As more women embrace cosmetic surgery, lifting butts and tucking tummies, a growing number are turning their attention to a more private part of their anatomy.
The new “frontier” is vaginal rejuvenation. From front to back, inside and out, a woman can improve the look, feel and, most importantly, the functions of her genitalia.
“When it comes to cosmetic gynecology, women have distinct needs and preferences. Careful consideration, thorough research and realistic expectations, should go into a woman’s decision to seek a surgical solution to her problem,” according to Dr. Shamanique Bodie-Williams, author of “Progression: A female adolescent and parent’s guide to gynecological health”.
The physician’s career as an obstetrician and gynecologist (OBGYN) spans almost 20 years. Recently, the OBGYN expanded her practice to include surgical and non-surgical cosmetic gynecology, including labiaplasty, vaginoplasty, vaginal rejuvenation and reconstructive cosmetic gynecology surgery.
The move followed Bodie-Williams’ completion of advanced training at the Indian College of Cosmetic Gynaecology and The Institute for Laser and Aesthetic Medicine, which she began in 2018. The two Indian-based institutions have established the first university accredited postgraduate programs in cosmetic gynecology.
Her fellowship in cosmetic gynecology and sexual medicine provided the Bahamian doctor with the opportunity to participate in cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedures abroad.
“Parts of the vagina are affected differently through the various phases of life and women are realizing they do not simply have to accept their fate,” said Bodie-Williams.
“Some women might want to address laxity or looseness due to childbirth. Others could have issues with function, meaning they may have pressure or pain with sex; there might be a little bit of leakage or urine when they cough or sneeze. Then, there are those who are concerned with its appearance caused by genetics, aging or childbirth. They’ve examined themselves closely and want to give special attention to that area.”
Surgical procedures include vaginoplasty or tightening of the vagina; fourchette reconstruction which removes scar tissue; labiaplasty, that is, a reduction of the inner lips, or perineoplasty, correcting damage to the area between the vagina and the anus.
“No other part of the body goes through as much trauma as the vagina. In childbirth, the vagina is exposed to having a 10-centimeter head come that way. There is wear and tear from intercourse. Women are waxing and shaving and, to top it off, that area is also fighting gravity. Some women suffer from prolapse when organs sag or droop out of their normal position,” said Bodie-Williams, who built up considerable experience in her field working as a
consultant physician in Grand Bahama’s public health system.
She treats private patients at The Medical Pavilion in Freeport and at The Bahamas Women’s Wellness Centre and The Art of Skin Clinic in Nassau.
Bodie-Williams understands women’s reluctance in exposing once-hidden parts to greater discussion and scrutiny.
“We might not talk about it openly because it is taboo – a private part, in an unseen area. People can’t see that it’s falling down but that doesn’t mean the afflicted persons are experiencing less symptoms. Even if nobody else sees it, she has to,” said the women’s reproductive healthcare advocate.
“A patient could have pain, pressure, the feeling that things are falling out. She might feel like she can’t get to the bathroom in time. She might have constant leakage and anxiety over smelling like urine. Sex may not be as enjoyable as it once was, and a patient might feel like she is not at her best. We give attention to how things look everywhere else. Why should the appearance of the vagina be any different, especially when you consider it’s more exposed now than ever before due to so many hair removal options?”
Recovery time varies depending on the procedure. During a consultation, Bodie-Williams advises patients what to expect during and after the operation, when they’ll be able to return to work and when it’s safe to resume physical activities.
“As with any other surgical procedures, there could be minor complications. Risks are low, but they are there. Bleeding and infection are among them,” she said. “However, the vagina tends to heal very well, and the risks are even lower in the hands of a proven medical professional.”
Surgeries are not recommended for women who have not started or have not yet completed childbearing, women with keloid skin or women with chronic medical conditions. For women in those categories, all is not lost, as there are non-surgical alternatives like ThermiVa which uses radiofrequency energy to encourage collagen production which tightens the vulval and vaginal tissues.
The procedure is said to enhance sexual satisfaction and many report improvements in their bladder and bowel functions.
“There is no cutting, so there is no downtime with this option. A patient could have sex within two hours of the procedure. That’s the benefit of it, though the effects will usually take at least three treatments minimum, typically a month apart, which must be repeated every six months to a year.”
A ThermiVa treatment could also be used to provide temporary change in the appearance of the labia if a patient feels it’s not symmetric or it’s too fleshy.
“There is no anesthesia required for non-surgical options done in office, and there’s no complication that we know of, to date. Any woman is a candidate for the non-surgical procedures, whether she has children or no children and whether she’s sexually active or not,” she said.
“Skeptics may have their doubts, but patients say cosmetic gynecology is a self-esteem booster. It provides enhanced sexual satisfaction, improved the looks of their genitals, reduces prolapse-related symptoms and provide relief from incontinence.
“My goal is to empower women not to be ashamed to speak up about their bodies and explore what can be done to enhance their private parts in function and form – if, that’s what they want to do,” said the doctor.