In worrying news of the day, girls as young as nine are enquiring about getting surgery on their vaginas because they are concerned about its appearance.
Increasing numbers of young girls are asking their GPs about having labiaplasties – a surgical procedure where the lips of the vagina are shortened and reshaped.
According to the BBC, in 2015-16, more than 200 girls under 18 had labiaplasty on the NHS, and over 150 of those girls were under 15. This is despite the fact that the NHS states that the operation should not be performed on girls younger than 18.
Adolescent gynaecologist Dr Naomi Crouch believes young girls are seeking the surgery because of fears about their down-there appearance.
“Girls will sometimes come out with comments like, ‘I just hate it, I just want it removed,’ and for a girl to feel that way about any part of her body – especially a part that’s intimate – is very upsetting,” she told the BBC.
GP Paquita de Zulueta, also says she has seen girls as young as 11 in her surgery concerned about the appearance of their vagina.
“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,” she told BBC.
“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.”
Though she’s been a GP for over 30 years, she has only recently witnessed girls enquiring about the surgery on their privates in the last couple of years.
And she believes the explosion in social media is partly to blame, with girls being motivated by the unrealistic images they are being exposed to via that and pornography.
Dr de Zulueta believes one solution is raising awareness about down-there differences.
“There isn’t enough education and it should start really quite young, explaining that there is a range and that – just as we all look different in our faces – we all look different down there, and that’s OK.”
NHS England said it did not carry out vagina surgery for cosmetic reasons, only for clinical conditions.
But Dr De Zulueta believes some girls will overemphasise their physical symptoms to get referred to have the surgery.
“There is awareness that they’re more likely to get the operation if they say it’s interfering with sex, with sport, they feel that will tick that box.”
Despite the industry being criticised for normalising the procedure, plastic surgeon Miles Berry defended the surgery.
He told the BBC: “It can change people fundamentally, the feelings they have about themselves, their confidence and self-esteem.
“I have seen patients aged between 16 and 21 who have never had a boyfriend because they are so concerned about this.”
Read more from Yahoo Style UK: