Vagina not what it used to be, ladies? Hey, fella, what about those man boobs?
Summer in Phoenix gives you three (okay, four or five) solid months indoors. If you're going to sit in the semi-dark, flipping cable channels, why not have something to show for it, come Halloween? You can heal and hold the remote at the same time.
We're talking plastic surgery, but not the surface stuff. Betcha've already done your nose and your breasts (twice). So get creative. How about a collagen injection in the G-spot?
Don't blush. There are actually doctors who plump vulvas and trim man boobs. Not ready to go under the knife? Us, either. If nothing else, we can offer you some entertainment. Keep reading. Just remember -- we're not recommending anything specific here, regarding doctors or procedures. Caveat emptor.
Tighten Up -- Vaginoplasty
The procedure: Dr. Keri Sweeten has dedicated her life to vaginas. The doctor, who would rather be identified as a gynecologist than a plastic surgeon, has devoted the past 11 years of her life to improving private parts, and her dedication to the art is obvious. At her Phoenix clinic, Understanding Women, Sweeten offers what she's dubbed the "Aussie Makeover" -- because it works with your "down-under" parts -- to improve the genital area of her clients.
Sweeten opened her clinic in 2003 with the goal of becoming one of the premier pelvic floor clinics in Arizona. She quickly expanded into related areas.
As a gynecologist, Sweeten realized she was doing quite a few vaginal reconstructive surgeries for women experiencing organ prolapse -- a condition she says one in five women experience by the time they're 50 where the uterus can drop, and in extreme cases protrude from the vagina -- after childbirth. It dawned on her that she could offer this procedure as a cosmetic option as well.
"We took our knowledge and transcended to a more cosmetic procedure," she says. "We are a kind of center where women can come and not feel intimidated talking about things like that. They are able to feel comfortable about a very private area."
Sweeten's most popular surgeries are labiaplasty, or re-sculpting of the vagina's lips, and vaginoplasty, where she reconstructs the vagina to its "normal caliber." She also offers a clitoral procedure, though she's careful to stress the process is nothing like female circumcision. By making a very slight incision in the hood over the clitoris, Sweeten can expose it for heightened sensitivity.
"We make a small incision, but we don't cut anything out," she says. "We just allow it to release."
Sweeten also offers collagen injections in the ever-elusive G-spot, filling it with fat to make it "bigger and more accessible." She can even lighten the color of your vagina as part of the package.
"We have patients who come in and want their genital areas bleached, because over time they go from a nice pink to a kind of purple hue," she says. "It's a product very similar to facial bleaching."
What to expect: With any plastic surgery, it's important to keep expectations realistic. Same goes for your vagina.
"You're not going to have a Playboy bunny vulva; there's still going to be some imperfections," Sweeten says.
Recovery time: You'll be back at work within three to five days, though Sweeten cautions, "We don't want anything in the vagina for six weeks."
Might be a slow summer, girls.
Booby Call -- Gynecomastia
The procedure: Man boobs, bitch tits, male breast tissue -- no matter how you phrase it, if you're a dude, you don't want boobs. Unfortunately, this condition is actually quite common. And it's not limited to overweight, middle-aged men, either -- men as young as 15 can start to develop unwanted breast tissue.
So rest assured, you are not a freak. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, gynecomastia is the fifth most common plastic surgery for males.
According to Tempe surgeon Richard Pavese, who is listed as a breast specialist on the ASPS' Web site, there are two kinds of gynecomastia procedures available. The first involves basic liposuction and is performed on men who have built up fat in their pectoral areas because of being generally overweight.
When the breasts are caused by actual glandular tissue, Pavese says patients will have to undergo slightly more serious surgery, where an incision is made and the tissue is actually removed.
Though the social stigma attached to having "man boobs" is a little awkward, Pavese says he doesn't consider the procedure terribly taboo.
"I don't know if they're [men who get gynecomastia] any more embarrassed than women who come in with small breasts. Maybe a little," he says. "I don't find it too much more embarrassing."
What to expect: Pavese stresses the importance of realistic expectations -- especially if the patient is overweight when he has the procedure done.
"Liposuction will contour areas that have excess fat, but will not take someone who is obese and make them thin," he says. "So if you have a lot of fat in the chest area, you can expect less fat, but the whole chest area is not going to be thin. Someone who's 200 pounds won't have a chest post-op that looks like someone who's 100 pounds."
If an incision is necessary to remove glandular tissue, Pavese says the patient can expect a small scar.
