About the research project

About the project

Welcome to Labiatalk.

Labiatalk is the research project blog of Let’s talk labia! a PhD research project currently underway at the University of Melbourne (UoM Ethics ID: 1648366).

The purpose of the blog is mainly to report on and explore issues about female genital cosmetic surgery, the topic of my PhD research.

The main aim of this research is to understand more about how young women with genital appearance concerns approach cosmetic genital surgery.

What is Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery?

Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery (FGCS) is a relatively new development in contemporary medical practice. The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (UK) defines FGCS as non-medically indicated cosmetic surgery that “change[s] the structure and appearance of the healthy external or internal genitalia of women”. The term is broad, and can be taken to include both medical and non-medical procedures such as the most common procedure, labiaplasty, as well as others, such as vulvoplasty, clitoral hood reduction, hymenoplasty (re-virgination) [designer] vaginal reconstruction, vaginal rejuvenation, G-spot augmentation and orgasm shot (O-shot).

Who is having FGCS?

Currently, we know that the number of women and girls accessing cosmetic genital surgery is increasing. In Australia, between 2003 and 2013, 12,190 women accessed Medicare benefits for vulvoplasty and labiaplasty. Of these procedures, nearly one quarter (23.5%) were performed on young women and girls aged 5 – 25.

recent survey of Australian General Practitioners has revealed that over a third of GPs surveyed had received requests for labiaplasty from girls aged under 18 years. As in Australia, there has been an increasing trend toward FGCS internationally, with evidence also suggesting that young women and girls are a part of this upward trend.

So, we know that this is happening, but we don’t really know why, as there is very little existing research about the reasons why women are considering these procedures. This is not surprising, given the difficulties of doing research on such a sensitive topic (especially with young people).

The Let’s talk labia! Project has been designed to go some way towards addressing this gap in the research.

This study involves interviewing young women currently aged 18 – 29 years old, who have previously consulted a health professional (gynaecologist, GP, surgeon, psychologist, etc.) when they were aged between 13 – 19 years old about labial or genital appearance and/or decisions about possible surgery.

If you are:

  • A woman living in Victoria, Australia currently aged between 18 and 29 years, AND
  • Have ever been concerned about your labial or genital appearance AND
  • Saw a health professional about your concerns before you turned 20?

Regardless of whether or not you had surgery, I WOULD LOVE TO TALK TO YOU!

How to get involved

You can download a Plain Language Statement here, or contact the researcher via email: barnarde[at]student.unimelb.edu.au for more information directly or use this form:

Research interviews typically take about an hour of your time, and we can interview in person, or by phone or Skype.

About the researcher

Emma has been at the University of Melbourne since 2012, where along with her PhD research she works at the Centre for Health Equity in the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health and does some teaching into the Master of Public Health program. Prior to working and studying at the University, Emma has worked for both government and not-for-profit organisations in harm reduction, drug and alcohol population health, and primary care.