New booklet empowers young people to understand normal vulva appearance 

21/03/2018 00:00 
Two clinicians from University College Hospital have developed a new resource aimed at educating young people on normal female anatomy.


The resource, in the form of a booklet entitled "So what is a vulva, anyway?”, was launched last week at a joint event by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology (BritSPAG).


The booklet was developed by UCLH clinical nurse specialist Louise Williams and obstetrics and gynaecology fellow Hazel Learner in response to an increase in the number of girls and women requesting cosmetic surgery to modify their genitals, despite presenting with normal anatomy.


Louise said: “We see many patients in our paediatric and adolescent gynaecology clinic who have a poor understanding of the function of parts of the anatomy and also of normal genital variation.


“This educational resource will help young people to understand their vulva and how it develops during puberty, particularly if they are worried about how they look or feel. We hope it will reassure young people that vulvas come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and if they need advice and support, they can know where to go."


According to NHS figures, in 2015-16 more than 200 girls under 18 years had labiaplasty and more than 150 girls were under 15 years. More have the procedure privately. Labiaplasty involves the lips of the vagina being shortened or reshaped, and experts say this procedure does not have a medical justification.


Dr Naomi Crouch, consultant gynaecologist, spokesperson for the RCOG and chair of BritsPAG, said: “There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the practice of labiaplasty and the risk of harm is significant, particularly for teenagers who are still in stages of development both physically and psychologically.


“We hope this resource will provide information for girls and young women that their vulva is unique and will change throughout their life, and that this is entirely normal and healthy.”


BritSPAG commissioned the resource to empower young people to understand normal female anatomy through education. The booklet uses illustrations to describe variation in appearance and details the changes which happen at puberty and beyond.


It will be available from the website of Brook, a young people’s sexual health and wellbeing charity, as well as the BritsPAG website.


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