It's no surprise that we all struggle with body issues, but now girls as young as nine are seeking out "vagina surgery" because they don't think they look "normal" down there.
Labiaplasty is the name of the surgery that resizes or reshapes the vaginal lips. According to statistics from U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS), over 200 girls under the age of 18 received this surgery between 2015 and 2016, with the youngest recorded patient being only nine years old.
While labiaplasty is meant to help women or girls with medical conditions, such as those suffering from discomfort or who have functional impairment, an increasing number of girls want the surgery for cosmetic reasons.
"I'm seeing young girls around 11, 12, 13 thinking there's something wrong with their vulva — that they're the wrong shape, the wrong size, and really expressing almost disgust," Paquita de Zulueta, a general practitioner, told BBC News. "Their perception is that the inner lips should be invisible, almost like a Barbie, but the reality is that there is a huge variation. It's very normal for the lips to protrude."
She added, "There really doesn't seem to be knowledge now of what [vaginal lips] should look like."
The truth is, there's no such thing as a "normal vagina" because everyone's is unique.
"Over the years I have seen approximately 9,125 vaginas — they all looked different," Heather Rupe, a Tennessee OB/GYN and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, revealed on Web MD. "Much like people's faces, vaginas all have the same parts but are uniquely portioned."
Unfortunately, this hasn't stopped women and girls from worrying about their appearance down there.
One woman, identified as Anna, told BBC News that she considered having labiaplasty when she was 14 because she thought "it wasn't neat enough or tidy enough and I think I wanted it to be smaller."
Another woman, identified as Kate, told HuffPost Canada, "My major insecurity was always my labia. It's not like we are shown the diversity of this female body part in mainstream media, so I never really had much to go off of when it came to comparisons."
Not only has the trend of labiaplasties been on the rise in the U.K., but in Canada and the U.S. as well.
Canada, on the other hand, doesn't keep statistics on cosmetic surgeries, CBC reports. However, Sina Kashani, the managing director at the Toronto Cosmetic Clinic, says labiaplasties have become increasingly popular since 2005.
In the past, experts have blamed the porn industry for setting impossible standards of what is normal when it comes to genitalia, especially since an increasing number of young people have seen this X-rated content.
Because their bodies are still developing, labiaplasties should not be performed on girls under 18.
Considering young girls are impressionable when it comes to body image, Dr. Gail Busby, an adolescent gynecologist at U.K.'s St Mary's Hospital, says it's important to remind them that their vagina is normal and that their body is still developing.
According to the NHS, it's exactly because their bodies are still growing that labiaplasties should not be performed on girls under 18.
"Surgery will probably lead to scarring and — as the labia are still developing — could lead to it becoming asymmetrical in adulthood," Dr. Busby said.
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