The rising popularity of labiaplasty, or cosmetic genital surgery, among Australian women has prompted an Adelaide researcher to investigate the outcomes of this surgery.
A national online survey being conducted by Flinders University PhD student researcher Gemma Sharp is one of the first studies to consider the emotional and psychological effects on women who have undergone the procedure.
Labiaplasty is the surgical reduction of the folds of skin surrounding the vulva.
Ms Sharp said she hoped to discover “real stories” about women’s experiences before and after surgery which could provide a greater insight into the effects of labiaplasty on self-esteem, body image, and romantic and sexual relationships.
“There is very little post-surgery outcome information available, especially for Australian women,” Ms Sharp said.
“The aim of the survey is to find out what happened to these women who had a labiaplasty – did the surgery meet their expectations and what were the effects on their self-esteem, sexual relationships and quality of life,” Ms Sharp said.
“I think it is really important that we have as much knowledge and information available as possible so prospective labiaplasty patients and their health practitioners can decide whether labiaplasty is the most beneficial form of treatment.”
Ms Sharp, one of only a small number of researchers to focus on labiaplasty, has previously studied the factors influencing women’s consideration of this type of cosmetic genital surgery.
This research, published last year, found that there were numerous influences on women’s consideration of labiaplasty, including exposure to pornography, pressure from romantic partners and relationship dissatisfaction.
According to the latest Medicare figures, the number of women having labiaplasties in the public health system more than tripled in Australia in the past 15 years, from 444 in 2000 to 1,427 in 2014.
However Ms Sharp, who has an Honours degree in Psychology, said the real number of women opting to have a labiaplasty would be far greater because many opted for surgery through the private sector.
Ms Sharp is looking for women aged 18 years and over from throughout Australia who have undergone a labiaplasty to share their experiences and participate in the online survey.
“It could be that having the surgery was the best thing they’ve ever done, or it may not have been such a positive experience,” she said.
“No matter what the outcome, I want to hear their stories so this information is available to help other women who are considering this surgery.”
(Source: Flinders University)