasty can be a little tough. [But] these are some of the happiest patients I see postoperatively," said Dweck, who averages about one to two labiaplasties a month. "There are some women who have these really distended bat wings. Some women are totally fine with this, and then you've got other women who come in with smaller labia and they feel miserable. So, it's all relative."
New View Campaign (www.newviewcampaign.org) is pushing back against the popularity of female genital cosmetic procedures, pointing out that "these surgeries are medically unnecessary, yet they can cause harm," and promote a false ideal as to how one's nether regions are supposed to look.
But as a patient-care coordinator at Renew Medspa pointed out, "You don't need to get breast implants, but you want them because you like the way it looks. It's nothing different from that. . . . Why is it any different?"