It is known as hymenoplasty, or “re-virgination”, hymen repair, hymen restoration surgery or hymenorrhaphy which refers to a procedure meant to restore a woman’s hymen to an unbroken state. This procedure can be for various reasons: cultural, religious, personal or simply cosmetic.
What is hymenoplasty?
Simply put, this is a surgical procedure that restores a woman’s hymen. The hymen is a circular membrane that either surrounds or partially covers the outer opening of the vagina. The hymen covers the opening of the vagina in part and in many cultures is considered to be the proof of a girl being a virgin.
There are several type of surgical procedures included in hymenoplasty: a flap of the vaginal lining may be used, along with the tissue’s blood supply to fabricate a new hymen.
In other types of the surgery, a membrane may be artificially created, but only for cosmetic reasons, in which case it will not include blood supply.
In cases where there has been trauma to the vaginal area, such as in case of a tear resulting from sexual abuse or assault, the surgeon could suture the affected area to assist in healing.
Why do women opt for hymenoplasty?
Cultural, religious and social reasons are the most common reasons for getting this procedure done. Since many traditional societies place a lot of importance on the virginity of a new bride and often expect proof of this, young women and their families often feel constrained to opt for the procedure.
The hymen if restored will cause obstruction when penetrative sex is performed and in many cases will cause bleeding as well, which is the aim of most instances of surgeries. The surgery is most popular among traditional societies such as gulf countries and South Asian countries or among western Diaspora who want to return to their homeland to marry and settle.
It is possible for the hymen to rupture with several other activities beside penetrative sex. Vigorous sport, horse riding and use of tampons can also cause the hymen to break. There is also the fact that some women are born without a hymen, and even when a hymen is intact, it may not bleed upon first penetrative sex.
For all of these reasons many people feel that there is no subterfuge involved in getting surgery to re-fabricate a new hymen, since the girl is still a virgin in every other sense of the word.
However hymenoplasty is also used in the west at times, purely for cosmetic purposes. It could be to give the impression of virginity or simply because women and couples may believe that it could enhance sexual enjoyment. Some women may desire to get the procedure done after pregnancy or childbirth has rendered her vaginal muscles loose or more flaccid than before.
What else should you know about hymenoplasty?
There are areas where this procedure or procedures similar to it are not legal. Private clinics in some places offer the surgery.
Costs of the procedure may vary greatly. For instance in places such as India, hymen restoration surgery could cost as little as $300, whereas in western nations it could cost upward of $2,500. In most cases, the cost would not be covered by insurance, though in France part of the cost may be reimbursed if the woman was a victim of trauma or rape.
In some procedures, the membrane may be restored without the blood supply i.e. for cosmetic reasons. In some cases a gelatin capsule of artificial blood like substance may be inserted as well. This type of surgery is intended to be done a few days before marriage.
However other types of hymenoplasty where the vaginal flap along with its blood supply is used to re-fabricate the hymen, women are told not to have penetrative sex for some months after the procedure.
There are manufacturers who sell a product called an “artificial hymen” over the internet and elsewhere. It is a prosthetic device meant to imitate a hymen. There have been calls for the product to be banned.
There are also risks and possible complications related to hymenoplasty that should be considered: pain, bleeding, hematoma risk, some amount of numbness, injury to the nerves, discoloration etc. could occur after the surgical procedure to restore the hymen is done.