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Women seeking new 1st time with hymen surgery
Sparking criticismRestoring innocence this way has sparked criticism. Religious groups that value abstinence until marriage say hymen repair is a deception. Some feminists liken hymenoplasty to female genital mutilation. In addition, hymen repair, unlike other types of reconstructive surgery, isn't taught in medical residencies. Some medical associations worry that surgeons may be improperly trained.
"Revirgination" costs as little as $1,800 at Ridgewood Health and Beauty Center, a spa and cosmetic-surgery center in the New York City borough of Queens. To promote the procedure, the center's owner, Cuban-born Esmeralda Vanegas, has given away hymenoplasties on a Spanish-language radio station. She also promotes them in her eponymous magazine,Esmeralda.
Vanegas isn't a doctor and doesn't perform the procedure. Instead, she leases space to five plastic surgeons. Luis Palma, a doctor at Ridgewood, went to medical school in his native Argentina and was a resident at the Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass., among other places. Palma says he performs about five hymen repairs a month at Ridgewood, almost double the number of five years ago.
Vanegas says many of her patients risk disgracing their families if they're not virgins on their wedding night. Many are Latin American immigrants. "Losing your virginity is like losing a member of your family," Vanegas says. "We can make it seem like nothing ever happened."
Dr. Marco Pelosi II, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Bayonne, N.J., has been performing hymen repair since 1975 but started marketing the procedure only a year and a half ago. He now performs up to 10 repairs a month, compared with just two annually a decade ago.
"No one used to talk about it, but that's changing," Pelosi says. "Really, it's not like a heart transplant; it's like a very simple procedure."
Pelosi says an increasing number of patients are trying to "improve their sex lives" by combining hymen repair with an operation to tighten their vaginas. He says one patient did it for a second-honeymoon cruise. Another patient, a 51-year-old Manhattan attorney and mother of three, had him reattach her hymen and tighten her vaginal walls in 2003. "I thought it would add that extra sparkle to our marriage," she says.
Named after Hymen, the Greek god of marriage, the vaginal membrane since primitive times has been a marker of virginity, even though it can be ruptured by non-sexual activity, such as athletics. At one time, a bride's intact hymen was considered the only way to be certain about the paternity of any ensuing children. A small number of traditional cultures still require brides' hymens to be examined.
The modern version of hymenoplasty requires a local anesthetic and no hospitalization. A doctor uses dissolvable stitches to reconnect the skin membrane that once partly covered the opening to the vagina. Intercourse will tear the membrane, causing pain and bleeding.
Once reserved for problems such as injuries related to childbirth, vaginal surgery is now being used for cosmetic purposes, as well as to avoid social disgrace. Women can even redesign the look of their private parts. It's part of the overall boom in the plastic-surgery business. Last year, 9.2 million cosmetic procedures were performed in the United States, 24 percent more than in 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
ABC NEWS 20/20 JUNE 20 2003 TOPIC LIKE A VIRGEN YOUNG WOMEN UNDERGO SURGERY TO RESTORE VIRGINITY
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