The findings encourage researchers to urge that guidelines be created to improve criteria in order for women to make educated choices about an increasingly growing trend that has hardly been investigated as of yet.
Previous research states that in recent years, vaginal cosmetic surgery as become more popular, with little to no clinical or scientific evidence to help guide surgeons on how to perform safe procedures.
Cosmetic procedures are now readily available to women who don't particularly like the way their genitals look. These surgeries include "G-spot amplification" and "vaginal rejuvenation", as well as modifying the shape of the external lips of the vagina.
The researchers used Google to identify private providers offering female genital cosmetic surgery and wrote about the first five US and UK websites that showed up in the search results.
The content of the information offered by these websites was examined using sixteen different criteria starting from what, and how these surgeries are performed, to possible risks, and success rates.
Language was also examined, including the use of phrases such as "labial hypertrophy", suggesting that the procedure is used as treatment for a medical issue.
The authors say that the lack of standard terminology on these websites makes it difficult to interpret exactly how many procedures are being offered. There are around 72 procedures referred to on 10 separate sites with terms like "labioplasty", "liposculpting", "hoodectomy", and "hymenoplasty".
On all the sites, concern about the appearance of genitals were touched upon, as well as the visibility of vaginal labia through tight clothing, and consciousness of larger than normal labia.
Many sites endorsed labial reduction for a "youthful vulval appearance." One website even described this as: "a woman might have a face lift and look really young until she goes to bed and a partner can see the evidence of aging there."
Procedures were often suggested to make the labia "more appealing" or "sleeker." Even though natural variation of labia shape and size was referenced, three sites still recommended surgery. All sites said it would improve vulval appearance.
Hymen intactness, which indicates virginity, can be achieved by hymen repair surgery and was often recommended for improving "the woman's hidden aesthetics". They claimed this would ensure a woman would be "pure" on her wedding night.
Three websites said that labial surgery can improve personal hygiene and eliminate the risk of infections, which investigators say may strengthen negative emotions towards the vagina, known as "pudendal disgust."
Nearly half of the websites suggested that surgery would enhance sexual pleasure.
Just two websites demonstrated success rates of 95 or 100 percent, but what was measured as success was not clearly specified. Restored confidence and self-esteem were also mentioned as part of unproven psychological and social advantages mentioned by all websites.
Every site touched upon risks, but they were made to appear less important than they actually were; four sites did not say what the risks were; and just one gave information on revision rates. Three websites mentioned "botched" surgeries that might cause disfigurement and need correction done by other providers.
None of the websites suggested a minimum age limit for surgery, which the researchers found quite troublesome, because the human anatomy changes throughout a woman's lifespan.
The authors realize that this study just offers a small picture of the information available at a single point in time. But they do recognize this is the first time this subject has been methodically examined.
The researchers conclude that designer vagina surgeries take advantage of women's fears and that any uneasiness they might have could be better addressed by psychological therapy, creams, or moisturizers rather than surgical procedures.
The authors say:
"This report highlights significant gaps in the breadth, depth, accuracy and quality of clinical information given by some service providers of female genital cosmetic surgery...and highlights a certain degree of distortion to the information provided by medical practitioners in an area that is imbued with value judgement."
Written by Kelly Fitzgerald