A large number of Australian teenage girls under the age of 18 are seeking genital cosmetic surgery, according to a new study.
The study surveyed 400 Australian GPs and was published in the British Medical Journal, revealing that more than a third of Australian doctors have been approached by girls under the age of 18 to get female genital cosmetic surgery, such as labiaplasties. This would involve removing tissue from the labia, changing the size and shape.
News.com.au reports that Dr Magdalena Simonis of the University of Melbourne has raised concerns that the demand for the surgeries is the result of an 'epidemic of anxiety about normality', and can even have an impact on the sexual response of young women.
"The industry is brilliant at using social media to convince women and girls that they have 'redundant' or 'excess' tissue, when in fact we know that the labia are rich with nerve fibres," she said.
"The fact that surgery rates for 15-24 year olds are the same for 25-45 year olds is especially worrying, because female genitalia don't reach maturity until around age 18."
Dr Simonis also said that over half of the girls asking for surgeries were considered 'emotionally vulnerable', and suffered from anxiety, depression or body dismorphia.
The Guardian reports that in 2013, over 1500 labiaplasties were performed in Australia - over three times the amount since a decade ago.
The Medical Board of Australia has advised that any girls under the age of 18 should be subject to mandatory counselling and a three-month period after the request if they are asking for the surgery.