Younger and younger girls are feeling unhappy with the look of their labia, and doctors are worried by the trend.
It can start with girls as young as nine. They’re so distressed by the appearance of their vulva that they want surgery.
In the UK, in 2015/16, more than 150 girls under the age of 15 had labiaplasty on the National Health Service. It’s an operation that involves shortening or reshaping the lips of the vagina.
Adolescent gynaecologist Dr Naomi Crouch has told the BBC that she’s yet to see a girl that actually needs labiaplasty for medical reasons.
“Girls will sometimes come out with comments like, ‘I just hate it, I just want it removed,’ and for a girl to feel that way about any part of her body – especially a part that’s intimate – is very upsetting,” she says.
Meanwhile, Dr Paquita de Zulueta has been a GP in the UK for 30 years and has only recently started seeing girls unhappy with their labia. She says she’s seeing 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds expressing “almost disgust”.
“Their perception is that the inner lips should be invisible, almost like a Barbie, but the reality is that there is a huge variation,” she says. “It’s very normal for the lips to protrude.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising that young girls are becoming unhappy with the appearance of their genitals. Many of them are unhappy with the appearance of their bodies generally from a young age.
A new Australian non-profit called The Pretty Foundation quotes research showing that 38 per cent of four-year-old girls want a different body size.