A vulva health guide has landed, because girls can't stop obsessing over how their vagina looks

A new health guide is aiming to normalise women’s vulvas [Photo:]

A new health guide has been launched in an attempt to discourage girls from going under the knife in pursuit of a designer vagina.

Young women are being directed to the new online reference tool, which helps them check if their vulva looks normal.

The health experts who designed the guide say they hope it will help boost body confidence and discourage girls from wanting genital cosmetic surgery.

The guide is being released on the back of last year’s worrying statistics which revealed that the number of labiaplasties – a surgical procedure where the lips of the vagina are shortened and reshaped – had increased by 45 per cent from 2015 to 2016.

Even more concerning was the fact that girls as young as nine have been enquiring about getting surgery on their vaginas because they are concerned about its appearance.

A new health guide has been released to discourage young women from seeking surgery for ‘designer vaginas’ [Photo: BritSPAG ]

The new health guide, titled “So What Is A Vulva Anyway?”, has been commissioned by the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology (BritSPAG)  in association with Brook, a young people’s sexual health and wellbeing charity.

It is hoped the booklet will help educate girls and young women about the varying nature of the female anatomy and the risks involved with labiaplasties.

According to NHS figures, in 2015-16 more than 200 girls under 18 had labiaplasty and more than 150 of the girls were under 15.

But the actual number of women going under the knife might be even higher as these figures do not include girls and young women having the procedure privately.

The guide aims to discourage young women from seeking surgery for ‘designer vaginas’ [Photo: BritSPAG ]

The health guide includes illustrations of a number of different vulvas, highlighting the fact that there is no normal way to look down-there.

“We see many patients in our paediatric and adolescent gynaecology clinic who have a poor understanding of the function of parts of the anatomy and also of normal genital variation,” Louise Williams, clinical nurse specialist at University College Hospital and co-lead of the project explained.

“This educational resource will help young people to understand their vulva and how it develops during puberty, particularly if they are worried about how they look or feel.

“We hope it will reassure young people that vulvas come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and if they need advice and support, they can know where to go.”

Dr Naomi Crouch, chair of the BritSPAG, revealed that during her work for the NHS, she has never come across a girl who has undergone the operation who needed it for medical reasons.

“There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the practice of labiaplasty and the risk of harm is significant, particularly for teenagers who are still in stages of development both physically and psychologically,” she said.

“We hope this resource will provide information for girls and young women that their vulva is unique and will change throughout their life, and that this is entirely normal.”

The guide hopes to spread the message that if someone does have concerns about their body that it is a positive thing to do to reach out and speak to a healthcare professional.

“All young people deserve education, support and advice about anatomy, but unfortunately there is a lack of accurate and sensitive information available as part of the school curriculum and on the internet,” explains Laura West, participation and volunteering manager at Brook.

“This new booklet will help to address this need and will inform doctors, girls, young women and their families, as to what is normal and where to seek further help and support if required.”

New research has revealed women can’t name the anatomy of their vagina [Photo:BritSPAG]

The booklet also provides detailed explanations for several anatomical terms, including the vulva, clitoris and labia, something that is much-needed if recent research is anything to go by.

According to a survey by Canesten, women are shockingly unfamiliar with their vaginas with over half (54%) admitting they would struggle to correctly label parts of their female anatomy and a worrying 44% claiming to be unable to identify abnormal changes.

Tania Adib, a leading London gynaecologist who has worked with Canesten on their research believes women need to be more self-aware when it comes to their own intimate health:

“The research shows that many women are still in the dark about their own intimate health, confused about the causes and too embarrassed to seek the right advice, resulting in misconceptions about common conditions,” she says.

“I would urge women to be more comfortable and aware of their own bodies so they know what’s normal to them.  By checking their vaginal area regularly, they’ll be able to better recognise when symptoms arise and seek the appropriate advice quickly, rather than waiting and possibly prolonging the condition.”

For more information on ‘So what is a vulva anyway?’ visit www.brook.org.uk, www.bishuk.com, www.labialibrary.org.au, www.britspag.org

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