This is an article in The Age Newspaper – Nov 14th 2013. Professor David Castle and I collaborated closely on body dysmorphic disorder brain research so it is great to see this area getting some media headlines.
Full story via The Age website
WOMEN as young as 18 are being referred for psychiatric treatment after cosmetic surgery to enhance the look of their genitals fails to make them feel better about their bodies.
The head of psychiatry at St Vincent’s Hospital told The Sunday Age three women had been referred to its body dysmorphia clinic this year after undergoing labioplasty surgery.
One feels permanently ”disfigured”, has not had sex for three years and has become so anxious about the way her genitals look she is on medication.
Professor David Castle wants mandatory psychological screening for all women seeking vaginal ”rejuvenation” procedures, to detect those with underlying mental health issues such as body dysmorphic disorder, a condition that gives sufferers a distorted view of normal body parts.
The woman was referred to the clinic by a gynaecologist who was concerned for her welfare when she wanted a second labioplasty operation.
However, Professor Castle said some medical specialists were not so scrupulous and would operate repeatedly on patients who should not go under the knife. ”I’ve seen girls having these operations at 18,” he said. ”Then they go back because they want another procedure and finally the gynaecologist or surgeon says maybe this isn’t quite right.”
He said the young women he treated often felt pressured into surgery because they feared men would not find them attractive if their labia did not conform to a standard seen in pornography, in which the labia are often airbrushed out.
Last week The Sunday Age revealed the number of Medicare claims for labioplasties had tripled in less than a decade.
”It’s really sad, these women say they had the surgery because they didn’t want to be teased, they thought they looked abnormal, they thought men wouldn’t like it. Young women can be very insecure and if they haven’t had a sexual relationship they get scared of what might be said.”
Professor Castle has called for legislation requiring makers of pornography to label all images that have been airbrushed, in a bid to give young women more realistic expectations of their bodies. Women’s Health Victoria has backed the calls for screening, as has Dr Sally Cockburn, also known as ”Dr Feelgood”, who likened labioplasty surgery to female genital mutilation, which is outlawed under the Victorian Crimes Act.
”The act says if you excise the labia minora, that is considered female genital mutilation, and consent is not an excuse. I wouldn’t like to see women or doctors go to jail for it, but it shows it’s a very sensitive area and doctors have to think very, very carefully about doing these operations and ask, are they doing them for the right reasons?” Dr Cockburn said.
Susan Carr, head of the Royal Women’s Hospital’s psychosexual service, has counselled women who have had or are considering vaginal cosmetic surgery. While Dr Carr agreed better screening was necessary, she believed women should be free to choose surgery if they gave informed consent.
”We’ve got to balance an autonomous woman making a mature decision, with the people who shouldn’t be making that decision at all … Young women coming in for this surgery, one has to have serious concerns. If you have an older woman, someone who’s married with kids and now decides she wants time for herself, or may be in a new relationship, and wants to wear new fashions and small bikinis, I think she’s got every right to have it if she wants.”