Gynecological concerns and vaginal practices and exposures among transfeminine individuals who have undergone vaginoplasty

Jason Hallarn, Greta R. Bauer, Emery Potter, Hannah Wilcox, Jacy Newfeld, Yonah Krakowsky, Jacques Ravel, Jessica L. Prodger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Vaginoplasty is a gender-affirming surgery that is medically necessary for some transfeminine individuals. Little research exists describing vaginal health after the initial recovery from surgery, and evidence-based guidelines for vaginal care practices are unavailable. Aim: The study sought to describe self-reported gynecological concerns and vaginal care practices among transfeminine persons who have undergone vaginoplasty. Methods: A total of 60 transfeminine participants 18+ years of age, living in Canada, and who had undergone vaginoplasty at least 1 year prior were recruited through social media, community groups, healthcare provider referrals, and study recontact. Participants completed a cross-sectional, online questionnaire detailing demographics, gynecological concerns, and genital practices and exposures. Hierarchical clustering was used to group participants based on behavioral practices and exposures. Associations between clusters and gynecological concerns were assessed. Outcomes: Outcomes included self-reported gynecological concerns within the past year, recent vulvar or vaginal symptoms (past 30 days), and behavioral practices/exposures, including douching with varied products and dilating. Results: Participants reported a variety of concerns in the past year, including urinary tract infection (13%) and internal hair regrowth (23%). More than half (57%) had experienced at least 1 recent vaginal symptom, most commonly malodor (27%) and vaginal bleeding (21%). Of participants, 48% were dilating weekly and 52% reported douching in the past 30 days. Four distinct clusters of vaginal practices/exposures were identified: limited exposures; dilating, no douching; dilating and douching; and diverse exposures. No significant associations between cluster membership and gynecological concerns were identified, though cluster membership was significantly associated with surgical center (P =. 03). Open-text write-ins provided descriptions of symptoms and symptom management strategies. Clinical Implications: The results provide insight for clinicians on common patient-reported gynecological concerns and current vaginal care practices and exposures, including symptom management strategies. Strengths and Limitations: This was the first study to investigate vaginal health and genital practices/exposures among a community sample of transfeminine individuals. As participants self-enrolled for a detailed survey and swab collection, individuals experiencing concerns were likely overrepresented. Conclusion: Transfeminine individuals reported a range of gynecological concerns outside of the surgical healing period. Genital practices/exposures varied across clusters, but no clear associations between clusters and symptoms were identified; instead, practice/exposure clusters were dependent on where the individual underwent vaginoplasty. There is a need for evidence to inform diagnostics, treatments, and vaginal care guidelines to support vaginal health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1344-1352
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sexual Medicine
Volume20
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The International Society of Sexual Medicine.

Keywords

  • epidemiology
  • gender-affirming surgery
  • gynecology
  • health behavior
  • neovagina
  • public health
  • transgender persons
  • vaginoplasty
  • vulvoplasty

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

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