(NEW YORK) -- Corrective gynecological surgery has been available for decades to help women with incontinence or sagging of the vaginal canal after childbirth.
But experts say thousands of women, especially younger ones, now seek such procedures as vaginoplasty and labiaplasty, which can cost between $3,000 and $10,000 and are not covered by insurance, to enhance the appearance of their genitalia or to achieve some sort of sexual ideal.
The American College of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons reports 2,140 women elected such surgeries in 2010. The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons says twice as many have been performed in the U.S. annually -- nearly 5,200.
But these numbers might be on the low side.
"We don't know the exact number, because a lot are done at surgery centers and it's hard to keep track," said Dr. Cheryl B. Iglesia, a reconstructive pelvic surgeon and director of the female program at the National Center for Advanced Pelvic Surgery in Washington, D.C. "There isn't a code that we have. And people are paying cash up front."
"It's really concerning, because [the trend] is really reaching younger ages, in their teens," Iglesia said. "I heard of a mother taking in a 16-year-old and 11-year-old wanting to get it done. It's just not right."
In an editorial in the June issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, Iglesia said women were being "misled or confused about what is 'normal.'"
"There are great variations of normal," Iglesia said. "Labia can be anywhere from 5 millimeters to 5 centimeters."
Iglesia believes women have been "duped" by an entire culture that is oversexualized.
She said that Internet pornography and removing pubic hair through Brazilian waxing or shaving give women unrealistic expectations about their bodies -- or what they believe men like or want -- and goes as far as to compare vaginal rejuvenation procedures to "new age female circumcision."
In 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warned about vaginoplasties and labiaplasties that were not medically indicated, questioning their safety and effectiveness.
The biggest risks in such procedures are infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia (painful contractions of the vagina), adhesions and scarring, according to ACOG, which says women need to be informed about the lack of data on these procedures and their "potential complications."
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio