Friday, February 5, 1999

'Designer vaginas' available in Toronto

By Cathy Stapells

  You don't have to fly to L.A. or New York to get the hottest trend in the world of cosmetic surgery -- labiaplasty and vaginal tightening, also known as a 'designer vagina.' They're done right here in T.O.

Dr. Robert Stubbs, a local plastic surgeon, has been performing labiaplasty for years. He also performs vaginal tightening, what some are calling sexual-enhancement surgery.

Labiaplasty is a reduction of the labia minora, the flaps of skin which form the lips of a woman's genitalia and cover the clitoris and vaginal opening.

Stubbs says for some women, having large labia can cause pain during intercourse. (The lips can get pulled in.) Large or asymmetrical labia can cause chafing and discomfort during everyday activities or while wearing certain clothing, such as pants. For others, they feel unattractive, a concern during oral sex.

The problem can be caused by genetics, sexual intercourse or difficulties in childbirth.

"It's a topic people should be talking more openly about, without feeling pressure from society," says Stubbs, referring to some people's concerns that labiaplasty is like circumcision. It's not, he says.

On average, the procedure takes 11/2 to two hours and costs between $1,800 and $3,500.

While some people may be motivated to have the procedure for purely cosmetic reasons (just the latest thing to nip and tuck since they've already done their face and breasts), Stubbs says the pain and discomfort some women experience are real. "Not all people are created equal in this manner," he says.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Bederman no longer performs labiaplasty or vaginal tightening, referring anyone who asks to a gynecologist. He says these procedures are done for "aesthetic reasons. I've never seen a woman who wanted it done because her husband was complaining."

Vaginal tightening, involving the interior of the vaginal vault, is more controversial. It remains unproven whether the procedure enhances sexual satisfaction.

"Maybe for men, but it's not a well-studied area," says plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen Mulholland, who doesn't perform the procedure because of its risks and lack of proven benefit.

It is one of three procedures, he says, which fall under the category of genital-enhancement surgery. The other two are laser resurfacing of the labia to remove wrinkles and clitoral repositioning for those not achieving optimum stimulation.

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