A hymenotomy is a minor surgical procedure that involves removing part or all of a woman’s hymen. There are many reasons a woman might need a hymenotomy, most of them having to do with the malformation of the hymen. Some women have this surgery to increase comfort during intercourse, while others need it for health reasons. In many cases, the hymen is simply removed, though some of it may be left in place for personal or religious reasons. A woman receiving a hymenotomy usually has a fairly fast recovery time, barring any infection or surgical complications.
The hymen is a superficial web of tissue located across a portion of the female vaginal opening. Most of the time, the uncovered part of this opening is sufficient to allow for regular menstrual flow or the use of tampons. Traditionally, it is thought to be a representation of virginity, broken the first time a young woman has sexual intercourse. The hymen may also be stretched or broken in other ways, however, such as the first time a young woman uses a tampon, during athletic exercise, or during masturbation.
A young woman requiring a hymenotomy usually has an imperforate, septate, or microperforate hymen. An imperforate hymen covers the entire vaginal opening and usually has no holes or perforations. A septate hymen typically has two small holes parallel to each other on either side of the vaginal opening. A microperforate hymen generally features one or several very small holes. In all of these cases, a hymenotomy may be necessary to facilitate menstrual flow, make it possible for a woman to use a tampon, or to facilitate intercourse.
In some cases, young women with relatively normal hymens also require a hymenotomy. These patients usually have very thick or stiff hymens that may make intercourse very painful or impossible. Though a doctor usually removes the entire hymen, some women prefer part of the webbing be left in place. This may be a matter of personal preference or for religious reasons. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all value virginity in unmarried young women, and leaving part of the hymen behind may help the patient feel she is still living within the precepts of her upbringing.
Most hymenotomy procedures are done in a matter of hours. The woman usually undergoes anesthesia and the doctor numbs the vaginal opening. The physician then carefully cuts away part or all of the webbing covering the vaginal opening. The wounds are sutured closed and the young woman is instructed to keep the area clean and as dry as she can. Infections and inflammation are possible, but they’re relatively uncommon and usually very treatable.