Recovery time: Pavese says men can expect to have the surgery done on a Thursday or Friday and be back at work by Monday.
"There's a lot less healing [involved] than having your nose done," he says.
Send Aunt Flo Home -- Ablation
The procedure: It sounds scary, but endometrial ablation is actually very simple. Also offered by Keri Sweeten at her Understanding Women clinic, ablation -- or "Stop Flo," as she calls it -- is a procedure that does just what it says it does: stops your period forever.
The procedure has been around for 20 years, and Sweeten says she's been performing it since her gynecological residency in the '90s.
It's an alternative that's much less invasive than a hysterectomy, where the uterus is removed from the body, or getting your "tubes tied," which prevents eggs from entering the fallopian tube.
During ablation a specialized device is inserted into the uterus, which removes the lining using either extremely hot or extremely cold energy.
"We're leaving the uterus intact and making the inside of the uterus bald or naked on a permanent basis," says Sweeten.
No uterine lining, no period.
What to expect: Sweeten cautions that there are a few things women need to be aware of before having the Stop Flo procedure done. First, it's not a form of sterilization or birth control. Because the uterus is left intact, and the fallopian tubes are not touched, there is still a chance a fertilized egg could implant, causing major complications and birth defects. Sweeten prefers to perform the procedure on women who already have some permanent contraception in place.
She also cautions that the procedure is irreversible, so make sure you're done having kids -- or that you really don't want any.
Aside from that, she says you can expect to never have the hassle of your period again -- within reason.
"If you have normal periods that last three days and they're not very heavy, chances are you'll never have a period again," she says. "If you come to me and you're hemorrhaging for three weeks out of the month, I'm probably not going to be able to get rid of that period completely."
Recovery time: The procedure itself only lasts from 90 to 114 seconds, and patients can expect to be back at work the next day. A tubal surgery will put you out for four to six days, and a hysterectomy will leave you in bed for six to eight weeks.
Though every doctor mentioned in this article has a clean record with the Arizona State Medical Board, we can't offer any certain recommendations for getting these procedures done. But we can offer some helpful hints for how to get ready for surgery.
Not sure you're ready to go for it? Try psyching yourself up for the first cut:
Crank up the A/C and camp out on the couch with season one of Nip/Tuck. It might not comfort your surgical fears, but you can find solace in the fact that while your surgery is taboo, it's not extreme. And your doctor isn't a serial killer.
If you can stand it, force yourself to watch MTV's I Want a Famous Face (airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m.). Take comfort in the fact that you might have man boobs, but at least you're not a loser.
When you're finally ready, there are certain things to look for in a doctor. Walter Erhardt, a national spokesperson for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, offers these tips:
Have a goal in mind: If you don't know what you want, the doctor won't know what to give you. Erhardt says it's best for patients to come to their consultation with a clear idea of what they like, and don't like, about the part of their body they're changing.
Keep your expectations realistic: If you've had five kids, don't expect your doctor to turn your vagina into Playmate material. If you're overweight, don't expect Brad Pitt's pecs. Erhardt says it's best to focus on what you like about the pictures you see in magazines, keeping in mind those images are airbrushed, and then let your doctor translate how that picture can reasonably work for you.
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Communicate: Don't be afraid to ask questions, and pay attention to how the doctor responds. Is the doctor open with you? Or does he or she fail to make eye contact and evade your questions? Erhardt says to make sure your doctor is board certified -- and that the certification is pertinent to what you want done. "If they're certified in internal medicine and they're doing liposuction, that's not a good thing," he says.
Find out where they operate: Do they perform surgery in their office or in a hospital/surgery center? If they work from their office, ask if the office is certified and by whom -- only a certified office can offer you everything you need during surgery. Erhardt also says it's important to find out whether the doctor has hospital privileges, meaning they are allowed to perform the same surgery they do in their office in a hospital that has an oversight board. "If they say no, or are evasive, that should be a red flag," he says.
Pay attention to how they treat you before surgery: "I rely a lot on my office staff," says Erhardt. "The patient should evaluate that staff -- do they answer questions? Do they call back? If they're not doing that when you're a prospective patient, are they going to call you back after the surgery when you need help?"
Finally, once you've found a doctor you think you can trust, check out his or her history at the Arizona State Medical Board's Web site -- www.azmd.gov. From here you can find out if your doctor has any pending board investigations or has ever been in trouble for criminal activity or malpractice.