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Labia Library

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Increasing numbers of teenage girls are developing concerns about the appearance of their genitalia and are seeking cosmetic labioplasty etc. I haven’t encountered this, but I suspect the patients only bring this up with female doctors. I have included comments on this issue from Sonia Grover, Director, Department of Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology at RCH below.

Women’s Health Victoria have recently launched a site they call The Labia Library with the hope this will be of educational value in illustrating the natural diversity of female external genitalia.

The gynae team at RCH has been seeing increasing numbers of referrals for labioplasty – 1-2 consults per month over the last few years.  At least 25% of the time the concern is driven by the mother – so the fact that the images on this site are all adult women is not necessarily a problem – as you may be trying to educate/influence the mother.

There are two other visual resources which I use. Femalia is a book of about 25 images – with a view directly at the perineum. This is a small book (I always carry it with me!) can be purchased from Amazon. More recently there has been a coffee table book called Vagina 101 – with 101 images of women standing front on view – this is a Melbourne made book. Both show a diverse range of appearances, again all adult.

There has been an 8-fold increase in labioplasty procedures in Australia, across all age groups  (except the <10 years and the >55 years) as evidenced by claims using the Medicare schedule number. As there has been no medical condition that has risen 8-fold in this time, these procedures must reflect cosmetically/culturally driven labioplasties, which by definition are female genital mutilations. This is any culturally driven genital procedure – there is no age limitation relating to this WHO definition). FGM is illegal in Australia…

Some of the problem relates to the fact that no-one seems to have pubic hair any longer – thus body bits are visible now that were previously obscured. Another part of the problem lies with young people accessing pornography, but the Australian classification board is not helping – as they consider images of female genitalia to be ok for open publication (i.e. in magazines such as Dolly and Cleo etc) any genitalia that appear neat – thus excluding the 50% of women with labia visible beyond the labia majora, and thus they contribute to the distorted perception of what is normal….

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