What exactly is vaginal rejuvenation and why are more women getting it?
There’s more to this procedure than getting a “designer vagina.” We checked in with an expert to learn all about this taboo treatment
If you’ve ever had issues with vaginal dryness, incontinence, decreased pleasure, or even pain during sex, you might have stumbled across the term “vaginal rejuvenation” in your search for a solution. Even without experiencing any of these common vaginal issues, women of all ages are inundated with products and procedures that promise to improve things like vaginal tightness, lubrication, sexual satisfaction, cosmetic appearance, and confidence to your nether regions. But it’s more than strategic marketing. There’s real increased interest in and demand for vaginal rejuvenation, and this multi-billion-dollar global industry is only expected to grow. So in order to learn more about these popular treatments and their risks we spoke with Dr. Marc DuPéré, owner and medical director of Toronto’s Visage Clinic, as well as two women about their experience with vaginal rejuvenation.
For starters, vaginal rejuvenation refers to a variety of vaginal corrective treatments including surgical and non-invasive treatments. The procedures often address common age-related, menopausal, and post-childbirth issues such as urinary incontinence and loss of tightness or lubrication. And while many people have heard of vaginoplasty and labiaplasty, nonsurgical treatments are quickly gaining traction in this fast-changing, medi-cosmetic industry.
“Non-surgical vaginal rejuvenation is more common as it is less invasive and the recovery is only two to three days versus the six weeks for most surgical procedures,” says DuPéré, who sees women from 20 to 70 years of age all seeking solutions for a variety of vaginal concerns.
Technological innovations have resulted in many new, non-invasive treatments for vaginal rejuvenation but three of the main types include: radiofrequency devices, carbon dioxide lasers, and broadband light lasers. These energy-based devices use heat to create microtears in order to encourage the production of new collagen to the area and subsequent smoother skin, tighter tissue, and better lubrication. Though that all sounds pretty invasive and intimidating, these procedures surprisingly only require topical anesthetic freezing and can be performed in under 20 minutes, in some cases fewer than five. Patients too, report little to no discomfort beyond slight pressure to or heat on the area and mild redness during and after the fact.
But if having virtually all your vaginal issues corrected in a few minutes with little recovery time sounds too good to be true, you’re not alone. Many researchers have questioned the validity of these devices and in July 2018, the FDA issued a formal warning against the use of energy- devices used to treat vaginal conditions. Many of these technologies were initially created to treat skin lesions, so when some providers broadened their use before enough research was available regulatory bodies raised their concerns. Since then, a number of manufacturers have reassessed their products in order to gain FDA and Health Canada approval, but some risks still remain. DuPéré notes that the risks associated with the noninvasive treatments can include laser burns, scarring, minor vaginal spotting, general discomfort, infection, and the need to repeat procedures for optimal results. A full exam and open conversation with your gynecologist is not only strongly encouraged, but in many cases is also required before these procedures.
Still, for many women, the benefits outweigh the risks. Rachel and Christine both sought vaginal rejuvenation after having children and experiencing some urinary incontinence and decreased sexual satisfaction in the years that followed.
“I’m in my 40s and I have two children, so I found that starting around 35 I began to experience some urinary incontinence when I exercised,” recalls Rachel. “After my second [vaginal laser] treatment, my incontinence was pretty much completely gone.” The experience opened up the door for more procedures including one to address external volume and texture, as well as platelet-rich plasma therapy to stimulate vitality, function, and stimulation. “All in all, I loved the results,” she says.
For Christine, though she experienced some post-baby urinary incontinence, it was the significant change in her and her partner’s sex life that sparked her interest and research into vaginal rejuvenation. “After having two children, I noticed that sex was just different. It wasn’t as pleasurable,” she says. “I ended up losing interest in intimacy altogether because first of all, it wasn’t gratifying; and secondly, it started to make me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious.”
After a lot of research, consultations, and medical exams later, she decided surgical vaginoplasty would be her best option. “It finally feels like everything is back to normal,” says Christine, who will be 50 this year. “I had a close family member who was there with me pretty much through the whole experience and she asked me the other day: ‘Do you regret this? Would you do this again?’ I told her, ‘In a heartbeat.’”
While you can’t put a price on increased confidence and improved relationships, bear in mind that these treatments— though slowly becoming more accessible—will cost you anywhere between $500 to upward of $9,000 for the surgical options. Beyond a hefty price tag, many procedures still carry some ethical dilemmas and taboos too. “Ten years ago, when the labiaplasty and hymenoplasty procedures became more public, a lot of people ended up discussing the idea of the ‘designer vagina’ or ‘Barbie labia,’” recalls DuPéré. “But things have changed tremendously now. People are talking about it more and more and the techniques have also been refined. Women are now perfectly comfortable wanting to get their body back to what they were pre-childbirth and women are more invested in their own sexuality and pleasure.”
Christine tends to agree. “I think it’s important for people, women in particular, to feel happy with their bodies. And I don’t see anything wrong with utilizing the technology that we have,” she says. “I would encourage any woman that feels the way I did to absolutely consider it. Just be sure to do your due diligence and be certain you’re going with the right physicians with the right experience.”
While there are many success stories, the reality is that vaginal rejuvenation may not be for everyone and is still pretty new to the scene. For those interested, know the risks and be sure to consult with your doctor before making any decisions. And when in doubt, there’s still one completely safe and affordable option to keep in mind: kegel exercises!