What is Hymenoplasty?
What is Hymenoplasty?
Simply explained, hymenoplasty, also known as hymenorrhaphy, is the cosmetic repair, restoration, or construction of a woman’s hymen. Restoration of the hymen is also referred to as revirginization.
What is a Hymen?
In order to explain hymenoplasty surgery, a description, along with some information about the hymen might be beneficial.
The hymen consists of human tissue which resembles an oval rubber washer that partially or completely covers the vaginal opening. This ring-shaped membrane can be thin and flexible or thick and rigid. It begins to form while the female is still in the womb, usually beginning in about the fourth month of pregnancy.
Contrary to what many believe, except in rare cases, the hymen is NOT an impenetrable seal. If this were the case, there would be no portal for menstrual flow or healthy, normal vaginal discharge to leave the body.
Historical romance writers often describe the heroine in their bodice ripper books as having a Teflon hymen that causes her to wince or cry out painfully while in the throes of that first sexual encounter. Her lost virginity is also typically evidenced by vivid, crime scene-like blood splatter on pristine white sheets. However, in reality, that first rupture, regardless of the method, doesn’t always draw blood, and is not always painful.
Like the appendix, a hymen serves no real purpose. Yet, throughout history, this nondescript sheath of skin traditionally – and very mistakenly – has served as undeniable, positive proof of a woman’s purity and innocence. Even to this day, in many cultures, an intact hymen still indicates virginity, especially if there is the presence of blood upon first penile penetration.
Clinically speaking, however, a torn or damaged hymen is not irrefutable confirmation of virginity loss by sexual hanky panky. Depending on its rigidity, perforation of the hymen can be caused by normal everyday activities such as strenuous athletics, horseback or bicycle riding, a simple gynecological examination with speculum or gloved finger insertion or masturbation. Even placing a tampon into the vagina may rupture it.
In some cases, a hymen may not be present at all, as approximately 1 in 1,000 women are born without one.
What Are Some of the Reasons for Hymenoplasty?
Hymenoplasty is a cosmetic fix for women who may wish to repair or reconstruct their hymen. Their reasons for seeking this procedure are varied, and may be physical or psychological.
- Reclaiming control: In the case of sexual assault, a woman is understandably left with traumatic psychological issues. She may feel that she was robbed of not only her innocence, but the opportunity to present the virginal gift of an intact hymen to the person of her choice. Hymenoplasty may not only offer the physical restoration she seeks, but may also supply some psychological comfort and healing as well.
- Burying the past: Sexual curiosity and experimentation are a natural part of the growing process, especially during adolescence when hormonal changes and surges occur. Peer pressure may often compel a young girl to succumb to sexual activity before she’s mentally prepared for the emotional impact associated with such physical intimacy. As she matures, she may feel regretful that she indulged in that curiosity too early or too often, and may seek to bury evidence of what she might, in retrospect, view as promiscuity or bad judgment. Revirginization may psychologically allow her to turn back the clock and start over.
- Cultural beliefs: Because the presence of an intact hymen is still important in many cultures, a woman may want to provide this indication of purity to her spouse for their upcoming nuptials.
- A gift: Many women who have already been sexually active may wish to give their partner a virginal experience, whether it be as a surprise, for a special occasion, or on their wedding night.
- Accidental rupture or tearing: For some women, penetration of the hymen via bicycle or horseback rides, slipping on ice, or tampon insertion is simply not acceptable and they opt for hymenoplasty to restore what was damaged unintentionally.
- Enhancement of sexual pleasure: After childbirth, the vaginal muscles may weaken. Flaccidity also occurs over time with age. Hymenoplasty also tightens these muscles, giving the added benefit of a more sensually stimulating sexual experience.
- Imperforate hymen: This is a condition where the entire vaginal opening is covered by the hymen. It is not usually discovered until a young girl enters into puberty and her menstrual flow is blocked. The hymenoplastic procedure to correct this is called hymenotomy, and a small hole is made in the membrane to allow blood flow.
- Septate hymen: The hymenal tissue is split into what looks like rope-like bands. They resemble tonsils that are connected at both ends, and may impede tampon use or penile penetration. This is also corrected by hymenotomy. A septate hymen can also refer to a very thick or rigid hymen, like the almost bulletproof one of romantic lore mentioned earlier, and may require surgical penetration.
- Microperforate hymen: This is similar to an imperforate hymen and is corrected in the same manner. A microperforate hymen has a small opening only adequate enough to permit menstrual flow. It does not usually present a problem or require enlargement unless a female wishes to use tampons.
What Happens During Hymenoplasty?
Hymenoplasty is usually a simple out-patient procedure that can be done in our clinic under local anesthesia. Any torn skin around the edges of the hymen is gently and neatly cut away, after which the remaining tissue is stitched together, leaving a small opening. This restores the hymenal ring to a normal size and shape.
If there is not enough skin to restore the hymen, or if a hymen is nonexistent, the surgeon may create one, using either some of the body’s own thin vaginal skin (vaginal mucosa) or a synthetic tissue. A small blood supply may be added, either artificial or the patient’s own taken from a piece of vaginal flap, thus simulating the traditional bleeding upon subsequent penetration.
What is the Recovery Time?
The surgery can be expected to take anywhere from one to two hours depending on the amount of repair needed. Though this is a clinical procedure with no hospital stay necessary, and women may return to work the next day, strenuous activity and heavy lifting should be avoided. During the first 48 to 72 hours, there may be some slight bleeding, but this is perfectly normal.
Full healing takes approximately six weeks. There will be no visible signs of surgery and it will be impossible to tell the difference between a natural hymen and a reconstructed one. At this time, the reconstruction process will be complete and all the sensations associated with virginal, first time sex may be experienced.
There are rarely complications. However, the doctor should be contacted if the patient experiences any of the following symptoms:
- Pain beyond moderate discomfort after three days
- Unusual or foul smelling discharge
- Intense itching
- Abnormal bleeding
Depending on why you might request hymenoplasty, this may be a delicate subject to discuss. Rest assured that our doctors are familiar with the many reasons patients ask for this procedure, and fully understand your discomfort and shyness in regard to this subject. It’s your body. We want to help make you as comfortable and confident with it as possible.
To learn more about hymenoplasty or to schedule an an appointment with one of our doctors, please call 770.720.7733.
Request a Consultation
- Meet Dr. Kawami Clay, Newest Member of the Cherokee Women’s Health Team
- Dr. Cross: Northside Hospital’s “Original OB-GYN”
- Instructions After Surgery
- What is Natural Childbirth?
- Are Prenatal Vitamins Really Necessary?