There’s much ado about designer vaginas these days in Plastic Surgery Practice, where there has a back and forth between leading cosmetic gynecologists and a leading board-certified plastic surgeons, all of whom perform the procedures regularly, as well as in the medical literature at large.

Now, a new study suggests that there is a lack of accurate information on these procedures on the Web. According to the study, the quality of Internet information available for women opting for “designer vagina” procedures is “poor,” and in some cases, inaccurate. The findings are published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology edition of BMJ Open.

Researchers from the University college Hospital in London Googled private providers who offered female genital cosmetic surgery and included the first five UK and US Web sites that came up on the search page. They assessed the content using 16 criteria, ranging from what, and how, procedures are carried out, to success rates and potential risks. The researchers also analyzed the language use, including terms such as “labial hypertrophy.”

Some 72 procedures were mentioned across all 10 sites, although the absence of standard terminology makes it impossible to decipher the exact number offered. Terms included “labioplasty,” “liposculpting,” “hoodectomy,” and “hymenoplasty.” Aesthetic concerns were mentioned on all the sites, including the visibility of vaginal labia through tight clothing, and an awareness of larger-than-normal labia.
Several sites recommended labial reduction to promote a “youthful vulval appearance.” One site explained this as: “a woman might have a facelift and look really young until she goes to bed and a partner can see the evidence of aging there.”

Surgery was often recommended to make the labia “sleeker” and “more appealing,” and although three sites did mention natural variation in the size and shape of labia, they still recommended surgery. All the sites claimed that surgery would improve vulval appearance. Hymen repair was recommended by some sites as a way of improving “the woman’s hidden aesthetics” and to ensure that she would bleed on her wedding night and so be able to “keep [her] head high.”

Three Web sites explained that labial surgery would improve personal hygiene and curb the risk of infections, which the authors say may reinforce negative feelings toward the vagina, known as “pudendal disgust.” Half the Web sites mentioned that surgery would enhance sexual pleasure.
Only two Web sites indicated success rates, all of which were 95% or 100%, but what constituted success was not defined. All sites mentioned unsubstantiated social and psychological benefits, including restored confidence and self-esteem.

All 10 sites mentioned risks, but these were downplayed. Four failed to get specific; and only one gave information on revision rates. None of the sites gave a lower age limit for surgery, which the authors suggest “is most disturbing of all,” particularly as anatomy changes throughout the life span.

They conclude that designer vagina procedures play on women’s fears and that any concerns they may have might be better served by psychological therapies, and creams or emollients rather than surgery.
“Clear and detailed guideline on how to raise the standard of information to women on all aspects of female genital cosmetic surgery are urgently needed,” they write.