Female genital cosmetic surgery: a cross-sectional survey exploring knowledge, attitude and practice of general practitioners

BMJ Open. 2016 Sep 26;6(9):e013010. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013010.


Objective: To explore general practitioner's (GP) knowledge, attitudes and practice regarding female genital cosmetic surgery (FGCS) in Australia.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Australia.

Sample: GPs who attended a women's health seminar and GPs who subscribed to a non-governmental, national health professional organisation database that provides education to primary care professionals.

Method: A national online survey of GPs was conducted for the 10-week period, starting 1 week prior and 2 months after a Women's Health seminar was held in Perth on 8 August 2015. 31 questions prompted GPs' knowledge, attitudes and practice in managing patients asking about FGCS.

Results: The survey was fully completed by 443 GPs; 54% had seen patients requesting FGCS. Overall, 75% (95% CI 71% to 79%) of GPs rated their knowledge of FGCS as inadequate and 97% (95% CI 94% to 99%) had been asked by women of all ages about genital normality. Of those who had seen patients requesting FGCS, nearly half (44%, 95% CI 38% to 51%) reported they had insufficient knowledge of risks of FGCS procedures and 35% (95% CI 29% to 41%) reported seeing females younger than 18 years of age requesting FGCS. Just over half (56%, 95% CI 51% to 60%) of the GPs felt that women should be counselled before making a referral for FGCS. More than half the GPs suspected psychological disturbances in their patients requesting FGCS such as depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties and body dysmorphic disorder.

Conclusions: GPs see women of all ages presenting with genital anatomy concerns and in those who request FGCS, GPs often suspected a range of mental health difficulties. GPs require greater education to support their patients who request FGCS.

Keywords: Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery Labiaplasty; GP; General Practitioner; Labiaplasty; Women's health; genital anatomy.