Women's Perception of Their Vulvar Appearance in a Predominantly Low-Income, Minority Population

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Abstract

Objectives

The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of certain predictors, such as age and media exposure, on a woman's perception of her vulva anatomy.

Methods

We recruited 346 female visitors from a county teaching hospital to complete questionnaires that determine the following: demographics, satisfaction with their vulvar appearance, whether they consider their vulvar anatomy to be normal, exposure to media (namely having had Internet access or learned about genitalia from the Internet or any type of pornography), and consideration of cosmetic vulvar surgery for themselves. The participants were divided into 2 age groups; group I (45 years or older) and group II (18–44 years). Personal satisfaction, self-perceived normality, and one's consideration of cosmetic vulvar surgery were then compared between the 2 groups.

Results

A large percentage of women considered their vulva to be “normal,” 93.1% of group I versus 96.0% of group II (P = 0.24). For group I, 87.5% were satisfied with their vulva versus 91.5% of group II (P = 0.24). The participants with media exposure report self-perceived normal-appearing vulvas at higher rates than those not exposed to media (96.7% vs 90.8%, respectively; P = 0.03). Of those who were satisfied with their vulvar appearance, 92.3% were exposed to media, whereas 84.5% were not exposed (P = 0.03). However, of the participants who reported consideration of vulvar surgery, 74.4% of them had exposure to media, whereas 25.6% had no media exposure (P = 0.034).

Conclusions

Age does not play a significant role in determining a woman's acceptance of the appearance of her vulvar anatomy. However, media exposure was a significant determinant for self-perception, satisfaction, and desire for cosmetic vulvar surgery.

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