WEDNESDAY, Nov. 21, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Women who go online to learn more about so-called "designer vagina" procedures often find poor and inaccurate information instead, a new study says.
Designer vagina procedures make claims for benefits such as "vaginal rejuvenation," "G-spot amplification" and even hymen repair to restore the illusion of virginity, as well as altering the shape of the labia.
But, according to the study authors, the new findings highlight the need for clear guidelines to improve standards so women can make informed choices about this increasingly popular type of cosmetic surgery.
There are "significant gaps in the breadth, depth, accuracy and quality of clinical information given by some service providers of female genital cosmetic surgery," wrote Dr. Sarah Creighton and Dr. Lih-Mei Liao, of the Institute of Women's Health in the United Kingdom.
In the study, the researchers examined five U.S. and five British websites that provided information about female genital cosmetic surgery. In total, the websites mentioned about 72 procedures, but the lack of standard terminology made it difficult to determine the exact number, the researchers said.
Only two websites indicated success rates, all of which were listed as 95 percent or 100 percent. However, an actual definition of success was not provided. All of the websites mentioned unproven social and mental health benefits, including restored confidence and self-esteem.
Half of the websites suggested that the procedures would enliven sex lives, Creighton and Liao said. Many sites claimed the surgeries would make the labia appear "sleeker," and some websites offered hymen repair to ensure that the recipient would bleed on her wedding night and therefore be able to "keep [her] head high."
All 10 websites did mention risks associated with the surgeries, but these risks were typically downplayed, the researchers said. Four sites failed to mention exactly what the risks were, and only one gave information on rates of follow-up surgery to correct problems.
None of the sites provided a minimum age for surgery. The authors said this was "most disturbing of all," particularly since female anatomy changes throughout a person's life.
The contents of the websites also played on women's fears about the appearance of their genitals, Creighton and Liao wrote. They believe that concerns about genital appearance might be better addressed by counseling or creams and emollients, rather than surgery.
The study was published Nov. 21 in the obstetrics and gynecology edition of the online journal BMJ Open.
Women's Health Queensland Wide in Australia has more about genital cosmetic surgery.