Over the past two decades many individuals have embraced cosmetic surgery as a method to enhance sexuality and improve body image.
While the decision is contentious, authorities worry that individuals are ill-informed on risks, potential complications and long-term outcomes.
In response, the May 2010 journal Reproductive Health Matters, explores the lack of proper information about the risks of complications and failure rate of many of these procedures.
Even though cosmetic surgery is not a new phenomenon, studies point out that there has been a seismic shift in the past 10 to 15 years in what is considered possible and desirable to change in the bodies we are born with.
This “body-changing culture” is becoming pervasive and, nowadays, it includes changes to most parts of the body, especially to the most intimate ones, such as the genitalia.
The journal reveals that the procedures used to cosmetically modify female external genitalia are exactly the same as those employed in female genital mutilation (FGM). Whereas there is legislation in both Europe and Africa against FGM, there is none against female genital cosmetic surgery.
This edition also describes the serious complications that could arise from some of these procedures, and how much additional surgery they can lead to.
Moreover, it casts doubt on whether this type of surgery actually “works” — that is, on how long the beautifying effects actually last, and whether people’s lives are in fact changed for the better after the procedure.
While cosmetic surgery may liberate some from negative preoccupations with their appearance, it may also fuel fears among young and otherwise vulnerable women – that their perfectly normal breasts and genitals do not live up to current fashion, or that they are abnormal and need surgical intervention.
The journal points out the lack of clarity on whether women are being given sufficient information about the risks and the benefits of cosmetic surgery.
This issue raises questions about the extent of informed consent and the ways all these practices should be regulated to protect patients.