Women having ‘virginity restoring’ operations on the NHS at high cost.
Hospitals have admitted to carrying out 109 reconstructive procedures between 2007 and 2017.
But the true number is likely to be far higher – as only nine hospital trusts bothered to supply figures.
Experts say the trend is driven by women wanting to wind back the clock. The half-hour operation involves the hymen being stitched or reconstructed.
Normally it breaks and bleeds when a woman has sex for the first time. But it can also be broken by using tampons or sports such as horse riding.
The NHS will fund ‘hymenoplasty’ procedures for ‘physical and ‘psychological’ reasons, which could include women regretting losing their virginity.
In 48 of the 109 cases, the hospitals were able to provide details of the woman’s religion. Of these, 23 were Christian and two were Muslim, with 23 defined as having no religion.
And for 59 of the women, hospitals provided details of whether they were single, married or in a relationship. This included 48 women who were single, six married or in civil partnerships, two divorced and three who didn’t want to say.
However, only nine of the 160 hospital trusts in England supplied figures. If these trends were similar among other hospitals, then approximately 1,600 virginity repair operations would have been carried out since 2007. Norfolk and Norwich Hospitals said it had carried out 50 hymenoplasty procedures since 2007, although it did not specify the cost.
At Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, 12 operations had been performed since 2013, at a cost of £12,727. The North Bristol NHS Trust said £11,950 had been spent on an undisclosed number of operations.
Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust said it carried out at least 13 procedures between 2012 and 2017.
Louise Van der Velde, a relationship counsellor who practises on London’s Harley Street, said: ‘A lot of people have a bad experience for their first time. Often it’s not what it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be a sacred thing and you never forget losing it. Maybe because people have been let down by that and it doesn’t end up being what they want, they want to do it again.
‘Maybe they want to share it with their husbands by being as pure as possible again.’ She added that some religious women were ‘overwhelmed’ by feelings of sexual guilt.
Dr Naomi Crouch, spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: ‘It is important that clinicians inform and reassure women and girls about variations in female genitalia, thoroughly explore the reasons behind the request for female genital cosmetic surgery, and advise on the management of physical symptoms rather than suggesting surgery as an option.’