The sweating, the sitting and standing, the spandex. While there's little doubt that the high-intensity cardio class is a great workout, it's not exactly kind to ... your parts. Your lady parts.
But while some spin enthusiasts might opt for padded shorts or a good emollient to prevent chafing, a growing number of women are opting for a slightly more extreme solution. Labiaplasty, a cosmetic surgery that reduces the length of the labia minora, is on the rise — and spinning is partly to blame, according to a U.S. plastic surgeon.
"The surgery is no longer primarily for aesthetics — now it is catering to women who find cycling or others forms of exercise cause discomfort," Dr. David Cangello told Independent.
"The demographic of women who are going to SoulCycle care about their appearance. Labiaplasty ties into grooming trends where women want everything to be clean and neat and streamlined."
Labiaplasty is on the rise
There was a 40 per cent spike in labiaplasty procedures in 2016, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). ASPS members performed more than 12,000 procedures that year.
The surgery is usually sought for cosmetic and functional reasons, ASPS said on its website.
"While having long or multiple folds of labia minora is normal and natural, some women can feel self-conscious about their labia peeking out through thong underwear or a bathing suit. Women may feel physical discomfort when wearing yoga pants, during sexual intercourse or sitting on a bicycle seat," the society said.
The procedure "trims" excess tissue to allow the inner lips of the vagina (labia minora) to sit "tucked up neatly" against the outer lips (labia majora), according to the ASPS. After surgery, women usually need pain medication for a few days, require a week off work to heal, and may experience minor spotting, the society said.
The demographics are similar
Indoor cycling, or spinning, rose to fame in the early 1990s when Rolling Stone called it the hottest new exercise, according to Good Life Health Clubs. SoulCycle, a boutique cycling studio that launched in 2006, now has a cult following, according to Racked. There are more than 82 studios across the U.S. and Canada, according to the SoulCycle website.
While Cangello said the rise in SoulCycle's following and in labiaplasty procedures aren't directly related, he also told Independent that the "demographics of the type of women who have the procedure are similar."
"It tends to be women who are into their appearance and also active," he said.
And the increase in labiaplasty is likely due to two factors, Cangello said.
"Number one is people talk about it. And two, grooming techniques change ... With that, the demographic of women who are going to SoulCycle care about their appearance."
Cycling is a pain in the vagina
As a number of experts and athletes attest, cycling is legit hard on the vagina and vulva.
"Labial pain is a common but often unspoken issue among female cyclists. It is usually caused during movement when the vaginal lips bunch up and press painfully into the saddle, which can result in labial abrasions/bleeding that are very painful," Australian cyclist Janine Kaye wrote in Witsup.
"I 'grow a set' every season," another woman was reported saying in Bicycling. "I won't even get a check-up because my gynecologist is so shocked by how swollen I am, I'm embarrassed."
A study published this month found that women cyclists are more prone to problems such as urinary tract infections, genital numbness and saddle sores. Some common tips for women cyclists include making sure the bike saddle is a proper fit, using padded shorts, using an emollient to prevent chaffing, and adjusting your cycling posture to ride more vertically.
Labia minora come in all shapes and sizes
"Twenty years ago I was asked about (labioplasty) maybe a handful of times and always by women with a significant size discrepancy (more than 4-5 centimetres) between sides. Now I am asked about it routinely and almost always by women who have labia minora that are anatomically normal," Canadian born and trained OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Gunter said in a 2015 blog post (with photos that are not safe for work, unless you work as a gynecologist, FYI before you click).
"Reasons for wanting smaller labia range from entirely cosmetic to misperceptions about size (it is normal for the labia minor to stick out past the labia majora), about symptoms (labial size doesn't affect vulvar symptoms or cause yeast infections) or sex (smaller labia does not enhance sexual pleasure)," she wrote.
The long-term medical implications of labiaplasty are unknown, Gunter warned. Anyone experiencing irritation should see a vulvar expert, and not a plastic surgeon, she added.
"If your gynecologist suggests a labiaplasty to treat symptoms get a second opinion."
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