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Did She or Didn't She? Perceptions of Operative Status of Female Genitalia.

BACKGROUND: While extensive research has explored why women undergo labiaplasty, little attention has been paid to societal and professional abilities to distinguish between altered and unaltered labia, impacting both patient concerns and broader societal perceptions.

OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to evaluate the accuracy of the general public and healthcare professionals in identifying labiaplasty and to pinpoint the misconceptions driving their perceptions. The goal was to inform more effective patient counseling strategies and challenge existing stigmas around cosmetic genital surgery.

METHODS: We conducted an online survey with 511 lay adults and a group of 21 gynecologists and aesthetic vulvar surgeons, assessing their ability to detect labiaplasty from images, focusing on aesthetic appearance, hair patterns, and size. The analysis involved Pearson correlation and Z-tests to compare perceptions against actual operative status.

RESULTS: Our analysis revealed a pronounced difficulty among participants in accurately discerning labiaplasty, with neither group showing a significant ability to identify surgical alterations. Misinterpretations were notably influenced by expectations of aesthetic appearance, with 49% associating an "odd" or "fake" look with surgery, and hair and size misconceptions also misleading respondents. Additionally, 20% of participants mistakenly related surgical changes to gender affirming surgery or female genital mutilation.

CONCLUSIONS: The study highlights a gap in the ability of both the general public and medical professionals to accurately identify labiaplasty, pointing to a broad misunderstanding of cosmetic genital surgery's visual outcomes. Addressing these misconceptions through targeted education could substantially improve patient counseling and help dismantle the stigmas associated with labiaplasty.

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