Dr Natalia Novikova, South Africa’s first certified aesthetic gynaecologist, said: “These treatments are incredibly new in South Africa so there is very little awareness.”
She adds that many women have been suffering in silence with problems they don’t even know there is a solution for.
Novikova has recently opened SA’s first aesthetic gynaecology practice at Cape Town Mediclinic. We talked to her to find out more about her work and her passion about women’s health.
How did your career start?
I qualified as a medical practitioner almost 20 years ago... and later completed my PhD in Ukraine. I studied and worked in different countries including Ukraine, Sweden, Australia and finally South Africa.
I qualified as a gynaecologist in Sydney, with special interest in laparoscopic keyhole surgery and urogynaecology... treatment of the bladder and pelvic floor.
I moved to South Africa and became clinical head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Frere Hospital in East London. I noticed a gap in service for women with aesthetic needs.
In 2014 I made the decision to immerse myself in aesthetic gynaecology. My journey took me to Europe, where in 2016 I became certified by the European Society of Aesthetic Gynaecology.
What is your typical working day?
No two days are alike, being a working mom to three young children is not without challenges. Typically I wake before 6am, and while the kids are sleeping I sneak off for a run. I’m in mom’s mode from 7am, for dressing, breakfasts and school lunches.
I start work around 8:30am. I see a wide variety of women, from those needing surgery to routine check-ups. My patients are generally interesting and over the moon when I offer a solution to their problems.
You are South Africa’s first certified aesthetic gynaecologist. What does that mean to you?
I am very passionate about looking after women with gynaecological problems and finding answers to their needs. I am very proud to be the first and so far the only gynaecologist in South Africa to be certified by the European Society of Aesthetic Gynaecology.
Have you always been interested in women’s health?
Having babies, preventing pregnancies, preventing and treating cancers, sexually transmitted infections, tumours, incontinence, hot flushes and all kinds of other problems, and finding solutions for their issues is a very satisfying job.
Why do women need vaginal rejuvenation?
My patients are from 20 to 92. Women come to me for vaginal laser rejuvenation. Some have incontinence problems. Others suffer from dryness or frequent genital infections. The field of aesthetic gynaecology is much broader than this. Women can seek treatment for many issues relating to appearance, discomfort or function of the pelvic area.
What kind of treatment do you provide?
Labiaplasty, which is a process of removing excess skin of labia minora or small genital lips, vaginoplasty, a surgery to tighten the vagina. Vaginal laser rejuvenation is a non-invasive laser procedure to tighten the vagina, to treat dryness and frequent infection, to treat mild stress urinary incontinence.
Labia fillers make labia majora or bigger genital lips fuller.
The O-Shot or G-shot is a injection of specially prepared patient’s own blood or hyalorunic acid into the clitoris to enhance orgasm and to treat vaginal dryness as well as stress urinary incontinence.
We also offer genital bleaching, to lighten darkened genital skin, and clitoral hood reduction to remove excess skin covering clitoris.
Most procedures that I do are performed for functional reasons and only some are purely aesthetic.
How popular are aesthetic gynaecologists in South Africa?
The field of aesthetic gynaecology is very new in South Africa and in fact around the world, but it’s growing fast.
How do these treatments help women emotionally?
When they come to me they feel empowered and regain their sexuality, and their mental well-being.
Are there any side-effects of the treatments?
Depending on the treatment, there may be a level of discomfort or bleeding or discharge for a short while afterwards. Sometimes you will be asked not to have sex for some time after the treatment.
What are common myths about aesthetic gynecology?
I think some people believe that the field is about cosmetic procedures and not an essential treatment .The patients who come to me find their symptoms serious and disrupting to their lives and I feel privileged to be able to treat them.