Aesthetic gynaecology: new hope for age-old health concerns
Posted on 16 April 2019
For decades, many women with certain common gynaecological problems have suffered in silence. Dr Natalia Novikova, South Africa’s first certified aesthetic gynaecologist, is changing that.
Aesthetic gynaecology is a growing field, but not a new trend: the need for these treatments has been around for decades. “The services we offer are fairly simple, and designed to help women with very common conditions,” says Dr Natalia Novikova, a gynaecologist and laparoscopic surgeon practicing at Mediclinic Cape Town.
“The problem is awareness. Most women simply do not know that these treatments are possible, or that there is help available.”
Many of Dr Novikova’s patients require standard surgical treatments for common gynaecological conditions. She provides minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery to perform hysterectomies, remove cysts or treat patients with endometriosis, or treat a wide range of pelvic floor problems.
It’s in the field of aesthetic gynaecology, however, that Dr Novikova is blazing a whole new trail for women in SA. “I became interested in the potential of aesthetic gynaecology a few years ago, because of my patients,” she says. “Back then, they had questions I couldn’t answer, and conditions I couldn’t treat. We needed to find ways to treat incontinence in a noninvasive way, for example, or less-invasive means of addressing pelvic floor issues. So I needed to expand the scope of my expertise.”
Aesthetic gynaecology is often associated with treatments that improve the appearance of the genital region. Dr Novikova says these are a small part of her regular practice. “Most of the time, women come to me with functional problems. As we age, our oestrogen levels drop. The collagen in our skin also drops, and our skin becomes loose and dry. This leads to a number of health concerns, especially in the vaginal area. Aesthetic gynaecological treatments, including laser surgery and other minimally invasive techniques, including labiaplasty and vaginoplasty, can rectify many of these conditions.”
Dr Novikova says many of her patients are in middle age, and determined to live a long and healthy life for decades to come. “Our life expectancy is much longer than it used to be. If a patient is in their 50s, and has developed urinary incontinence while exercising, which is very common, we don’t want to say, Well, don’t exercise. Our aim is to help her cure the condition or relieve the symptoms, so that she can have the same quality of life as she did when she was younger, for longer.”
One entirely noninvasive innovation is the BTL Emsella Chair, which uses high-intensity electromagnetic fields to activate motor neurons located in the pelvic floor. The patient simply spends 30 minutes or more seated in the device. “The chair stimulates roughly 11 000 pelvic floor muscle contractions in that time,” says Dr Novikova. “There is no way anyone can perform that many Kegel exercises in 30 minutes. By stimulating the nerve endings in the pelvic floor region, the chair can tighten the vaginal wall and decrease urinary incontinence.”
Dr Novikova qualified as a doctor from the National Medical University in Kiev, Ukraine. She completed a PhD at the same institution for her research on infection and preterm birth, before travelling to Australia to undergo specialist training in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.
During that time, she spent some time at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in the Eastern Cape, and was motivated to return to South Africa, where she headed the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Frere Hospital in East London.
Dr Novikova then moved to Cape Town, where she started her comprehensive private practice in 2015. She now also provides aesthetic gynaecology services at Mediclinic’s Intercare Day Hospital Sandton, in Johannesburg.