Designer Vaginas?

OB-GYNs say procedures are not necessary, may pose risks

BY JIM RITTER Health Reporter

One of the newest frontiers in plastic surgery is the designer vagina. Surgeons are tightening vaginas, enlarging G spots and trimming inner labia lips that are deemed unsightly.

A 26-year-old woman, who asked not to be identified, said she had been bothered by the large inner lips of her vagina ever since puberty. She hated how she looked in a bathing suit. Didn’t like wearing tight jeans. And sex wasn’t any fun.

Her plastic surgeon, Dr. Otto Placik of Arlington Heights, fixed her vagina with a “labiaplasty.” Now it “looks exactly how I want it,” she said.

Not many women are getting genital makeovers. But the procedures are getting starring roles on cable TV. The number of procedures is growing. And that’s got gynecologists worried.

“These procedures are not medically indicated, and the safety and effectiveness of these procedures have not been documented,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is warning in a new opinion.

A woman who feels insecure about her sexual function or the appearance of her vagina “may be further traumatized by undergoing an unproven surgical procedure with obvious risks.”

These risks include infections, scarring, altered sensation and pain during sex.

A woman who doesn’t like how her vagina looks should be reassurred that normal genitals vary “significantly from woman to woman.”

And if she’s having trouble in bed, she should try counseling, the gynecologists group said.

Even many plastic surgeons are leary.

“Take caution,” said Morton Grove plastic surgeon Dr. Loren Schechter, a spokesman for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “I would think long and hard about undergoing one of these procedures.”

Plastic surgeons long have done reconstructive vaginal surgeries on women following cancer surgery, burns, car accidents, etc.

Now, women are getting genital makeovers for nonmedical reasons, in part because they’ve seen the procedures featured on plastic surgery reality shows such as “Dr. 90210” and the soap opera “Nip/Tuck.”

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons counted 1,000 vaginal rejuvenations last year, up from 793 in 2005.

This represents less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the 1.8 million cosmetic procedures last year.

But the actual number is almost certainly higher. The society counted only one type of cosmetic procedure, and did not count procedures done by gynecologists and urologists.

These are among the procedures:

  • Vaginal rejuvenation: This surgery to tighten the vaginal muscles is typically done on women who have given birth. It’s supposed to make sex better. But it can make sex painful if the vagina is made too tight.
  • G-spot amplification: The G-spot supposedly is an erogenous zone inside the vagina, although experts disagree whether it even exists. The doctor injects collagen, a naturally occurring protein, to the G spot. The spot becomes about a quarter-inch high, and as big as a quarter. The procedure costs about $1,800 and must be repeated every four months or so.
  • Revirgination: This creates a membrane across the vaginal opening to create the illusion the woman is still a virgin. It is performed on women who come from cultures that put a premium on virgin brides.
  • Labiaplasty: Placik has performed this inner-lip reduction on about 25 women, who have come from as far away as Minnesota and Kentucky. It typically costs about $6,000.

One of Placik’s patients said she had a labiaplasty because “the extra skin was just hanging there. It gets in the way.”

The woman said no boyfriend had ever commented on her large labia.

“It was an issue with me and no one else,” she said.

The woman is only 26, but already has had two plastic surgeries. In 2004, she had breast implants.

Now, she said, “I’m good to go.”